You might have spotted that we’ve got a mushroom ‘meat’ alternative in a range of our vegan and vegetarian recipes – produced by Queensland-based food brand Fable, this incredible ingredient is made from more than 60% shiitake mushrooms. With an uncannily meat-like texture and robust umami flavour, it’s ideal for creating delicious plant-based dishes that truly deliver on taste. Jim Fuller is a co-founder of Fable and their resident mushroom expert, who we chatted with to take a deep dive into all things mushrooms and learn more about Fable’s fungi-rich ingredient.
You’re a mycologist – that is, a mushroom scientist – so you must really love mushrooms!
My background before studying agricultural science was as a fine dining chef in the US, so I was initially drawn to mushrooms because they have all kinds of functions so they’re always really interesting ingredients to cook with – they can stand up on their own and be the hero of a dish, or they can complement a piece of fish or chicken with their great flavour. They inherently have a really meaty taste and texture.
How did you get started out working with mushroom farming?
For the last 15 years, I’ve been working as a mushroom farmer or mushroom consultant before co-founding Fable. I started out as a fine dining chef while studying at university, and later ended up working on a mushroom farm while living in California. I discovered this amazing world of mushrooms – their biology and functionality – and it just grabbed me. I later moved to Australia to study agricultural science at Melbourne University, and continued studying mushroom farms while selling mushrooms out of my backyard.
Can you tell us a bit more about shiitake mushrooms? They’re the star of Fable’s mushroom ‘meat’ that features in our vegan and vegetarian recipes.
Shiitake mushrooms are slow-growing, so that makes them really dense, with densely packed fibres that naturally mimic the structure and texture of meat. When it comes to their flavour, they are high in the glutamates, which are compounds that are related to umami flavours, so they’re also naturally ‘meaty’ in taste.
How do you grow the mushrooms?
In nature, shiitake mushrooms grow on the logs of fallen trees in a forest, so the way they’re grown is just like that environment in an indoor farm. We create logs from a mixture of wood, wheat bran and grains, and inoculate the logs with a bit of the mushrooms so it can grow them. Then, we give them lots of sunlight, moisture and cool, fresh air – it’s basically just like the Autumn conditions that mushrooms like to grow in.
When it comes to Fable’s mushroom ‘meat’, what do you love about cooking with it?
It’s got the taste and texture of a slow-cooked meat, which fits into every culture on the planet, so you can make a lovely curry, or a stew, or a ragu or chilli – whether the dish is Korean, American or Greek in style, all of that is possible.
What’s your favourite Marley Spoon recipe featuring the mushroom ‘meat’?
We tried it in the very first box it was included in and absolutely loved it – it was a pasta recipe with a colourful mix of vegetables and the mushroom ‘meat’. It’s definitely a family favourite, and we’ve kept ordering our boxes since then!