For hundreds of years, Chinese medicine has had a serious crush on the shiitake mushroom. Shiitake compounds called lentinans and beta-glucan polysaccharides are believed to stimulate the immune system by activating certain macrophages and killer T-cells that usually declare war on foreign invaders. Nifty, eh? I like to think of shiitake as my immune system PT.
This week, I’m mainlining shiitake and bone broth #shoo #coronavirus.
In lab studies, shiitake extract has slowed the growth of tumours in certain cell cultures. But not in all cell cultures, highlighting the complexity surrounding the use of shiitake extract. Scientists are still unsure as to why this is – some conjectures include the ability of beta- glucans to trick the immune system into thinking it’s under attack. Perhaps the body reacts by releasing its finest ninja stars into the bloodstream or sending armed drones to survey the entire area. Who knows? More clinical trials are underway to understand which compounds in shiitake may be effective for which immunological disorders. But given that shiitake are so damned delicious, I’m happy to horse into them while scientists work it out. Maybe it’s time to start offering laureates to vegetables?
We use this bone broth as a base for rice, stews and soups. It’s a yumdinger all on its own with some Tabasco, woolly socks and your favourite mug. The glucosamine and chondroitin in bone broth is thought to stimulate the growth of new collagen in our body, reduce inflammation and repair damaged joints. And they say diamonds are a girl’s best friend? Pah! Give me more collagen and better dance moves any day.
Makes 3 litres
Handful of dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 organic or higher-welfare chicken carcass or 1.5kg beef bones (free from the butcher)
Chunk of ginger, roughly chopped
1 whole head of garlic, sliced in half
Any ends of vegetables such as leeks, onions, carrots, celery, sweet potatoes (I store these in my ongoing freezer bags so that I have a swag of veggies at hand for stock. Also, when veg are on discount I freeze the lot!)
Any fresh herbs loitering in your fridge or garden
Splash of apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
Pop everything into your largest stockpot. Cover with fresh filtered water. Bring to a very shy simmer and cook for 8–16 hours – the longer, the better. I usually transfer my stockpot into the oven on a really low setting. I don’t let the stock boil. Prolonged boiling can interfere with the natural supply of collagen.
Strain the stock with a large kitchen sieve. Taste and see if it needs a bit of soya sauce, chipotle smoked chilli or Tabasco for oomph (these are my go-tos for quick fixes). Once you are happy with its taste, leave to cool before storing in the fridge or freezer.