Friday, September 30, 2011

Glorious mushrooms, wild and tame

The end of the summer is usually met with mixed feelings, some of you will say that they don’t remember a summer at all this year but that is another story. For chefs just as summer starts by bringing lots of different ingredients, think peas, broad beans, asparagus, jersey royals, new season lamb to name a few, so does Autumn.

Squashes, celeriac, chestnuts, partridges, quince and pheasant are suddenly available or become available over the season. The focus also changes from light fresh food to food with more of a comfort feel. You would not want to see heavy braised dishes in summer but on a cold day stews and braises are a must.

Autumn is the best time for wild mushrooms, when damp conditions tend to suit the funghi. Varieties such as golden chanterelle, penny bun, horse mushroom, cones of death and others become more plentiful. Foraging has become more and more popular over recent years with celebrity chefs extolling the virtues of “free food “and in this case mushrooms. Picking mushrooms does have a dangerous edge to it, there are apparently over 383 species of poisonous mushrooms in the UK with 19 of those classified as deadly. If you don’t fancy playing mushroom Russian roulette then having a good knowledge is essential. Alternatively find a good supplier or forager to do the hard work for you.

Most supermarkets now stock lots of different species of mushrooms now and shopping baskets are being filled with new varieties rather than button or field mushrooms. We use a company called Fundamentally Fungus, they grow organic varieties of mushroom from the common oyster mushroom to the less common Japanese varieties like enoki and nameko. Using different mushrooms adds texture, colour and flavour to a dish.

My favourite mushroom has to be the penny bun although you will probably have heard of it by either its Italian name, porcini or its French one, cep. The penny bun has a delicate enough aroma to flavour a sauce and yet will stand up to all meats and fish. I like to have them fried on toast with a fried duck egg. This is a simple approach to mushrooms that I prefer but other chefs like to adopt a more radical approach.

Claude Bosi a 2 Michelin star chef of Hibiscus restaurant in Mayfair had a sweet Cep tart on the menu when I went last year. He uses short crust pastry filled with a sweetened cep puree. The result is a sort of earthy under sweet tart which was not to my taste although I understand it is a bit of a signature dish for him.

We tend to use a mixture of wild and tame mushrooms in a vegetarian version of suet pudding with the addition of dried cranberries. This proves very popular at this time of year and would work well as a vegetarian alternative to Christmas dinner.

Fried Penny Bun and Duck Egg on Toast

Serves 4

4 tbsp veg oil

1 diced shallot

1 clove chopped garlic

250g fresh penny bun thickly sliced

2tbsp chopped parsley

4 slices good bread toasted

4 duck eggs

Knob butter

Heat a non stick pan with 3 tbsp oil, add the mushrooms and fry gently until golden brown, add the shallots, garlic, parsley and butter, toss together for a minute and season well. Divide the mixture on to the toast slices. Wipe the pan clean and heat the remaining oil, fry the duck eggs and place on top of the mushrooms.

Mixed Mushroom Suet Pudding with Dried Cranberies and Port

Suet pastry

450g self raising flour

225g vegetable suet

Pinch salt

Cold water

Mix the flour, salt and suet in a bowl at room temperature, slowly add cold water until a smooth elastic dough is achieved, cover with cling film and leave to rest. Once rested roll out to half cm thick and line your preferred buttered and floured mould, roll out any left over pastry to form the lid.


100g dried cranberries soaked in ruby port

1 onion chopped

1 clove garlic

2 kg mixed mushrooms

25 g butter

250ml double cream

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Sprig thyme

3tbsp oil

In a heave bottomed pan heat the oil and fry the mushrooms until golden, put in a colander to drain over a bowl, add the butter to the pan and sweat the onion, thyme and garlic, once softened add the cranberries and port and cook until the port has evaporated, add the cream and any juice that has come out of the mushrooms. Reduce the liquid until it coats the back of a spoon then season and add the parsley and mushrooms, remove the sprig of thyme and leave the mixture to cool.

Spoon your mixture into the lined mould, if the mixture is too wet then drain a little juice off to use as a sauce (depending on what mushrooms you use will depend on how much sauce you have) cover with the pastry lid, cover with cling film and steam for 30 minutes, turn out and serve.

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1 comment:

  1. God that looks and sounds amazing...I didn't realise you were the man behind the Ginger restaurants, I have eaten at all of them and really love them!!