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.
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
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
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
450g self raising flour
225g vegetable suet
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
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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