The clocks have changed, the leaves have turned, though our first proper frost is yet to take hold. Fantastic news for us fungi fans, as a typically short and weather dependent season has flourished into an abundant and varied yield.
Winter chanterelles are typically rich picking at this time of year, and as the most versatile and hardy of all wild fungi varieties, chanterelles are making the most of these unconventionally warm temperatures.
Other varieties, that often lie dormant through frosty periods are similarly reaping the benefits of comfortable conditions, resulting in morels, puff balls, cep and even truffles all thriving in our fields and forests.
The advantage to eating the seasons is the harmony of ingredients in the kitchen. The earthiness of wild mushrooms plucked straight from the foraged field is the perfect pairing to seasonal game that often graze on the very same pastures. As the ideal addition to broths, soups or sauces, wild mushrooms can bring woody (chestnut), meaty (ceps/porcini) or even fruity (chanterelle) tendencies to the plate, adding depth of flavour and defined texture to gamey recipes. These ultimate culinary companions will be further explored in a later ‘game’ post.
Although a fun autumnal activity – to don the wellies and wicker basket in-hand – it is never advised to go in blindly when it comes to foraging for fungi. If a little dubious, try foraging at your local farmers’ market, or go galavanting at the grocers’ instead, that will offer crate upon crate brimming of local, seasonal varieties, ready for the pan.
Never submerge your fungi in water to clean – as a natural sponge, mushrooms contain enough water as it is without the need to bathe them! Simply cut or brush away the dirt, and store in an absorbent, sealed, paper bag. Cook quickly and at high heat to extract as much liquid from the mushrooms as necessary. Eat as soon after picking or purchase as possible, and your fungi will remain succulent, meaty and full of flavour.
My first recipe for this fungi season is a savoury twist on a French patisserie classic; Creamy wild mushroom mille-feuille. A simple recipe that allows the mushrooms to sing in all their autumnal glory! Gently and effortlessly cooked in cream cheese, herbs and a little mustard for bite, these deliciously creamy mushrooms are layered with buttery puff pastry and topped with chopped walnuts for added texture.
The perfect seasonal starter or light lunch – beautiful for the eyes, delicious for the stomach!
So, go on, go wild…and enjoy the magic of mushrooms!