Sunday, 4 May 2008

Recipes for Spring Wild Mushrooms

Though almost everyone thinks of mushrooms as being autumnal in their bounty there are a few species that fruit very early in the spring and these are well worth hunting out and trying. Because they fruit so early they are also difficult to confuse with poisonous species and, as long as you take a few precautions they are safe to go an hut for and to pick.

Below are recipes including three of the commonest spring mushrooms and I include a link to an identification guide for each.

1: St George's Mushrooms

You can find an identification guide for St George's Mushrooms here. This is one of the earliest of all field mushrooms and is a wonderful-tasting mushroom well worth the hunt.

The recipe follows:

St George's Mushroom Croustade

150g breadcrumbs (preferably wholemeal)
150g plain flour
100g mixed nuts, chopped
1 tsp basil leaves, chopped
75g butter, softened
1 large egg
500g St George's Mushroom, cleaned and sliced
75g butter
450ml milk
1 tbsp flour
3 tomatoes, finely sliced
6 asparagus spears, cooked
salt and black pepper, to taste

For the base, add the breadcrumbs, flour and nuts to a bowl. Rub-in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix to a dough. Use this to line a well-greased 22cm flan tin. Press down with the back of your hand or a wooden spoon to compact the mixture to about 1.5cm thick.

Place in an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for about 14 minutes, or until set.

Meanwhile, fry the mushrooms, onion and garlic in the remaining butter for about 2 minutes before stirring-in the flour and adding the milk. Stir well to combine then cook until thickened. Adjust the seasoning then spoon the mixture into the prepared base. Decorate the top with the tomatoes and asparagus, cover lightly with foil and return to the oven. Turn down to 170°C and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve warm.

2: Morel Mushrooms

The morels are some of the more regonizable of the Spring wild mushrooms (you can find an identification guide for morels here). Note that morels contain a mild toxin which is rendered inert by cooking and they should always be cooked before eating. For gourmands this is definitely one of the most sought-after of the spring fungi.

The recipe follows:

Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding

8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthways
750ml whole milk
450g loaf of firm white bread cut into thick slices (slightly stale bread is best)
700g peeled asparagus cut at a diagonal into 1cm lengths
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely diced
300g morel mushrooms (chanterelles also work) cleaned and coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
50g frehshly-chopped parsley
3 tbsp finely-chopped tarragon (or marjoram) leaves
350g freshly-grated Gruyère cheese
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Add the garlic and milk to a pan, bring slowly to a boil then remove from the heat and set aside to cool and steep. Break the bread into chunks (much easier to do if it's stale) and pour the milk (through a strainer) over the top. Set the dish aside (but return to turn the bread every so often so that it absorbs as much of the milk as possible.

Meanwhile fill a large, deep, frying pan with water, bring to a boil the salt lightly and add the asparagus pieces. Cook for 3 minutes then drain and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking.

Melt half the butter in a non-stick pan, add the shallots and cook for 1 minute before adding the mushrooms. Increase the heat and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown and release their liquid, Remove from the heat, season and set aside.

Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk until smooth then add the parsley, tarragon or marjoram, 1 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Add the soaked bread and the asparagus and mushroom mixture (along with any liquids). Add 2/3 of the cheese and mix to combine thoroughly. Pour into a gratin dish and spread out with the back of a large spoon or spatula. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and dot with the remaining butter.

Place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 50 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool a little before serving.

3: Fairy Ring Champignon

The fairy fing chanpignon is not the prettiest of mushrooms, but it is tasty and very common (an identification guide for fairy ring champignons can be found here.

The recipe follows:

Fairy Ring Champignon Omelette

2 large eggs
1/2 tsp water
Salt and Black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp chopped onions
90g Fairy Ring Champignon caps, sliced 1 tbsp clarified butter (or oil)

Mix together all ingredients except the butter, onions and mushrooms. Put half of the butter in a skillet heated to medium and cook the onions in this until softened (about 4 minutes) then add the mushrooms and cook until the onion browns (about 5 minutes). Remove the onion and mushroom mixture and set aside then add then remaining butter and the egg mixture. Using a small spatula run around the edges of the pan, tipping the frying pan so the uncooked egg from the center of the pan can run under the bottom of the cooked egg. Continue to do this until the egg in the center is still just a little moist. Sprinkle the fried onions and mushrooms on the egg then roll the omelette with three folds as you turn it onto the plate.

You can find a wild greens and a wild mushroom recipe at: Wild Food as a Way of Saving Money.

I hope that these recipes have raised your interest in wild foods and you can find far more information on the Edible Wild Foods Guide. There are also several hunderd recipes incorporating wild foods in the Wild Food Recipes guide and for mushrooms at the Mushroom Recipes page.

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.
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