What a fun-gi

Mar­vel­lous mush­rooms are at their peak in au­tumn, says Rachel Allen, so now’s the time to pick up your bas­ket and go for­ag­ing for fungi. Photography by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - APPETITES -

Mush­rooms are unique, as they are nei­ther a veg­etable nor a fruit (they are a fun­gus), and have a unique tex­ture and an al­most meaty flavour. Here, au­tumn is the time for most wild mush­rooms; the sea­son kicks off in Au­gust with the golden-yel­low chanterelles pop­ping up in wood­lands — these are de­li­cious fried in but­ter, with a lit­tle gar­lic and pars­ley, and served on toast.

There was a time when the only mush­rooms we ate were of the for­aged va­ri­ety. Now though, the vast ma­jor­ity are cul­ti­vated, mean­ing year-round avail­abil­ity, and, of course safety, although the flavour of a prop­erly wild mush­room can be hard to beat.

Like the chanterelle, the ba­sic wild field mush­room is easy to iden­tify, with its white cap and pale gills un­der­neath, which range from white to pink in colour. But, when you’re for­ag­ing, it’s im­por­tant to know ex­actly what you’re look­ing for. Not all mush­rooms are ed­i­ble, and some are deadly, with the odd hal­lu­cino­genic thrown in for good mea­sure. The bril­liant book,

Mush­rooms and Other Fungi of Great Bri­tain and Ire­land,

by ex­pert for­ager Roger Phillips, is in­valu­able for check­ing mush­rooms when pick­ing them in the wild. He also has a web­site, rogersmush­rooms.com.

Of all the wild mush­rooms, per­haps the most most revered are porci­nis (the Ital­ian name), which are known as ceps in France. They have an ex­quis­ite umami flavour. They can be found in the wild in Ire­land, or you can buy them at a green­gro­cers. For the most part, though, we get them in their dried form. Dried porci­nis are good for us­ing all year round.

Try slic­ing and dry­ing mush­rooms your­self to pre­serve them for months. By steep­ing the dried mush­rooms in boil­ing wa­ter, their flavour and essence can be re­vived, stronger in some ways than the fresh va­ri­ety. That soak­ing broth also makes a won­der­ful ad­di­tion to your pasta sauce or risotto. This mush­room tar­ragon tart, right, made with dried porci­nis and their soak­ing liq­uid, is the per­fect au­tum­nal treat.

The large and very meaty Por­to­bello mush­rooms are farmed suc­cess­fully and are great as a veg­gie burger, or in casseroles. Chest­nut mush­rooms, which are farmed, are not dis­sim­i­lar to the ubiq­ui­tous white but­ton mush­rooms, but their colour is a deep golden brown and they have a more en­hanced flavour. Oys­ter and enoki mush­rooms are Ja­panese in ori­gin and are cul­ti­vated in Ire­land, too. These are what I’ve used for the ex­otic mush­room a la creme dish, pic­tured above right.

I love this lamb’s kid­ney and mush­room salad, far right, which is just per­fect at this time of year and a truly lovely ex­pres­sion of the mar­vel­lous mush­room.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.