The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE -

The only mush­rooms I knew grow­ing up were the lit­tle but­ton ones you got in the su­per­mar­ket or the even smaller ones that grew in the fields be­hind our house that made you feel like you just joined Alice down the rab­bit hole.

I was un­aware of the beau­ti­ful bounty that oc­cu­pied our na­tive wood­lands, the wild ed­i­bles that had a long culi­nary tra­di­tion in Ire­land. It seems the Vikings loved to make soup with them. The Celts be­fore them prob­a­bly added them to stews of rab­bit or hare. Be­fore that we can only guess how an­cient im­mi­grants choose to cook their mush­rooms.

Most mush­rooms grow in the au­tumn, ex­cept for a few prize ones that pop up in the spring. While it’s still a bit early for St Ge­orge’s mush­rooms, morels have started to ap­pear in the last few weeks.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find some at the many farm­ers mar­kets that are dot­ted around the coun­try. I see on In­sta­gram that Bal­ly­houra moun­tain mush­rooms have been sell­ing in Ma­hon farmer’s mar­ket.

Last week, a for­ager dropped some into Aniar. He had found them in Mayo. If you’ve never seen a morel, you’re in for a sur­prise. It truly is one of na­ture’s beau­ties. Its struc­ture re­minds me of a Gothic church. I’m al­ways fas­ci­nated how na­ture pro­duces th­ese shapes.

Morels have a dis­tinc­tive hon­ey­comb ap­pear­ance, due to the net­work of ridges with pits com­pos­ing its won­der­ful fruit body.

A clas­sic com­bi­na­tion of morels is ei­ther in a thick creamy tagli­atelle or with chicken. Both have white wine in their base. For a nice Ir­ish twist, I think a dry cider is a suit­able al­ter­na­tive.

Fry your morels in a lit­tle oil. Then add equal parts chicken stock and cider, say about 300ml in to­tal. Re­duce by half and then add a good 150ml of cream.

Bring to the boil and then sea­son with sea salt.

This sauce goes well with pan- fried chicken or even to ac­com­pany a whole roast chicken. Of course, morels are won­der­ful by them­selves, fried in duck fat and fresh thyme.

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