Call of the wild: Mark Hix marvellous mushroom recipes

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It's been a bumper year so far for wild mushrooms and long may it continue. My foragers in Dorset, Kent and Norfolk have been finding all sorts of stuff, including some lovely firm ceps or penny buns in large quantities.

Do be careful, though, if you're a newcomer to foraging, and make sure that you go with someone who knows their fungi or you could end up in trouble. Once you've got the bug, however, and you're confident about what you can and can't pick, foraging for mushrooms is such a rewarding pastime and great exercise, too.

In other European countries, foraging for mushrooms is a way of life, but here we tend to be a little reticent when it comes to putting on our wellies and venturing in to the woods.

Brunch mushrooms

Serves 4

This makes a great brunch or breakfast dish. I've served hollandaise sauce on the egg here, but making it is quite an involved process, so you might want to do without it.

Try to buy those larger field or Portobello mushrooms if you can – there are some pretty big ones on the market these days.

4 large field or Portobello mushrooms
A couple of knobs of butter, softened
4 large hen or duck egg
Hollandaise sauce, optional
For the crust
A couple of good knobs of butter
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
6 rashers of rindless, smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
2tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. To make the crust: melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the onion and bacon for 2-3 minutes until soft.

Remove from the heat, stir in the breadcrumbs and parsley and season.

Place the field mushrooms on a grill tray, rub over the butter and season, then cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Turn the mushrooms dark side (gills) up and spoon over the crust making a small indentation in the centre for the egg. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs and drain on kitchen paper, then place one in the centre of each mushroom, spoon over the hollandaise, if using, and serve.

Gnocchi with wild mushrooms

Serves 4

The gnocchi sold in many shops are a poor imitation of the real things – and home-made versions are so much tastier and cheaper.

You can use a single variety of wild mushrooms for this recipe, or a mixture. I've suggested using porcini powder for the sauce, which is basically powdered mushrooms and has a fantastic flavour. You can find it on the special selection shelves in some supermarkets or in selected Italian delis.

If you can't find porcini powder, just use some dried ceps soaked in warm water instead.

200-250g wild mushrooms, cleaned
50g butter

1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2tsp porcini powder or 20g dried ceps soaked in warm water
250ml vegetable stock
350ml double cream

For the gnocchi

600-700g large floury potatoes, baked in their skins, peeled and mashed
1 large egg yolk
125g potato flour
1tbsp olive oil
Salt, freshly ground white pepper
A good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

First, make the gnocchi. Gently mix all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Roll the mixture into a thin cylinder and cut into 2cm lengths and refrigerate on a tray until required.

To make the sauce, gently simmer the shallots, garlic, porcini powder (ceps and soaking liquid if using) and vegetable stock in a heavy-based saucepan for about 30 minutes or until the stock has reduced by about two-thirds. Add the cream and continue simmering gently until the sauce thickens, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan and season to taste.

To serve, heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for a few minutes, seasoning as they are cooking, until tender, then stir in the chopped parsley.

Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, then drain in a colander.

Spoon the gnocchi on to warmed serving bowls or plates, spoon over the sauce and scatter over the mushrooms.

Raw cep salad with Berkswell

Serves 4

When you have fresh, firm ceps they are stunning simply sliced thinly and eaten raw. Berkswell is a great British ewe's milk cheese that is perfect in salads like this; or alternatively, you could use Pecorino.

250g firm ceps, cleaned and very thinly sliced
5-6tbsp rapeseed oil
The juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of small tasty salad leaves such as land cress, rocket etc
100-120g mature Berkswell cheese

Put the ceps on a tray, season and pour over the oil and lemon juice, mix well, keeping the mushrooms intact and leave for 15 minutes, turning them occasionally.

To serve, arrange the leaves on serving plates with the mushrooms, pouring any extra marinading juices over them. If the mushrooms have absorbed all of the oil and lemon, just pour a little extra over. Shave the cheese as thinly as possible with a sharp knife, or you can use a vegetable peeler, and scatter over the salad.

Roast partridge with wild mushroom ragout

Serves 4

The earthy taste of mushrooms makes them the ideal game partner. Here, the partridge legs are removed and finished off along with the mushrooms.

4 oven-ready partridges
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
60-70g butter
1tsp flour
100ml white wine
400ml chicken stock
200ml double cream
150-200g wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into even-sized pieces
2tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Rub the partridges with a little of the butter, season and place in a roasting tray. Roast for about 15 minutes, turning the birds as they are cooking so that they evenly colour, keeping them nice and pink. Meanwhile, melt a little more of the butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots for a couple of minutes, stir in the flour then gradually whisk in the wine and chicken stock to avoid lumps forming. Simmer for about 15 minutes; remove the legs from the partridge and remove the feet. Cut the legs in half at the joint and add to the sauce with the cream and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a pan and cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then add to the sauce and continue simmering for a few minutes. The sauce should be about the consistency of double cream, if it's too thick add a little more stock; if it's too thin, continue simmering until it thickens. Season to taste.

To serve, remove the breasts from the partridge, spoon the sauce on to serving plates with a thigh and drumstick on each, and arrange the breasts on top.

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