It has been a good year for mushrooms. The porcini in these photographs were found in the woods not far from our restaurant – we collected five kilos. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was in Holland for a day and was given another six kilos by a man who had a biodynamic farm near Amsterdam.
Never before have I received such a generous gift, nor discovered a more wonderful bounty. Is it due to the largely wet summer? Some say so – the weather plays a large part in the volume of mushrooms to be found each year.
As we found ourselves with so many, we dried some to be used at a later date. This involves nothing more than finely slicing the mushrooms and laying, well spaced, on a trivet. Kept in a warm, dry place for a couple of days, their moisture will evaporate and they can be used later.
Porcini, or cepes, are the king of the mushroom family. Succulent, subtle but earthy, they are wonderful alongside game, fish such as turbot, on toast and in soups. I have also included girolles here. The two work beautifully together, girolles being more delicate.
Never wash mushrooms, as their flavour is ruined – wipe instead with a soft, dry cloth. To cook, always place in a hot pan and don't meddle – it makes them watery and soft.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com
Mushrooms on toast
This is a really good way to serve mushrooms – simple, quick and a perfect first course or light supper if accompanied by a salad comprised of autumn leaves and perhaps just a little walnut oil.
40g/2oz unsalted butter
3 stalks of marjoram, leaves only
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
A pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp crème fraîche
4 slices of crusty peasant-style bread, such as pane Toscana or ciabatta
1 whole clove of garlic
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Wipe the mushrooms thoroughly then slice the porcini into quarters lengthwise but leave the girolles whole. Place a pan over a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has begun to foam, add the porcini and cook for a minute or so without stirring, then add the girolles and marjoram, garlic and a little salt. Cook, stirring only once or twice, until the mushrooms have softened and thoroughly cooked. Add the crème fraîche and stir well, turning up the heat slightly as you do so.
While the mushrooms are cooking, grill the bread until golden-brown on both sides. Remove from the heat and very gently rub with the garlic, drizzle over the olive oil and season with the salt. Spoon over the mushrooms and serve while the mushrooms are still warm.
Girolles, porcini and guinea fowl
Guinea fowl is a delicious and underrated little bird. It is not particularly gamey, just full of good flavour, and its flesh is delicate enough not to overpower the lovely taste of the mushrooms.
4 guinea fowl breasts, wings and tips intact
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
25g/1oz unsalted butter
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A few drops of lemon juice
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Season the guinea fowl generously and heat a non-stick oven-proof frying pan on top of the stove. Add the olive oil and, when really hot, lay the breasts skin-side down and brown without turning for five minutes, by which time the skin will be crisp. Remove the pan from the stove to the middle shelf of the oven. Cook for 12 minutes.
While the guinea fowl is in the oven, heat another pan with the butter. The pan should be big enough so that the mushrooms are not too crowded. Once the butter is foaming, add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, stirring only towards the end of the cooking time. Now add the garlic, lemon juice and parsley, salt and pepper and taste – the salt will help bring out the mushrooms' flavour.
Remove the poultry from the oven and divide between four plates. Spoon over the mushrooms and serve.
Porcini simply cooked on their own
Dried porcini work well with their fresh counterparts. Their flavour alters somewhat when dried, becoming more intense. Reconstituted in a little warm water, they are perfect for flavouring soups – providing a feel of moss and the woods. Try adding a little to fresh porcini. It's so good that they can be eaten just as they are, or try them with softly scrambled, very fresh eggs.
50g/2oz dried porcini
150g/5oz fresh porcini
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Wipe clean the fresh porcini and cut into quarters. Place the dried porcini into a bowl and pour over an inch of boiling water; allow to steep for five minutes. Place a pan over a medium heat and, when warm, add the olive oil followed by the fresh porcini – squeeze out the dried porcini and add alongside. Season with salt and cook for three to four minutes. Add two tablespoons of the soaking liquid to the pan and turn the heat to high to reduce for 30 seconds. Add a few generous grindings of black pepper. Taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary.