Earthy delights: Mark Hix makes the most of the mushroom season
Picked in the woods and fields, or bought in the shops – there's no beating the magic of mushrooms, says our chef
The mushroom season has been rather erratic this year, with varieties that normally start in October showing up in August. In the restaurants, we have seen a fantastic run of beefsteak fungus; I'm not sure what's caused such a great crop but they are always welcome in the kitchen – a perfect alternative to a piece of juicy rare meat.
Supermarkets, too, are becoming more adventurous about the fungi they sell. Wild-mushroom mixes containing varieties such as honey fungus, porcini, black trumpet and chanterelle are now readily available, and make great ingredients.
Roasted onions and wild mushrooms
Roasted onions have a delicious sweetness about them and make a simple and earthy dish with some seasonal wild mushrooms.
2 large banana shallots or 4 large shallots, halved
2 red onions, left intact with the skin on
150-200g wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into even-sized pieces
1-2tbsp rapeseed oil
For the dressing
1tbsp cider vinegar
3tbsp rapeseed oil plus a little extra
1tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5. Place the whole red onions and shallots (cut side down) on an oven tray; bake for about 45 minutes until soft, removing the shallots after 20 minutes.
Leave the onions to cool, then remove the skin, quarter them and pull apart the natural layers.
Heat the rapeseed oil in a frying pan and gently cook the mushrooms on a low to medium heat for 4-5 minutes, seasoning as they are cooking.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking the vinegar, rapeseed oil and mustard together, seasoning to taste.
To serve, arrange the onions on plates and dot the mushrooms among them, then spoon over the dressing.
Spurdog, smooth hound and tope are all types of fish generally sold as 'huss' these days – they're also known to fishermen as dogfish.
Misleadingly, you used to see them disguised as rock salmon in fish and chip shops around the country. Generally, though, they are completely forgotten about in our kitchens, which is a shame. The fairly firm flesh will withstand a bit of braising and marinating, which makes them good for trying out in various recipes. Huss is normally skinned by the fisherman; ask the fishmonger to cut it into roughly 60g chunks on the bone.
I've used meat stock in this recipe but non-meat-eaters can use fish stock.
250g huss cut into 60g chunks on the bone
Flour for dusting
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
120g wild mushrooms or button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
A good knob of butter for frying
Salt and pepper
For the sauce
120g piece of streaky bacon, cut into cubes
8 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
120ml red wine
500ml beef stock (a cube will do)
Gently cook the bacon, shallots, garlic and thyme in the butter, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, without colouring, until soft. Add the flour and stir well with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the red wine, then gradually add the beef stock. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes.
Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Dust the huss with flour, season with salt and pepper and fry them, a few pieces at a time on all sides, until well-coloured – remove and place on kitchen paper. Clean the pan and sauté the mushrooms in butter for a few minutes until lightly coloured, then drain in a colander.
Add the fish and mushrooms to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. The sauce should have thickened to a gravy-like consistency by now. If not, remove the fish and simmer the sauce until it has thickened, then return the fish to the sauce – season again if necessary.
Serve with buttery mashed potato or rice.
Chicken paillard with wild mushrooms
This is a great, quick, dinner-party dish with two simple ingredients. Use a single wild mushroom variety or a selection, depending on what's available.
4 chicken breasts, skinned
2-3tbsp rapeseed oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
200-250g wild mushrooms, cleaned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp chopped parsley
Lay a piece of clingfilm on a chopping board, place the chicken breast on top, then lay another piece of clingfilm over that. Flatten the chicken with a steak hammer or rolling pin until it's about half the thickness.
Preheat a ribbed griddle pan or barbecue, brush the chicken breasts with oil, lightly season and cook for a couple of minutes on each side.
While the chicken is cooking, heat a frying pan with a few tablespoons of the oil and sauté the garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, seasoning and turning them as they are cooking; then stir in the parsley.
To serve, transfer the chicken to warmed serving plates and spoon the mushrooms and parsley over.
Marinated ceps with grapefruit and wood sorrel
When you have fresh, firm ceps they are stunning simply sliced thinly and eaten raw. Purely by chance, I experimented with grapefruit juice instead of lemon, as I didn't have a lemon at hand, and it works a treat. Wood sorrel is a tiny, clover-like leaf that grows wild and has a great lemony flavour, like the cultivated sorrel. If you can't get your hands on it, then torn leaves of sorrel or another herb such as basil would do.
250g firm ceps, cleaned and very thinly sliced
5-6tbsp rapeseed oil
The juice of half a grapefruit
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of wood sorrel or cultivated sorrel
Put the ceps on a tray, season and pour over the oil and grapefruit juice, mix well, keeping the mushrooms intact, and leave for about 15 minutes, turning them occasionally.
To serve, arrange the mushrooms on serving plates, pouring any extra marinating juices over them. If the mushrooms have absorbed all of the oil and grapefruit, just pour a little extra over. Finally, scatter the wood sorrel on top.
Enjoy a five-course grouse feast at HIX Oyster and Chop House on 30 September at 7pm, hosted by Mark Hix, game supplier Ben Weatherall and wine expert John Hutton. Tickets, priced £85, are available on 020-7017 1930 or email@example.com
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