Mark Hix recipes: Our chef cooks with seasonal mushrooms, including chanterelle, morels and St George's

Mark Hix has been keeping an eye on the mushroom section in his local Tesco

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Indy Lifestyle Online

It's impossible to pin down the exact seasons of the various varieties of mushroom, as they are so weather- and climate-dependent and can appear much earlier or later than expected. We had chanterelles quite early this year – in June – and they are still around in certain parts of the UK. I've been keeping an eye on the mushroom section in my local Tesco of late, as I spotted morels there in spring at a bargain price. Since then, other seasonal mushrooms such as St George's and chanterelles have appeared. I have to admit I actually bought them all each time hoping that it would register a "restock popular item". And it did a couple of times, so watch that space.

Poached duck egg with creamed spinach and wild mushrooms

Serves 4

You can use whatever wild mushrooms you can get your hands on for this dish, which makes a great breakfast, brunch or starter – or even a vegetarian main course.

250g spinach, thick stalks removed and washed
50-60ml double cream
A couple of good knobs of butter
120-150g wild mushrooms, cleaned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½tbsp white-wine vinegar
4 duck eggs

For the crumb topping

1tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
1tbsp finely grated Parmesan
A knob of butter

First make the creamed spinach: bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spinach for 2-3 minutes until tender then drain in a colander, refresh under a cold tap and squeeze out any excess water. Blend in a food processor – as smooth or as coarse as you wish. You can get the spinach to this stage in advance, then finish it at the last minute.

Simmer the cream in a saucepan until it's reduced by about half, then stir in the spinach and season to taste.

Melt the butter in a heavy, large frying pan and gently cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for a few minutes, seasoning as they are cooking, then remove from the stove. To make the crumb topping, melt the butter, and mix with the crumbs and cheese.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the white wine vinegar. To synchronise cooking the eggs, carefully crack them into cups then pour into the pan of simmering water and cook for a couple of minutes, so they are still soft. Remove with a slotted spoon on to a plate lined with kitchen paper.

To serve, reheat the spinach, ensuring it's not watery, and the mushrooms. Spoon the spinach on to warmed serving plates, place the egg in the centre, scatter the mushrooms around and spoon the crumb mixture on to the egg.

Puffball and bacon salad

Serves 4

Puffballs tend to turn up at odd times throughout the mushroom season, so if you are lucky enough to find or acquire one you can have lots of fun slicing and grilling it or breading it, as in this salad. You could replace the puffball with a large field mushroom, cut into pieces and breaded.

One small or part of a puffball weighing about 200-250g, cut into rough chunks
Seasoned flour for dusting
1 large egg, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
100g cubed pancetta or bacon
A handful of small salad leaves such as land cress, purslane, or rocket, washed and dried

For the dressing

1tbsp good-quality red-wine vinegar
4tbsp walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Have three dishes ready, one with the seasoned flour, one with the egg and the third with the breadcrumbs. Pass the pieces of puffball through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the pancetta on a medium heat, turning it as it cooks until crisp, then transfer to kitchen paper. Whisk the red-wine vinegar and walnut oil together and season.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Deep-fry the pieces of puffball for a few minutes until golden, moving them in the fat with a slotted spoon so they colour evenly, then transfer to the kitchen paper with the pancetta.

To serve, toss the leaves in some of the dressing, then arrange on serving plates with the puffball and pancetta, and spoon over a little more dressing.

Mushroom casserole with sea aster

Serves 4

You can use a selection of mushrooms here, but don't go mad and use more than two or three, or it becomes a bit of a dog's dinner. You can get sea aster in packets from the fish counter at Waitrose if you haven't got access to the wild stuff. Alternatively you could use wild garlic when it's in season, or young spinach leaves.

A good knob or two of butter
200-250g of wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into even sizes if large
A handful of sea aster

markhix-jasonlowe2.jpg
Mushroom casserole with sea aster (Jason Lowe)

For the sauce

A couple of good knobs of butter
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp plain flour
100ml white wine
250-300ml hot vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the sauce: melt the butter in a small heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the shallots and garlic for a minute, stir in the flour, then gradually add the wine and hot stock, whisking to avoid lumps forming. Season and simmer very gently for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for a few minutes; any juice that comes out in the pan can be added to the sauce. To serve, add the mushrooms and sea aster to the sauce and simmer briefly. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more stock; season to taste and serve in bowls.

Wild mushroom omelette

Serves 4

You can use a singular mushroom for this, or a mix – it's up to you. If you are making these for a few people for a dinner party, you can simply make the lightly cooked omelettes and slide them on to cold plates then reheat them just before serving and top with the hot mushrooms.

50-60g butter
150-200g wild mushrooms, cleaned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 medium hen's eggs, beaten
2tbsp chopped parsley
A couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan or pecorino

Melt some butter in a heavy, large frying pan and gently cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for a few minutes, seasoning as they are cooking, then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Season the eggs with salt and pepper, then rub a little butter into a small, trusty non-stick frying pan, heat gently, then add a quarter of the egg mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the egg begins to set. Remove the pan from the heat and slide the omelette flat on to a cold plate to prevent it cooking any further.

When the omelettes are all cooked, warm them through in a moderate oven for a couple of minutes then serve with the hot mushrooms spooned on top and grated cheese.

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