Well Autumn is here, although at least where I am the temperatures have been far from autumnal! The leaves are starting to turn however and the vineyards are looking magnificent, a patchwork quilt of varying colours. Each grape variety has a different autumnal leaf colour and each field tends to have just the one variety of vine.
It has rained quite a bit though and that means that it is also time to go in search of wild mushrooms!! I sometimes think that Spaniards are worse than hobbits in their love of mushrooms. The hills are already full of SUV’s and basket-carrying locals. Unfortunately not all are prepared nor indeed are interested in caring for the environment. Mushrooms should be cut carefully leaving the base behind. One should of course only cut the ones that can be eaten. Unfortunately some unscrupulous people rake the ground pulling up edible and non-edible mushrooms as well as ripping up all the root structures. It is a great shame how the avarice of man is destroying just about every environment on this spaceship planet of ours.
The variety we collect here is lactarius deliciosus, and as its name suggests it really is delicious. Although there are relatively few poisonous wild mushrooms, one should never pick any unknown varieties. This one is relatively easy to distinguish:
- It grows under pine trees
- It has a pretty unique orange ringed colouring
- It has a concave top and vanes underneath
- When cut it exudes an orange sap that stains the hands yellow
- Any damaged areas on the mushroom turn a green colour
Again though, make sure you know what you are picking and only eat those that you are sure are edible.
Although I am starting to know the local hills well, I was lucky enough to be in the company of a real expert this week. Javier took me to areas I had never visited before, showing me the best spots to pick the mushrooms. It took us about 4 hours, but by the time we returned to the village we had a large basket full……. so then it was my turn to come up with some recipes to use up this bountiful harvest!
The simplest way is quite often the best way with wild mushrooms. To that end first up was scrambled eggs made by simply slicing then frying the mushrooms, adding in a bit of chopped garlic towards the end. The eggs were beaten with a little freshly ground black pepper then quickly added to the pan and lightly fried so as not to dry out the eggs too much.
We also did a quick mushrooms on toast. Firstly we fried a little finely chopped onion, then the sliced wild mushrooms with a bit of chopped garlic. We also added in a little thyme to spice it up a little. Once it was cooked, we stirred in some cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon and finally some grated parmesan cheese. It really was delicious.
We also made mushroom sauce to go with meat or indeed to add to pasta. Individual portions are now bagged up and in the freezer. I will also be drying out some of the smaller mushrooms simply by threading them on a string and hanging them up to dry. What I wanted to share with you today however was a mushroom soup I made that can be eaten immediately or easily be frozen for later.
Wild Mushroom Soup
1 Large Onion
1 Green Pepper
1 Medium Leek
2 Garlic cloves
300g Wild Mushrooms
2 tbsp Plain flour
450ml Vegetable stock
1 tbsp Finely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Roughly chop all the vegetables.
If the stock is salty do not add too much salt during the cooking process.
With the exception of the mushrooms, fry all the other vegetables in a little butter and oil for around 5 minutes or until the onion is starting to get some translucence.
Add in the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes.
Add the flour and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
Add the stock and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Purée the soup with a hand blender or food mill.
Adjust the seasoning.
(If you are going to freeze the soup, now is the best time.)
Add in a little milk to adjust the consistency particularly if the soup is too thick. Alternatively swirl in a little cream to get the contrast between the dark soup and the whiteness of the cream.
Sprinkle on some freshly chopped parsley and serve.
If you have any ideas about how to store mushrooms please feel free to let me know. Just add in a comment to this post. I am always interested in hearing about your recipes, particularly when they can help me store ingredients for the leaner months.
2015 Lincoln W. Betteridge