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Mike de Stroumillo has been foraging and sourcing wild mushrooms for London restaurants for at least 25 years. When he started out, he would turn up at the back door of the restaurant in a scruffy estate car packed with various trays of fungi that he had collected somewhere – one is never told where, however hard one probes – in the south of England.
These days, Mike still picks but he is primarily a trader. He deals with other traders in Scotland, Sweden, Poland, Romania, France, Alaska, Turkey and South Africa. This year he managed to sell me truffles from Australia. In all our time together, however, he has sold me nothing quite as extraordinary as a cauliflower fungus.
I asked Mike for a good selection of mushrooms. You can see what he sent: slippery jacks (thick brown caps with yellow stems and looking suitably slippery), pieds de mouton (or hedgehogs, thick and compact and perhaps the best examples I had ever seen), grey and yellow chanterelles (delicate, spindly and full of pine needles and various other forest vegetation), trompettes (horns of plenty, black and slightly better to look at than eat), girolles (sometimes known as chanterelles, thick and apricot in colour with a wonderful fragrance), red boletus (a big, workaday sort of shroom) lovely parasols (aka shaggy ink cap) and the king of all mushrooms, the cep (aka porcini or the penny bun). And, oh yes, that cauliflower fungus.
I left this last to the end. We fooled around taking pictures with it and then I cut it in half.
It looked like a section of the brain, much enlarged, but with something of the texture of tripe. It was packed with vegetation and creepy-crawlies, so had to be separated strand by strand and carefully washed. The aroma was almost overwhelming. Since it looked a lot like tripe, I resorted to a very traditional recipe, funghi trippati. Very slowly stewed in tomato sauce it proved to be a rich and nourishing dish and, just as I did last time I ate tripe in Rome, I managed to get a large red splash of sauce on my shirt.
Marinated mushroom salad with lettuce and fried mozzarella
A sort of quick pickle, offset by the sweetness of the tomato: any firm and compact mushroom – hedgehog, girolle, saffron milk cap – can be treated this way.
To serve six as a starter
250g saffron milk caps, hedgehogs or girolles
1 dsp sea salt
1 stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
350ml olive oil
2 heads of little gem lettuce
1 tsp sugar
1 dsp sherry vinegar
3 tbs olive oil
200g mozzarella cheese
500ml sunflower oil for frying
● Prepare the mushrooms: sprinkle them with the sea salt in a colander and leave them for one hour. Place the cinnamon, bay leaf, cloves, vinegar and olive oil in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and leave to infuse for half an hour. Quickly rinse the mushrooms, drain and add to the ingredients in the pan. Bring all to a boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool. These mushrooms can now be bottled and kept for a week or two.
● Separate the lettuce leaves, rinse and dry them. Cut the tomatoes in half, season with salt and pepper and place them in the blender with the sugar, sherry vinegar and olive oil. Blend until smooth and then pass through a sieve.
● Cut the mozzarella into fingers 1½cm wide and 5cm long. Beat the egg with a little milk.
● Roll the mozzarella in the seasoned flour, then in the milk and finally in the breadcrumbs. Deep fry these pieces in hot oil until golden brown.
● Place a pool of vinaigrette and a few upturned lettuce leaves on each plate. Distribute the mushrooms (without their liquor) over and around, followed by the hot sticks of mozzarella. Serve immediately.
Salmis of guinea fowl with wild mushrooms
Guinea fowl, chicken or pheasant: a handy technique for all and the mushrooms perk it up.
1 guinea fowl
50g unsalted butter
1 celery stalk
1 tsp tomato purée
2 sprigs thyme
½ bottle white wine
250g wild mushrooms
1 clove garlic
2 tbs chopped parsley
● Season the interior of the bird well with salt and pepper. Heat a small oval cocotte or casserole with a film of olive oil and half the butter. Place the bird breast-side down and let it colour on each side of the breast quite gently so that the butter does not burn, before turning it on its back.
● While the bird colours, peel and wash the vegetables and chop them into small dice. Distribute around the bird and let them sweat a little before adding the tomato purée, the thyme and then the wine. Place the lid on the casserole and place the cocotte in a moderate oven (160C) for 40 minutes.
● Remove the bird from the oven and remove the legs once it has cooled a little. Strain the juice from the cocotte into a bowl. Place the legs, cut in half, back in the cocotte with the juice, cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
● While the legs cook, prepare the mushrooms (see previous recipe). Heat a large frying pan with a film of olive oil and sear the mushrooms on a high heat. As soon as they start to render their juice, decant into a colander suspended over a bowl. Strain this juice into the cocotte and return to the oven. Chop the garlic very finely and stew in a little olive oil before adding the strained mushrooms. Season and toss the mushrooms on a high heat for a couple of minutes.
● Remove the breasts of the bird from the carcass and cut them in half. Place the cocotte on top of the stove and add the breasts and the mushrooms to the mix. Heat them through gently, check the seasoning and add the remaining half of the butter, shaking the pan gently to incorporate the butter into the sauce and to thicken and enrich it. Add the parsley and serve, perhaps with mashed potatoes or polenta.
Conﬁt of salmon with tomato and chanterelles
The salmon acquires a lovely melting texture while the tomatoes and mushrooms provide buckets of flavour. Holds very well for a dinner party, served warm rather than spanking hot.
6 thick fillets of salmon
3 tomatoes, preferably plum
1 clove garlic
500ml olive oil
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tsp black peppercorns
10 basil leaves
● Sprinkle a tablespoon of sea salt over a plate and place the salmon fillets skin-side down on top before sprinkling another dessertspoon of sea salt over the top. Leave for 30 minutes.
● Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, refresh, peel, cut in half and remove the seeds. Chop the tomato flesh into neat dice, season lightly with salt and hold in a colander. Trim and wash the chanterelles.
● Crush the garlic with a knife and add to the oil in a deep saucepan together with the bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Warm this oil until it is hot but still bearable to the finger (75-80C). Rinse off the salmon and place it, still skin-side down, back in the dish, pouring the warm oil over. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms and cover with foil. Place in a slow oven (120C) for 30 minutes, checking the fish for doneness and making sure the oil never gets too hot to the touch.
● Chop the basil into very thin strips. Lift the salmon out of the oil and turn over so that it is skin-side up. Lift out the tomatoes and mushrooms with a slotted spoon (discarding the garlic and herbs) and strew over the salmon. Sprinkle the basil over the top.
Lasagne of wild mushrooms
A splendid main course showcase for a miscellaneous batch of mushrooms, inspired by Franco Taruschio’s famous recipe for Vincisgrassi. Vegetarians will, of course, dispense with the ham.
1kg mixed wild mushrooms
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
A pinch of nutmeg
90g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
1 large shallot
2 tbs of freshly chopped
parsley, flat or curly
12 rectangles dry lasagne
9 slices Parma ham
2 tbs grated Parmesan
● Pick through the mushrooms carefully, discarding any stray vegetation. Trim the feet of any attached soil and debris. Fill a sink or large bowl with cold water and tip in all the mushrooms. Lift them all out with a sieve immediately and drain. Change the water and repeat the process until the rinsing water is clean and clear. Check through the mushrooms again and drain on a tray lined with kitchen paper or cloth. Heat a large frying pan with two tablespoons of olive oil. When very hot, add the mushrooms and sear them, turning them a couple of times until they wilt and start to yield their liquid. Tip them into a colander suspended over a large bowl to drain.
● Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the sliced onion, the cloves, bay leaves and thyme. Season with milled black pepper, half a teaspoon of salt and the nutmeg. Bring to the boil and leave to infuse for half an hour.
● Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook this roux on a gentle heat for two or three minutes until it has a sandy consistency. Add a little of the milk and, still on the heat, whisk this to a smooth paste before adding the remainder of the milk. Bring gently to a simmer, whisking constantly, then cook out this white sauce for five minutes. Add the liquid from the mushrooms and allow this to cook for 10 minutes. Add the double cream, bring back to the boil, adjust the seasoning and then pass this sauce through a sieve and reserve.
● Chop the shallot very finely and stew it gently in a tablespoon of oil. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms. Toss these on a high heat with a good seasoning of salt and pepper and throw in the parsley. Toss briefly and take off the heat.
● Take a deep rectangular ovenproof dish approximately 24cm long. Lay a quarter of the mushrooms across the bottom of the dish and arrange three sheets of lasagne on top. Cover with three slices of ham and then a quarter of the white sauce. Add another quarter of the mushrooms and then cover again with lasagne. Proceed with two more layers, covering the top layer with a good coating of the sauce. Bake this ensemble for 30 minutes (test the lasagne for doneness with a knife) in a medium hot oven (180C), adding the Parmesan cheese five minutes before the end. Serve with a green salad.
Pizza with ceps and lardo colonnata
Only ceps have the weight or aroma to cope with this treatment.
Serves four to six
800g Italian white flour, either 00 or 0.020.0
1 tsp caster sugar
12g fresh yeast or 8g dried yeast
375ml tepid water
Coarse sea salt
Semolina flour for dusting
1 clove garlic
75g lardo, finely sliced
● Mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl and dissolve the yeast in the water in a second bowl. Pour this mixture into the flour and knead to make a dough. Add a sprinkling more flour if the dough looks a little wet. Knead continually for 10 minutes until you have a really smooth, elastic dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for at least two hours.
● Clean the ceps, scraping the stalks, trimming them if necessary and dipping them in cold water and wiping the caps clean. Cut them into thick slices and reserve.
● The dough should now have doubled in size. Punch it down and divide it into four pieces. Knead these pieces into smooth balls, then brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with half a teaspoon of sea salt each.
● Cover them again, on a tray, and leave to prove for another hour.
● Sprinkle a marble or worktop with a tablespoon of the semolina flour. Place a ball of the dough on the board and using your fingertips, push the dough out into a circle, kneading salt and oil into the mix and teasing the dough out into a circle some 30cm in diameter.
● Chop the garlic very finely and mix with two tablespoons of olive oil. Spread this over the base of the pizza, together with a sprinkling of sea salt. Distribute the sliced ceps on top and sprinkle with a bit more olive oil and another pinch of sea salt. Slip into a hot pizza oven and bake at very high temperature for three to four minutes. Once out of the oven, drape with the lardo and serve.
Simple but good – and an excellent starter.
500g mixed wild mushrooms
1 clove garlic
150ml tomato passata
Oregano or marjoram
● Prepare the mushrooms as before. Heat a large frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and stew the finely chopped garlic for 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms. Pour in the passata and turn up the heat. Stew the mushrooms, adding the chopped oregano after 10 minutes. You should have a rich ragout after 20 minutes.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais. email@example.com