It’s a bumper year for mushrooms on the farm. This morning there were fairy circles in every paddock.
It doesn’t happen every year. Last year — and the two before that — mushrooms were a scarce commodity in Garston. The weather was too cold … too dry … too something else.
But not this year. A hot, dry January followed by cool mornings and rain in February equals perfect mushroom conditions.
There’s no telling where they’ll spring up. The ground gives no hint. In the evening the paddock looks as it always does; nothing but green grass as far as the eye can see. Next morning it’s dotted with white caps.
Field mushrooms are not like the fungi you buy in the supermarket. Those have been raised on mushroom farms, packaged and cooled. They are firm, and last for days in the fridge.
These mushrooms are far too delicate for that. We pick them fresh, the same morning they appear. By evening they’ll be drying out. Tomorrow will be too late.
Storing Field Mushrooms
There’s no point in trying to keep these mushrooms in the fridge. A day, two at a pinch, is the most you can hope for.
Our forebears dried them, but I’ve got an easier way; I’ll just put them straight into the freezer. I used to cut them up first. Some years I even cooked them in butter and wine, and froze them in cute little pottles to add to winter casseroles and soups.
These days I’m lazy: I have a plastic bag in the freezer. A brief wash (outside only — leave the delicate interior dry) and in they go. The soups and casseroles still taste the same.
In the Kitchen
Of course some we eat fresh. Mushroom omelettes or mushroom sauce with a juicy steak: yum!
Today we had mushroom risotto. This is my favourite way to eat mushrooms, and over the years I’ve managed to perfect this method. Provided I pay proper attention and don’t get distracted by the iPad or a good book, it turns out “delish!” every time.
I don’t claim to be a chef. I can’t follow a recipe. Seriously, I just can’t do it. The basics remain but I’ll tweak the rest every time, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. I specialize in deconstructed; a method born from the sheer frustration of raising four children, each of whom disliked a different commonly used ingredient. Onions, cooked tomatoes, pineapples and mushrooms were among the most frustrating. As a result, I tend to cook things separately and people help themselves to whatever they like best.
So here’s the risotto I made today, with mushrooms and love.
PLEASE NOTE: Some wild mushrooms are very poisonous. You should never pick or eat mushrooms unless you have positively identified them as edible.
Lyn’s Not-Quite-Traditional Mushroom Risotto
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
2-3 cups chopped mushrooms
2-3 cups chicken stock
½ – 1 cup white wine
2 onions, finely chopped
1-2 tsp crushed garlic
1-2 courgettes, chopped
4 rashers bacon, chopped
Garlic salt to taste Pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp olive oil + butter
1-2 handfuls of grated parmesan or tasty cheddar cheese. The parmesan has more bite; the tasty adds to the creamy texture.
The secret to a good risotto is three-fold.
- Use the correct rice: Arborio is the best.
- Add the liquid hot, and in small amounts, allowing the rice to absorb each cupful before adding the next.
- Taste and use your own judgement as to the exact amount of liquid needed. The heat of the cooking surface and exact amount of rice you used will determine how long to cook and how much liquid is needed. This particular batch took 25 minutes to cook.
What to do:
Step #1: Prepare your onions.
Melt the oil and butter in a large, deep pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently until they are soft and tender.
Step #2: While that’s cooking, chop mushrooms, measure rice and heat the first ½ cup of stock and wine combined.
Stir the rice into the cooked onion until each grain is coated in oil/butter and is well heated through.
Add the hot stock and stir gently. Cover and simmer.
Step #3: Begin to fry the mushrooms quickly in a separate pan. Field mushrooms can leak far more water than supermarket ones, so it is difficult to prevent them stewing. I tip out the liquid periodically. Set aside in a separate bowl when cooked.
Step #4: While the rice is simmering and the mushrooms frying, heat the second half cup of water+wine. Chop the bacon and courgette.
Continue to add half cups of hot liquid until the rice tastes cooked to you. Don’t let it dry out: risotto is quite a creamy dish. The rice should be soft but not gluggy. Add pepper and salt to taste.
Step #5: When the rice is nearly ready, fry the chopped courgette and bacon in the same pan you used for the mushrooms. Reheat the mushrooms if necessary.
At the last minute, stir grated cheese through the rice.
Ladle spoonfuls of rice into 3 or 4 bowls. Top with the courgette and bacon mixture and, of course, the mushrooms.
To download a PDF of this recipe, click the link below.
Do you have a favourite mushroom recipe to share? Or maybe an experience of picking mushrooms in the country.
I would love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.