Sunday, 25 October 2009

Shroom safari

After a hectic week the last thing you'd want to do is get up at 8 O'clock on Saturday morning, travel for 1.5 hours across north and east London to get to Hainault in Essex and spend the morning getting drizzled on in muddy woodland. But yesterday was different.

I was, in fact, on a fungal foray; mushroom-picking. A friend from work who is also an avid foodie had been banging on since last October about the wonders of this mushroom walk lead by a local self-confessed mushroom anorak. Some of my fondest foodie memories are of walking through fields in the Scottish borders with my Grandad, picking massive, delicious field mushrooms. How could I say no?

About 30 other people also decided to spend this drizzly, but mild, Saturday morning in Hainault Forest in the pursuit of mushroom knowledge and mushroom. The guide knew almost every mushroom we found by site and advised on their edibility. This was my only consideration. We found fungi of all varieties, growing on trees, bright red, prickly, slimy, waxy, aniseedy. I was with six people I knew, so had to restrain my hunter-gather instincts and share my finds, but I ended up with a sizeable haul, including one oyster mushroom, one big parasol mushroom, one puffball, lots of butter caps and quite a few jews' ears.

They made for a tasty cooked breakfast this morning, sautéed with butter, garlic and parsley and then with a splash of calvados and some sour cream. Served on toast, it was a hearty, herby start to a day about town.

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