Here in Spain, mushrooms are collectively known as “setas” or “hongos”

Here in Spain, mushrooms are collectively known as “setas” or “hongos”

30-10-2021Marc Fosh

Every autumn I really look forward the start of the mushroom season. Here in Spain, mushroom picking is a national pastime, and thousands of passionate devotees spend hours in the fields and meadows searching for them.

I also love to forage for wild mushrooms, but you really need to know exactly what you are looking for as mushrooms should never be picked and eaten unless you are thoroughly familiar with them as there are obviously many poisonous varieties and, it can be really dangerous if you get it wrong.

I can’t help feeling the Swiss have got it right. Apparently when the Swiss go out to collect wild mushrooms, before they return home in the evening to dunk them in a hot cheesy fondue, they hand their basket to the “Pilzkontrolleur”. The mushroom inspector will pluck out any toxic fungi and send them home with what is safe to eat, but as we don’t have a “inspector de hongos” here in Mallorca, I think its probably safer to buy them from local markets and don’t take any risks!

Here in Spain, mushrooms are collectively known as “setas” or “hongos”, and dozens of regional varieties exist. Although autumn is traditionally considered the best season for wild mushrooms, Spain’s varied microclimate helps to offer a steady supply all year round.

The provinces of Castilla y León, Huesca, Galicia, the Basque country, Catalonia and Valencia are among the most prolific mushroom producing regions, but all across Spain, in every local market you will find a selection of locally grown specialities to look out for including “rossinyol”, “oreja de judas”, “pie azul”, “cep”, “trompetas negras”, “ous de reig”, “rovellon” and “camagroc”.

Obviously it is important to clean wild mushrooms well, but they should not be soaked in water. This only results in a drastic loss of flavour and texture. Clean your fungi with a damp cloth then trim the stalk with a sharp knife and use a pastry brush to remove all the grit and dirt from the most inaccessible parts. Discard any that are mushy and discoloured and store them in a cool, dry place.

Here in Mallorca, a local variety called “Esclatasangs” is extremely popular and they are in season right now. Translated literally as blood mushrooms, “Esclatasangs” are large, big flavoured, meaty fungi that are just perfect for grilling or roasting. You can use any large field mushrooms but the best way to cook them is to simply sprinkle them with a little sea salt, a good drizzle of olive oil, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and loads of freshly chopped parsley before placing them under a hot grill for about 5-6 minutes. You’ll need some crusty bread to soak up all those delicious cooking juices and be warned, the heavenly aroma can be very addictive.

One of my favourite mushrooms is the black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides). They are also known as the black chanterelle, trompette de la mort in French and trombetta dei morti in Italian. When you mix them with porcini they make an unbelievably tasty risotto…it’s doesn’t get much better!

Cream of mushroom, cheese & bacon Soup with fresh thyme

Cream of mushroom, cheese & bacon Soup with fresh thyme

Serves 6

  • 100g butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 150g smoked bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled & diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 600g mushrooms, cleaned & chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
  • 900ml chicken stock
  • 150g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 200ml milk
  • 130ml cream
  • 1tbsp truffle oil (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Heat the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and thyme.

2 Cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add the chopped mushrooms, bacon and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

3 Add the potato, chicken stock and milk, and then bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

4 Add the cheese and cream then blend to a smooth puree.

5 Season to taste; pass through a fine sieve and then ladle into soup bowls. Scatter with extra thyme leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil or olive oil. Serve immediately.

Rosemary roasted esclatasangs with garlic-anchovy butter

Rosemary roasted esclatasangs with garlic-anchovy butter

Serves 6

  • 500g Esclata-sangs or mixed flat mushrooms, cleaned & halved
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 small red chili, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

5 Arrange the mushrooms in a roasting tray in a single layer.

5 Add 4 or 5 slices of anchovy butter, rosemary, chili, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

6 Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until tender.

7 Scatter with a little chopped parsley, season and serve immediately.

For the garlic-anchovy butter

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 salted anchovies fillets, drained of oil and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped Parsley
  • The grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 For the garlic-anchovy butter, place the butter into a bowl and add the lemon zest, chopped anchovies, garlic and chopped Parsley.

2 Season with sea salt and black pepper then mix well to combine all the ingredients.

3 Place the butter mixture onto a sheet of cling film or baking parchment laid out on a clean work surface, and roll into a cylinder or log.

4 Place the prepared butter in the fridge and leave to chill until firm.

Wild mushroom risotto

Serves 4

  • 50g porcini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 100g black trumpet mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1l vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 100g finely grated parmesan
  • 300g risotto rice (preferably carnaroli or Acquerello)
  • 1tbsp mascarpone
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots chopped finely
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • Seasoning

1 Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a thick-bottomed pan, heat and add shallots, garlic and thyme.

2 Sweat gently until the shallots start to break down.

3 Add the wild mushrooms and the rice. Stir well.

4 Add a little hot stock until the rice is just covered; continue to stir until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.

5 Over a medium heat, continue to add the stock gradually and stir until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice has softened. Make sure the risotto is loose and not too thick.

6 Add the butter, mascarpone, grated Parmesan and season to taste. The risotto should be light and creamy.

7 Serve immediately.

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