Last weekend saw the Boyfriend and myself travel down to my parents’ place in North Cork. As a result of the warm, damp weather over the past few weeks, I have received constant reports from my mother about the abundance of mushrooms so, with a Beef and Guinness casserole bubbling away in the oven, we off headed for a pre-dinner ramble down the fields with our eyes firmly fixed on the ground.
A few minutes in the Lios field – so named because of the ancient, fenced-off ringfort down in the hollow – and we hit the jackpot. With whoops of delight, we bent again and again to pluck the scatterings of pink-gilled little cuppeens, just peeping through the ground, and the older, larger platter mushrooms. Trekking up and down the field, we quickly gathered a generous bag of fungi. My family, so completely used to picking a few handfuls whenever they walk down to the cattle, turned their noses up at the older mushrooms but, after being peeled and checked for worms, were thrown into the pot in the oven to further enrich the Guinness gravy.
Breakfast was simply the left-over mushrooms fried in butter, served up on slices of toasted Brown Soda Bread. Another trip down the fields before lunch and a further haul make me revisit Denis Cotter‘s recipe for Mushrooms in Milk that I had made (unseasonably) earlier this year with cultivated Portobello mushrooms. It’s a very different dish when made with wild field mushrooms which, although they may not be as meaty or easily obtainable, more than make up for that with their intense flavour.
For anyone interested in doing a tutored mushroom hunt, mushroomstuff.com is running one in Avondale House, Co Wicklow on Saturday 7 October, there’s a Ballymaloe Cookery School one on Saturday 14 October or you can take part in Longueville House Hotel‘s mushroom hunt on Sundays 8 and 15 October. Slow Food Ireland‘s Fingal Convivium run their annual mushroom hunt on Sunday 22 October in the grounds of Howth Castleand the Four Rivers Convivium also have a Foraging for Wild Food event, which surely includes mushrooms, at Lavistown House on the 23 September.
Mushrooms in Milk
Field or Portabello mushrooms – 400g
Milk – 1 litre, plus an extra 50ml
Garlic – 2 cloves, squashed
Fresh thyme – 4 large sprigs
Cornflour – 1 tablespoon
Break the mushrooms up roughly, put in a heavy based saucepan with the milk, garlic and thyme and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the milk takes on some of the mushroom colour. Mix the cornflour to a paste with the extra 50ml milk and, with the pan off the heat, add to the mixture, stirring constantly. Reheat gently, stirring all the time until it bubbles and thickens. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Particularly good to accompany a Chorizo and Potato Frittata and very good over hot, buttered toast.
Adapted from A Paradiso Year: Autumn and Winter by Denis Cotter.