No, THIS is a Feast of St. George’s Mushrooms
Today was my most successful ever mushroom hunt! These mushrooms really are all over the place on the grass verges around our flat, but today I found what can only be described as a rich seam of creamy, fresh, unsullied calocybe gambosa.
I couldn’t quite bear to pick this lovely fairy ring however, especially since I already had such a fantastic haul. Hopefully it will survive the overenthusiastic mowing of the apartment complex’s caretaker who has been driving his mower over both mushrooms and wild flowers all week.
As this is the second time (see here) I have felt moved to post about these delicious mushrooms, I have decided to include some information for you on how to identify them. It goes without saying (I hope!) that you still need to consult a book or two and take responsibility for your own mushroom identification, but here are some pointers to get you started. If you would like to read a review of my favourite mushroom book, which I used to identify these mushrooms, click here.
- These mushrooms are very firm and solid feeling – heavy for their size.
- They are white and/or cream coloured.
- The rim of the cap curls under slightly.
- The gills are very close together.
- The smell is a key identifier – I have read it described in many abstract ways that I was never able to really imagine, but the best descriptor I have heard is they smell like Play-Doh. If you remember what that smells like, it will really help you here!
- A final factor to inspire confidence in identifying these mushrooms is there are basically no other similar mushrooms growing in spring.
Tonight we ate them sauteed in butter, garlic, white wine and finished with cream, spooned over velvety slow-scrambled eggs and well-buttered sourdough bread. Outrageously decadent and certainly not an everyday dish, but most definitely a delight. The richness was slightly offset by the crisp lettuce served to accompany it, dressed with olive oil, cider vinegar and Dijon mustard.
- a knob of butter
- 150-200g mushrooms, thickly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- a glug of drinkable white wine
- 100ml double cream
- salt and freshly-ground pepper
- 4 slices sourdough bread, well-buttered
- 4 eggs, very lightly beaten
Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and leave undisturbed until the bottom layer has browned slightly. If the mushrooms release a lot of water, increase the heat to cook off the liquid so you can continue lightly browning the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms every so often so all sides are cooked equally. When the mushrooms are nicely sauteed, remove the pan from the heat and stir through the garlic. Return the pan to a low heat and gently cook the garlic with the mushrooms for a few minutes, taking care not to brown the garlic. When the garlic starts to stick, add the white wine and scrape the pan to help loosen all the lovely, buttery, caramelised goodness. Cook off the wine, stir the cream into the mushrooms and season everything very well. I found this dish needed quite a lot of salt to really bring out the subtle flavours of this rich dish.
While this is cooking, scramble your eggs with a little salt in a separate pan. I started cooking my eggs around the same time I added the mushrooms to the other pan. Use a very low heat and stir frequently. If the eggs look like they are cooking too quickly, remove the pan from the heat completely to slow the cooking process so the mushrooms can catch up. Ideally they should both be ready at the same time, but if this is impossible, the mushrooms hold warm a little better than the eggs. Slow-scrambled eggs wait for no woman!
Spoon the eggs over the bread and the mushrooms over the eggs. Top with more pepper and a little salt if needed. I’m sure some fresh herbs would also be lovely too, but we didn’t have any.
To see or buy my favourite beginner’s mushroom book, River Cottage Handbook No. 1 by John Wright, click here. To see a detailed post describing my favourite mushroom identification books, websites and apps, click here.