Morels are something of an enigma in the mushroom world, appearing between March and May instead of autumn. They look odd, too, but don’t let that put you off these packets of flavour.
There are legions of wild-fungi hunters across the country, and their search for morels is akin to the feverish hunt for truffles across the Channel. There are numerous theories about the best locations to find these gems. Sandy and chalky soil seems to suit morels, and they’re said to be fond of freshly burnt ground. Many an 18th-century German forest fire stemmed from peasants’ attempts to cultivate them.
Like the best wild foods, simplicity in preparation makes for a memorable eating experience. However, to ensure you don’t have a memorable experience of the wrong sort, wash the morels to get rid of the grit that builds up in the wrinkles of the cap.
They’re perfect with cream- and chicken-stock-based sauces and with old-fashioned cuts of meat. In his book Wild Food, Roger Phillips suggests serving them on fried bread very simple, very British.
Morels on fried bread
This is a wonderful first course, but if using morels on their own appears too expensive, bulk the dish out with cheaper varieties.
A little stock
Chopped parsley and thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 free-range egg yolk
3tbsp double cream
Clean the mushroom caps in running water, remove the stem bases, dry thoroughly and split lengthwise. If using dried morels, reconstitute in warm water for 20 minutes, reserving water for the stock. Stew for 30 minutes in the butter and stock, a little chopped parsley and thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in the egg yolk and cream to thicken. Serve on bread fried in bacon fat.