For my seventh birthday, my father gave me a beautiful hand-drawn treasure map. It detailed all of the best places to go hunting and fishing in the area, and this included where to forage for the best mushrooms. I would return home with my treasure and, if I had gathered enough, Maman Blanc would cook his delicious mushroom fricassee. Nowadays, I am a lucky boy to have the luxury of my own valley of wild mushrooms at Belmond Le Manoir. The dish is simple to make, so it relies on the quality and freshness of the produce. It has all the earthy flavours of the forest and lots of juice just waiting to be mopped up with a piece of crusty French bread. If you can get them, the best mushrooms are girolles, lambs feet, pieds bleus, chanterelles, and oyster mushrooms.
Ingredients for the mushroom fricassee
shallot or white onion, chopped
5g / 1 clove
garlic, peeled, pureed
mixed wild mushrooms e.g. chanterelle, girolle, pieds bleus, button mushrooms
black trumpet mushrooms
15ml / 1/3
white wine, dry, boiled for 30 seconds
4g / 4 pinches
2g / 4 pinches
pepper, black, freshly ground
10g / 1 small handful
parsley, flat leaf, chopped coarsely
120g / 2
Roma tomatoes, quartered, deseeded, diced 5mm, skin on
For the croutons
small baguette, sliced into 20 fine slices, 3 mm thick, toasted under the grill or in the oven at 180ºC until lightly golden brown and rubbed with a clove of peeled garlic.
Preparing the mushrooms
Remove all twigs and leaves. Cut off the base of the root and divide the mushrooms into two or three pieces. If you are using lambs feet, mushrooms scrape off their velvety hairs with a small knife. Reserve the black trumpets. Plunge the other mushrooms into 3 litres of water and quickly swirl them with your hands for no more than 10 seconds. Mushrooms are great sponges and will soak up the water very quickly, ensuring this process is done very swiftly. Lift them out onto a clean towel, pat dry and reserve.
Cooking the mushrooms
On a medium heat in a large frying pan, soften the chopped shallots in 20g butter for 30 seconds, without colouring. The gentle heat will sweeten the shallots, remove the sulphur and transform the starch into sugar; into the flavour. Increase to full heat; add the garlic and all the wild mushrooms (apart from the black trumpets). Season with a little salt and pepper, add the boiled wine, cover with a lid and cook on full boil for a further minute.
Add the lemon juice and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Lastly, add the black trumpets, the chopped parsley leaves and diced tomatoes; cook for a further 10 seconds, no more: taste and correct the seasoning. The essence of this dish is speed. If overcooked, the mushrooms release all their juice and lose all their texture. The dish becomes soupy. Add the black trumpets at the very last minute as they cook very quickly. Also, they would paint the dish black with their colour.
Serve in a large bowl or 4 soup plates, scatter the croutons over and finish with a little parsley.
Of course, wild mushrooms can be used for this dish, and many herbs such as tarragon, coriander, and chervil.