Mark Hix on the difference between morels, chanterelles and girolles and why you should eat them all the time

 
Mark Hix
A bowlful of girolles – cheaper and more accessible than ever

Girolles are one of the first mushrooms to appear on the UK’s culinary calendar.

If you’re very lucky, you might find a rare morel or a scarlet elf cup, which grows in freezing conditions in the early part of the year unlike most of themushrooms we pick here. But trust me, the first funghi you’re likely to spot on a seasonal menu is a girolle.

I’ve always used the French word for these orange beauties, but other countries refer to them as chanterelles. This can get a tad confusing, though, as there is another type of woodland mushroom called a chanterelle, only these appear later in the season and have various varieties in the family.

What I do know for certain, though, is these early season meaty mushrooms are one of my favourite edible funghi. With their bright golden colour they are easily-spotted but, like all funghi, you need to know what you are looking for, as there are many lookalikes out there and even finger contact with the wrong variety can transfer ugly toxins into your foraging basket.

Read more: Mark Hix often has labneh hanging in his fridge

We still haven’t got a culture of foraging in the UK, but it’s certainly catching on in the foodie community. I reckon it should be on the school curriculum along with cookery to encourage kids to get out into the woods and hedgerows and find some real food that’s free, nutritious and doesn’t come in a packet.

I love any kind of wild mushroom and they add a seasonal touch to any menu. It’s exciting awaiting the next variety to poke through the ground and hit the kitchens.

A couple years ago, I got a shock when I nipped into my local Tesco to grab some basic bits and bobs for the weekend. There was a basket full of morels selling for £2 per 100g. Now I’ve never seen a wild mushroom in Tesco, let alone a morel. I thought this was some short-lived experiment so I bought all 15 packets, but returned a couple days later to find they had re-stocked.

A couple of months later I found girolles for the same price and that’s cheaper than I can buy wholesale. So there you go – there’s no reason not to make wild mushrooms a regular part of your repertoire.

Girolles with Lancashire mash

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 300-400g floury potatoes, peeled and quartered

  • 150-200g butter milk to mix

  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper

  • 60-70g mature Lancashire cheese, grated

  • 2tbsp olive oil

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

  • 600-700g girolles, cleaned

  • 2tbsp chopped parsley

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender, then drain and return to the pan over a low heat to evaporate excess water. Mash the potatoes through a potato ricer or push through a sieve with the back of a spoon to get a fine texture. Return to a pan and stir in three quarters of the butter. Season and add enough milk to achieve a sloppy, almost thick, sauce-like consistency. Cover and keep warm.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan; gently fry the garlic and girolles for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often until soft. Season, add the parsley and the rest of the butter.

To serve, spoon the potatoes on to warmed serving plates, scatter the girolles on top and serve.

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