A classic book on mushrooms was written by chef and author Jane Grigson: The Mushroom Feast, originally published in 1975. The book Is beautifully illustrated by Yvonne Skargon. Jane Grigson is known for many other classics such as The Fruit Book and The Vegetable Book.
The Mushroom Feast includes a chapter on the best edible mushrooms and ways to preserve mushrooms. Other chapters describe how to combine mushrooms with fish, meat, poultry and game. One chapter discusses mushrooms in the Japanese and Chinese kitchen. Jane Grigson also provides interesting background information, like Colette’s view on truffles. Worth reading, with or without truffles.
It isn’t a handbook for foragers, but no book ever is.
The Mushroom Feast covers a wide range of mushroom recipes: soups, salads, pies, sauces and intriguing combinations like creamed cucumbers with mushrooms and classics like mushroom soufflé. The recipes are clear and well-written.
You may perhaps think the recipes are a bit old fashioned, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading them. Be inspired by one of Britain’s finest writers on recipes and food.
Spring brings us several edible or even delicious mushrooms, such as the Mushroom of Saint George, Morels and the Fairy Ring Mushroom.
The mushroom of Saint George (Calocybe gambosa) is usually the first edible mushroom to appear. Its name derives from St George’s Day, 23rd April, by which date it can be found in the UK. Its French and Italian name (for instance Tricholome de la Saint-Georges in France) also refer to this day. Its Dutch name (Voorjaarspronkridder) and its Swedish name (Vårmusseron meaning spring mushroom) refer to the fact that the mushroom is available for a short period only.
Famous chef and author Jane Grigson isn’t a fan of the mushroom. In her classic book The Mushroom Feast she writes “I have omitted one or two which our mushroom books follow each other in praising too highly. One of these is the Saint George’s Mushroom.”
Perhaps because the smell is so rare? Some say the mushroom smells of cucumber; others say melon rind or refer to a mealy scent. We think it’s more like overripe zucchini or even ghee that is a bit offish. In all cases, a not-very-pleasant-smell to remember. The good news is that the smell disappears as soon as you heat the mushrooms.
The mushroom of Saint George is clearly a spring-mushroom, but we think that you will have some reminiscence of autumn when eating this dish. A hint of earthiness. Intense but not overwhelming. However, the combination of ramson and Saint George’s mushroom is 100% spring.
Confused? Perhaps that’s part of the fun of eating Saint George’s mushroom.
We suggest an oaked chardonnay, for instance Domaine De La Prade from the Languedoc region in France. The wine has a pale, yellow colour, aromas of ripe tropical fruit and its taste is intense, buttery and comes with a touch of oak. The wine has a long lasting taste.
Feel free to go for a US or Australian Chardonnay. A full-bodied, gently oaked chardonnay will go very well with the mushroom and the udon.
Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper and if necessary clean the stems with a sharp knife. Slice the pancetta in small slices. Heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and quickly fry the pancetta. Transfer to a plate with kitchen paper and keep in the oven on 60° Celsius or 140° Fahrenheit. Slice the mushrooms, fry them gently in the pan and reduce the heat. Add chicken stock. Add some crème fraiche. In parallel cook the udon for 10 minutes. Drain the udon and keep some of the cooking liquid. Add the udon to the mushrooms in the pan, add black pepper and stir gently, making sure all pasta is covered. Add some cooking liquid to make sure it’s nice and moist. Add the pancetta and the sliced leaves (lengthwise, remove the vein) of ramson, mix and serve immediately. Decorate with a ramson flower.