Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Wild Mushroom Hunt: Saffron milkcaps (Lactarius deliciosus) & False Saffron Milkcaps (Lactarius deterrimus), plus a potato gratin recipe
Ten days ago we spent few hours in the forest forageing for mushrooms again. It had been raining on the previous days, yet the temperatures were nice and warm (17-18 C), so we knew there'd be lots of mushrooms. And we weren't disappointed. It was a two-stop forageing trip. After about 30 minutes in Our Secret Mushroom Forest Number One, I had barely covered the bottom of my new mushroom basket:
A mixture of Russula mushrooms on the left, one lone, but very pretty yellow Lactarius scrobiculatus amidst them, and a small pile of Saffron Milkcaps and False Saffron Milkcaps on the right.
Obviously it was time to move on. We quickly headed to Our Secret Mushroom Forest Number Two, where we played hide and seek with each other and the wild mushrooms for another 3 hours, to emerge with this beautiful bounty:
The basket contains a lot of saffron milkcaps and false saffron milkcaps, which are hidden under layers and layers of brown rufous milkcaps and white-and-pink Russula mushrooms, and a handful of gypsy mushrooms. We could have picked a lot more (there were A LOT of edible wild mushrooms), but it was starting to get darker, and the basket was already getting too heavy to carry, so we decided to head home.
Back home I had to sort through twice the amount of mushrooms on the photo - mine and K's - and do all the preparatory work for pickling, salting, freezing and so on. The saffron milkcaps and false saffron milkcaps, however, were simply fried in butter and used for this simple and delicious dish that is a perfect showcase for these beautifully orange-coloured fragrant mushrooms. I had 1.65 kg of cleaned saffron milkcaps/porgandriisikad and false saffron milkcaps/kuuseriisikad (both considered equally excellent eating mushrooms here in Estonia), so I had plenty for this vegetarian gratin, and also put some away in air-tight glass jars in the fridge, so I could make this dish again soon..
Wild Mushroom & Potato Gratin
1 kg boiled potatoes, thinly sliced
500-600 grams cleaned saffron milkcaps*
2-3 Tbsp butter
1 leek, thinly sliced
150 grated cheese
300 ml single cream
fresh herbs, finely chopped
Clean the mushrooms, cutting them into smaller pieces. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan on a low heat, add mushrooms and heat for a few minutes, until 'juices' evaporate. Then add butter, and fry, until mushrooms are glistening.
Butter a large oven dish, layer half of the potatoes at the bottom. Cover with fried mushrooms, then top with the rest of the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with grated cheese and finally pour the cream over.
Bake at 200 C for about 20 minutes, until the dish is hot and lovely golden brown on top.
Garnish with chopped hers and serve with some salad leaves.
* You can use other wild or cultivated mushrooms here, though they won't look and taste as delicious :)
For more mushroom ideas, check out these recipes.