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
Serves 6

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
black pepper
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.


Hedgehog said...

Ooh - this looks delicious! Maybe I can try out my fledgling mushroom gathering skills this weekend - with some supervision, of course! If not, I will see if there are some wild ones in the marketplace!

KJ said...

Oh I am so jealous. I love mushrooms. It would be great to be able to pick your own, and so many!!! It's not possible here in Australia I'm afraid.

Your potato gratin looks delicious. A great combination.

And such beautiful photos.

lobstersquad said...

oh, oh, what fun it´s reminding me of. I think this year I have to get my act together and do some Spanish mushroom gathering.

Wendy said...

What a harvest!
I'm trying my best to find a mushroom guide here in the Highlands. It's not easy though! Picking is not terribly common over here. The only mushroom I can find and definitely know is edible is the chanterelle. Getting a bit fed up of them...

tanita✿davis said...

And you know I have to be totally aside from the point of the post by saying, WHAT ADORABLE WELLIES!!!!

Okay. I have the shoe fetish out of my system for another week.

The mushrooms look amazing as well. We are finding that we are eating more and more mushrooms now that we are here, and they're so tasty in so many dishes. Yum!

K and S said...

lots of lovely mushrooms! this gratin looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

That's a beautiful bounty of mushrooms. There's nothing like picking things fresh from Nature - wish I could do it more often over here where I live! That gratin looks and sounds divine!

Gloria Baker said...

I love mushrooms with everythings, I find so good this recipe and your pictures too. Gloria

Meeta K. Wolff said...

I simply adore mushrooms. Fresh picking from the woods is not only brilliant - it's such a satisfying way to spend with the family and then coming home to make such lovely dishes like you have - simply awesome Pille!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I wish I knew more about mushrooms -- I know there are folks who go foraging in the woods around here, but I'm afraid of getting the poisonous ones. We do have morels in the spring, and that's a wonderful treat.

KellytheCulinarian said...

I am in love with your photos!

Kevin Kossowan said...

I'd been waiting for this post!!! And HOLY CRAP did you make out like bandits. That's some haul - and such a variety. Good for you!!!

Mariajaan said...

Hello Pille. You have a gift for reporting, and that includes documenting (photos). I enjoy everything you write, and most of all because it allows me to learn about Estonia. I am surprised by the variety of mushrooms you could find in only one trip. In any case, would you be able to explain how do you tell the differences between the edible sorts and the rest?
A nice and easy way to eat them is to pan fry the mushrooms and fresh asparagus in butter with chopped onion and herbs of your like. They taste fantastic and serve as a good topping for boiled potatoes.
Best, best!

Shayne said...

My heart started punding just seeing those mushrooms popping up out of the ground. Thats it I heading to woods this weekend.

Katie Zeller said...

What perfect timing! I was just trying to think of how to best put mushrooms into a potato gratin - and there you have done it for me...Thanks! It looks delicious!

thepassionatecook said...

now that is right up my alley! i just made some potato mash with morrels the other day... also heavenly! why hadn't i thought of mixing them into a gratin! e=thanks for the idea!

Anonymous said...

Mmm, delicious looking gratin!

Angelina said...

I'd love to see pictures of your pickled mushrooms. And a recipe!

Pille said...

Hedgehog – thank you! Hope you’re still able to find mushrooms in Finland. We were foraging again last weekend, and got a decent amount of mushrooms, but it does seem to be the end of the season. Many of the mushrooms we saw were frost-bitten unfortunately..

KJ – sorry to hear you’re not able to pick your own wild mushrooms – they’re delightful (if you like mushrooms, that is:) Thank you for your kind words about my blog & photos!

Lobstersquad – same here :) The ‘secret mushroom forest number two’ was the one we took you and J!

Wendy – I know that my Russian friends in Scotland regularly ventured to the forests, and Valvona&Grolla do supervised mushroom hunts, but both are staying within a driving distance from Edinburgh..

TadMack – thanks for your compliments about the wellies! You’re not the only one – when I first showed them a few months ago (click on the slideshow), then they got lots of compliments, too :)

K&S – yep, the bounty was pretty varied.

Veron – thanks! The actual picking things fresh from Nature is so refreshing and heavenly (plus you get to eat the stuff afterwards).

Gloria – thank you!

Meeta – I agree with you – hunting for wild mushrooms and forest berries is a satisfying way to spend time with your loved ones..

Lydia – well, with a good mushroom guide you should be fine!

Kelly Mahoney- thank you! The photos are taken by K and me – I’ve stopped specifying who took what, as I forget sometimes :) This time, the forest photo is by K, the gratin one by me.

Kevin Kossowan – good :)

Salulaid Solarte – thank you so much for your kind words. There was a good variety of mushrooms indeed. Earlier in the summer you can only find morels or chantarelles, but autumns are more varied. It’s a mixture of forests we cover on one trip – various conifer trees and birches etc, as well as wetlands, so it’s also a factor. Re: telling the edible ones from the rest – you need a good mushroom nose, personal experience and a good guidebook. We all recognise a chantarelle when we see them, and the various porcini mushrooms (you need to avoid the non-edible Tylopilus felleus and Boletus satanas, however). Last summer was the first time K’s mum learnt that gypsy mushrooms are edible, and we’ve been picking a lot of them. Last weekend I found my first ever trumpet chantarelles etc. Just find a mushroom, compare it thoroughly to your mushroom guide, and proceed. There are obviously lots of non-edible mushrooms, but you simply do not pick them..

Shayne – did you manage to head to the woods last weekend?

Katie – you’re welcome :)

Johanna – potato & morel mash sounds really fantastic, but yes, a gratin isn’t bad either!

elarael – thank you!

Angelina – well, I must obey then :) Give me a few days!

mutukas said...

Actually - there are false saffron milkcaps in Australia, in Blue Mountains near Oberon! We just got freshly picked ones from our friends today and plan to visit forest by ourselves soon!
And these mushrooms here are actually more taseful than in Estonia, I was very surprised!

Ann Tündern-Smith said...

Mutukas is right, KJ. I've just picked 1.3 Kg of saffron milkcaps from a little stand of pines near the Governor-General's Yarralumla home in Canberra. If I had been able to get there one week earlier, the slippery jacks and field mushrooms would have been fresh too. It's good to know that the milkcaps last so long hiding under the pine needles. The 1.3 Kg bounty is why I am at Pille's blog more than 6 years after the rest of you. Tänan Pille!