Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Creamed Morels

Creamed morels on toast

I am a reluctant mushroom hunter.  I just don't trust myself to sort the edible from the deadly unless I'm with someone who really, really knows.  Black Morels (Morchella elata) or Yellow Morels (Morchella esculenta) are more distinctive than most.  Beware though as even they can be confused with the False Morel (Verpa bohemia) which bears a slightly less pitted cap.  I do my mushroom hunting at market and am now on the lookout for Morels which are just coming into season.  That said, Morels are less predictable than most mushrooms.  Conditions have to be just right before they will make an appearance.  Amongst other demands is a temperature which doesn't fall much below 5C.

An earthy flavour and the deeply ridged, hollow caps make morels a perfect match for cream, imparting a boskiness to the sauce which willingly coats their creases and crevasses.  They are a brief and expensive treat but you can make them go further by incorporating them into a risotto or a dish of scrambled eggs.  The recipe below is the simplest, and is my favourite, way of celebrating the season.  Morels have an affinity with anise but personally I find tarragon a little too harsh.  I much prefer the subtle anise flavour of chervil but its delicate leaves need to be added just before serving.  This recipe, minus the toast, is also good served with plain roast chicken.

I almost never wash mushrooms, preferring to use a pastry brush to dislodge any debris.  The fissured structure of morels though demands a thorough cleaning so I usually cut them in half before brushing.

Creamed Morels on Toast
(Serves 2)

25g (1 oz) unsalted butter
1 small shallot, peeled and very finely diced
1 handful (about 50g/2oz)of fresh Morel mushrooms, sliced in two (more if large), brushed to clean
150ml (5 fl oz) double cream
Salt & pepper
2 slices of sourdough bread
A few sprigs of chervil

Melt the butter in a small frying pan.
Add the finely-diced shallots and cook gently until completely softened.
Add the morels and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.  Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cream and cook gently for 1 minute until slightly thickened.
Toast the bread.  Pile the creamed morels onto the toast.  Add the chervil and serve.