Jew’s ear and wild garlic pasta

P1070649 It’s that time of year when, walking through the woods – or even the local park, in this case, you’re periodically greeted by pungent breezes from crops of wild garlic. The Jew’s ear, or jelly ear, fungus is still out on the elder trees, so I thought it was time to combine the two flavours.

You’re not allowed to dig up the roots of the wild garlic, but that’s OK because the leaves are perfectly garlicky enough anyway.

P1070641This is a really quick, simple and cheap dish. Be prepared that no-one will want to kiss you for a couple of days afterwards, however.

Ingredients (serves two)
1-2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves
10-15 Jew’s/jelly ear fungi
200g spaghetti
olive oil, salt and pepper, knob of butter
handful of toasted pine nuts (optional – I added these for a bit of protein)

Put the spaghetti on to boil. Rinse, dry and slice the fungi. Rinse and roughly chop the garlic. Heat the olive oil, then add the fungi. Don’t let it get too hot, as the fungi can start ‘popping’ at high temperatures. Fry for about five minutes. Drain the spaghetti and add the knob of butter and stir. Then add the cooked fungi and raw garlic leaves, plus salt and pepper. If you’re adding pine nuts, toast them briefly in a hot frying pan until they’re slightly browned, then sprinkle on top.

Cost: 20p
Spaghetti: 20p
Pine nuts (optional): 80p


Beef and horn of plenty pie

P1070384Yesterday we found a huge patch of horn of plenty, so I thought I’d try out a recipe I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s loosely based on Jamie Oliver’s excellent steak and cheese pie, but with less meat, more mushrooms and no cheese (well, I did say loosely!). I’ve called it a pie, but it’s more like a casserole with a pastry lid, to be honest.

It came out really well and makes a great winter warmer. The horn of plenty has quite a delicate, aromatic taste, and complements the beer nicely. I think it’s worth layering the meat and mushrooms, rather than mixing them, so you get both tastes. The following serves 3-4.


2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
400g horn of plenty
300g diced beef
fresh rosemary
half a can of Guinness
1 tbsp flour
100g ready-made puff pastry
salt and pepper

Chop and fry the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. When they’re starting to brown, add the beef, rosemary, salt and pepper. Transfer to a casserole dish, pour over the Guinness and stir in the flour. Put in the oven at 190C. After 1.5 hours, stir and return to the oven for another hour or until the mixture thickens. Remove the lid (the casserole dish is about to become a pie dish).

Fry the mushrooms, then spread them in a thick layer across the meat mixture. Roll out the pastry, and tuck it over the mushrooms and meat. Brush the top with egg or milk, and return to the oven for 30-45 minutes.

Cost: £5.53
Beef: £2.34
Guinness: £1.89
Pastry: £1.10
Carrot: 10p
Celery: 10p
Onions: 20p

Wild mushroom and sweet chestnut pâté

sweet chestnutsI nearly left it too late for experimenting with sweet chestnuts – the squirrels have had most of them. But while there are still a few around, I decided to have a go at making a vegetarian pâté. I also used some lovely horse mushrooms that we found growing on a verge, and some winter chanterelles, which are still out in full force. The winter chanterelles can be quite hard to spot, until you get your eye in, because they blend in with the fallen leaves – see the photo below.

I couldn’t find any existing recipes that used both mushrooms and sweet chestnuts (though while searching I did find an awful lot made with chestnut mushrooms!), so I adapted a mushroom pâté recipe from BBC Food.

It makes a subtly flavoured but tasty pâté, and is lovely on wholemeal toast. The chestnuts give it a bit of sweetness and crunch. I’m giving myself a pat on the back for this one.

winter chanterellesIngredients
To make about four servings:
50g butter
300g mushrooms (I used 200g horse mushrooms and 100g winter chanterelles)
75g sweet chestnuts
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
100g ricotta
1 tsp nutmeg

Use a knife to score an ‘x’ into each sweet chestnut, then roast them in the oven at 200C for 30 mins. Fry up the onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Add the lemon juice, then strain the mixture in the colander. (Keep the juices for using in something else, such as gravy.) Shell the chestnuts and add to the mushrooms. Roughly blend the mixture, then mix in the ricotta and nutmeg, plus salt and pepper if you like. Chill before serving.

mushroom and sweet chestnut pate

Cost = 95p
50g butter – 20p
1 small onion – 10p
half a lemon – 15p
100g ricotta – 50p
That’s 95p if you already had the ingredients, or £3 if you had to go out and shop from scratch.

Wild mushroom and leek tart

prep2This was a success, and I’d definitely make it again. I used a mixture of hedgehog mushrooms (pied de mouton), winter chanterelles and some rare wavy capped chanterelles.

The hedgehog mushrooms get their name from the thousands of tiny spines on their undersides. The spines are edible but slightly bitter, and they detach themselves during cooking and make your food look weird and speckly. So this time I scraped them off using a teaspoon.

The recipe takes a couple of hours if you make the pastry from scratch. But if you used a ready-made base, you could have it on the table in half an hour.



For the pastry:
240g plain flour
50g grana padano or other hard cheese
160g butter – chilled and cubed
2 egg yolks
fresh thyme

For the filling:
350g leeks
400g mushrooms (I used 250g hedgehogs, 100g winter chanterelles, 50g wavy-capped chanterelles)
2 cloves garlic
4 eggs
100ml double cream
50g grana padano or other cheese
olive oil



For the pastry:
Mix the flour, thyme and cheese together, then rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and bring together. Chill for 30 minutes then roll out and place in 30cm tin. Chill for another 20 minutes. Bake blind for 20 minutes at 180C then bake open for a further 20 minutes.

For the filling:
Fry the leeks in olive oil, then set aside. Fry the mushrooms in olive oil (I put the hedgehogs in first because they have a sturdier texture, then added the others) then add the butter and garlic. Combine the leeks, mushrooms, cream, cheese, parsley and eggs. Mix well and add seasoning. Pour into the pastry base and bake for 20 minutes at 180C.

Penny bun soup

Today we found four lovely penny buns (or porcini, or ceps), and decided to be decadent and try out a pure fresh penny bun soup. The results were delicious, but a bit too rich and thick.

In future, I’d probably go for a maximum of half penny buns and half some other, milder mushroom. And more water/stock/wine than I used below. I might also replace the double cream with single cream or milk.

penny bun soup


500g chopped penny buns 
5 shallots
1 clove garlic
500ml chicken stock 
50ml white wine
100ml double cream
butter for frying
salt, pepper, dried thyme


Chop the garlic and shallots and fry in butter for four minutes. Chop the penny buns and add them to the pot, frying for a further six or seven minutes. Add the stock, wine, salt, pepper and thyme, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream, blend, reheat to hot and then serve.

Fig and fairy ring cookies

P1070272Err, mushroom cookies? Yes, that’s what I said too. But Geoff assured me this wasn’t as crazy as it sounded. I’m still not quite convinced he was right.

Fairy ring mushrooms are one of the few fungi that grow in the summer in the UK, starting in June and going right through to November. The reason they can survive the hot weather is that they have a high concentration of the sugar trehalose. Even if they dry out completely, the sugar protects their cell structure and as soon as the next rain comes along they spring back to health.

I made a basic cookie mix and added the mushrooms, then got rather disheartened at how unpleasant the mixture looked. So I decided to add some fresh fig to half of the mixture, for a bit of seasonal colour.

They came out OK, but I don’t think I’d have been able to guess what the brown bits were if I hadn’t known they were mushrooms. The cookies were sweet, but not particularly tasty. The ones I’d added fig to were more interesting – and looked better too.

I think in future I will experiment with drying the fairy ring mushrooms first, to get a more concentrated taste and interesting texture. I might also reduce the proportion of sugar. This one definitely needs some work!

(makes about eight)
50g butter
30g caster sugar
70g plain flour
20g ground almonds
50g fresh fairy ring mushrooms 
1 fresh fig

Heat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the flour and almonds and mix. Chop the mushrooms and fig and add them to the mixture. Line a baking tray with baking paper, then roll the mixture into balls and flatten them into cookies. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Hedgehog soup


Not real hedgehogs, I promise. This soup was made from hedgehog mushrooms and field mushrooms – and very nice it was too. I would definitely make this again.

The bread in the picture is from a sourdough loaf I made after attending a class with Nick Beddows of Slow Food Brighton.


200g field mushrooms
300g hedgehog mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 leek
400ml vegetable stock
100ml milk
salt, pepper, mixed herbs

Fry garlic and leek for five minutes until soft, then add chopped mushrooms and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the stock, milk and herbs and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.