This mushroom is patchily distributed across most of England and Wales (it’s more common in Scotland), but on the Continent – and particularly in Spain – it even more highly prized than cepes. This recipe is heavily based on one on Roger Philips’s excellent website.
Gently cook the morels in the stock, remove to a plate and allow to cool, meanwhile, do the same with the St Georges along with the sliced garlic, cook then remove to cool. Check the seasoning of the cooking stock, adjust if needed. Soak the gelatine leaves until soft, then add to the stock and stir in until dissolved. Pour a thin layer into the lined dish and chill until set. Arrange the morels artfully across the jellied stock layer (this is going to be the top, so you could also add herbs or finely sliced carrots or peppers for decoration). Then add another thin layer of stock and chill until set. Now add the St George’s and garlic mix and pour over just enough of the remaining stock to cover. Chill again, preferably overnight before inverting it onto a cold plate. Eat with crusty bread, pickles and some salad leaves.
Gently sauté the onion, garlic and mushrooms in a little nut oil until softened. Add the rosemary, thyme, drain off and reserve any liquid. Tip just over half the onion, mushroom and herb mix into a processor with the beans and Marmite, then blend into a smooth paste, adding a little cooking liquid to moisten if necessary. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, toast the chopped hazelnuts in a dry pan over a light heat, making sure not to burn. Stir this, the unprocessed mushroom mix and the chopped parsley into the mushroom paste and mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and serve on toast with a side salad.
Even the most confirmed urbanite will instantly recognise the heavy dense clusters of black berries hanging from hedgerows in early autumn. Elder is one of the commonest shrubby trees along canals, railway cuttings and on waste ground. Most people will also probably have tried eating a handful of the berries, only to find them a little bland and sour compared with the fruit on the brambles beneath.
Mention wild mushrooms and most people think automatically of autumnal dead leaves and the hint of frost to come. In reality, Keats’ season of mellow fruitfulness is the peak of a long fungal drum roll which kicks off now.
Most Britons are scared of toadstools, terrified of making a fatal mistake, but the parasol (Macrolepiota procera) is the perfect entry to the gastronomic paradise of wild fungi. This is one of Britain’s most delicious and distinctive mushrooms: common, unmistakeable and superb to eat.
Although ornithologists find the concept of a partridge sitting in a pear tree pretty ridiculous (they are not passerines – perching birds – but rather denizens of open country), but to my mind there are excellent culinary reasons to associate these little game birds with Christmas . . .
The fruit of the blackthorn is justly famous as a gin flavouring and the perfect time to pick these is after their skins have been softened by the first frost. Thanks to its hard needle-sharp spikes (they can puncture tractor tyres) blackthorn is one of the best hedging materials and is therefore one of our commonest small trees, likely to be encountered anywhere across the country. In former days its chestnut-barked wood was in high demand for walking sticks and riding crops, but today we are more likely to be after its fruit.
After two or three disastrous breeding seasons, butterflies are fortunately beginning to appear in large numbers again. Thanks to their brightly coloured wings and nectar diet, these are one of the few popular insects families.
The coming weeks are the best time to see what must be our most colourful bird along our rivers and lakes. Even the most ignorant birdwatcher should have no difficultly recognising the small electric blue form streaking away low and fast across the water, for kingfishers are unmistakable with their bright metallic blue-green backs, orange breasts and red feet. At first glance the sexes appear identical, but when viewed close up, the female has a red lower mandible. In common with most birds, the young are drabber than their parents, only gaining the full iridescent plumage of their parents as they reach breeding age at a year old.