Pine mushroom and hazelnut soup
It was a slow start to Victoria’s wild mushroom season this year. Very little rainfall early in autumn means we haven’t seen large quantities of the two wild mushroom varieties that are prolific along the fringes of pine plantations.
Pine mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus) and slippery Jack (Suillus luteus) are introduced species of mushroom that are commonly used in both European and Asian cuisines and are relatively easy to identify. But beware – many varieties, including pine mushroom, have a “false” and often poisonous namesake.
There’s no better way of cooking pine mushrooms than simply sautéing them in reasonably large quantities of butter with a small amount of garlic and hard herbs. For variety, a few young pine needles instead of a hard herb can evoke the environment in which the mushrooms are found.
Slippery Jacks were originally classified in the Boletus genus, which ties them to the lord of fragrant mushrooms, the porcini. I find that thinly slicing and drying slippery Jacks for use in broths and braises is preferable to sautéing them. The name must be derived from the texture produced when they are cooked in that manner. The skin of the slippery Jack can also upset some people’s stomachs so, in order to avoid this, I recommend peeling the outer brown skin before further preparation.
Gathering mushrooms – with absolute regard for safety – can be very pleasant indeed. A walk in the woods is nice, but a walk in the woods while collecting food is even nicer.
- 500g pine mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 100g shallots, sliced
- 50ml grapeseed oil
- 200g butter
- 100ml sweet sherry
- 150g hazelnut meal
- 750ml water
- salt and pepper
- 4 tsp hemp oil to finish
- whole hazelnuts
- 1 whole pine mushroom
- Gently brush the mushrooms using a pastry brush to remove any grit from between the gills and from the cap and stem. Trim and discard damaged areas, then roughly slice the mushrooms.
- Place the garlic, shallots and grapeseed oil into a heavy-based pot and cook gently until the shallots become opaque, then add the sliced mushrooms and the butter. Cook the mushrooms on a high enough heat to not stew them but not so high that the butter browns. Temperature control at this point is important to retain freshness and flavour.
- Once the mushrooms have been cooked (about three to four minutes), add the sherry and cook for one minute before finishing with the hazelnut meal and the water.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for three minutes before transferring to a blender and pulsing until smooth-ish. Season to taste.
- Distribute the soup evenly in four bowls, grate some hazelnut on top of each serving, then add one teaspoon of hemp oil and some finely shaved raw pine mushroom.
- Serve with bread as a light meal.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 1, 2019 as "A walk in the woods".
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