Yeah! It’s that time of the year again. In October I am on “high alert” for my friend Antonio to call me for a mushroom expedition.
Antonio is passionate about mushrooms, or I would say, he is crazy about them (a bit like Antonio Carluccio) and has many mushroom books; he is an expert basically.
As an Italian immigrant who has been living in England for the last 50 years, he has kept his Italian attitude to food intact. He makes his own jams, fruit flavoured spirits and even a bit of wine from the grapes he has in his courtyard! I love to go to his house as it is like going back to a Italy that no longer exists. People who emigrated from their native country often keep the same memories and mentality of the country back to the time when they left.
So you can imagine: old photographs in black and white all over the walls, big family gatherings, lots of food on the table and always some pizza, focaccia, cake.. ready for anyone who comes and visits and yes, I do visit his family REGULARLY!
As I am not an expert in mushroom picking, I have been feeling quite sensitive after reading scary stories about people being poisoned by picking the wrong ones.
Some fungi are so toxic that only a few grams will poison someone and some don’t have an effect straight away; they will show symptoms of poisoning after many hours of eating them, just when it will be too late!
That’s why I always make sure I go with someone who knows them. If you ask experienced mushroom pickers they will tell you that once you get to know mushrooms and you get experienced enough, it will actually be quite difficult to get them wrong and anyway if you were slightly unsure you would discard them in the first place.
My Italian relatives all went mushroom picking and I grew up eating all sorts of wild mushrooms. My dad is still a keen picker and he often gets Chiodini which is a small brown variety of Italian mushroom and Chanterelle.
As we found a couple of baskets of Porcini, I have sliced them about 1/2 cm thick and left them to dry on a basket for a week. When they are dry enough you can store them in a glass jar and they will last for years. Lots of people pickle or freeze them as well. When I need them I soak them in water for 20 minutes and then cook them.
Mushrooms are excellent in risotto or pasta and they go very well with meat too. My favourite dish is tagliatelle with Porcini a dish to die for. Keep following as I will be making that soon!