I would love to tell you that the chicken of the woods in this recipe was the result of an exciting day spent foraging, prowling the likes of Hampstead Heath, waiting for the yellow glow of a strip of funghi beaming from a tree. Unfortunately, this is not the case. These are from Borough Market.
I would love to know how to forage for mushrooms without being in fear of my life. I’ve bought several books, including a mushroom encyclopedia, but the knowledge that 300 people die in France each year from eating poisonous mushrooms, terrifies me. I will do it, but first I need to learn from a pro, someone who knows what they’re doing and can impart that information to me. For now, I’ll forage the obvious, nettles, wild garlic and the likes, and buy my wild mushrooms when I can.
Don’t underestimate the excitement contained in turning the corner of the market and spying a table in front of a shop laden with large misshapen fungi. I had to know what it was and I had to have it. I was curious as to what I would do with it. I thought, originally: Risotto? Tagliatelli? With garlic and butter on toast? Then I thought, well, it apparantly tastes of chicken, so why not deep fry it? I could make it a wild treat and accompany it with a homemade wild garlic mayo?
As for tasting of chicken – what next?? Everything seems to taste of chicken, how did this become our culinary benchmark? A fungus, tasting of chicken? I had to investigate. I must confess that I didn’t find it much like chicken atall, it didn’t have a strong flavour, and the texture wasn’t particularly chicken like. Ok, so it’s more like chicken than other mushrooms. This may be because it wasn’t as fresh as it could have been, so I will try it again before discounting the chicken connection. I am too intrigued not to!
The mayonnaise is really straightforward, if time consuming. I promise that it is worth it! I made a small amount as I wanted to make it by hand and didn’t want to spend all night doing it. Even at that I have two blisters to show off tomorrow. I used beautiful Burford Brown eggs with large golden yolks, so if you’re not using these you might want to use less oil. I used the egg white leftover from the mayonnaise to coat the fungi. To coat I used panko (japanese breadcrumbs) – they are fantastic, but if you can’t get them, it’s fine to substitute normal mushrooms. I pureed some wild garlic with some walnuts in a small amount of olive oil. This was the result of an experiment earlier in the week, and for my taste too strong for a pesto, but really good with the mayonnaise. You only need a small amount so, if you are making it only for this dish use about 5 leaves and 3 walnuts, blanch the leaves for 20 seconds in boiling water to take the sharpness off them, and grind them with with the walnuts in a little olive oil in your pestle and mortar and add it to the mayonnaise. I would forgive you for using shop bought mayonnaise if you don’t have the time :-)