Recipe
Comments 13

Chicken of the Woods Fritters with Wild Garlic and Walnut Mayo

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 :-)

Ingredients:

Fritters:

Chicken of the Woods, cut into slim segments (I used two medium ones, use as much as you want)
Some seasoned flour (plain flour seasoned with S&P)
1 egg white (add another egg if you have alot of fungi)
Some panko (or normal breadcrumbs)
Oil for frying (I used groundnut)

Wild Garlic & Walnut Mayonnaise:

1 large egg yolk
50ml extra virgin olive oil
60ml groundnut oil
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Roughly (depending on your taste): 5 wild garlic leaves and three walnuts, ground in a pestle and mortar with a little olive oil, as above

Method:

Firstly, make the mayonnaise. Add the salt, mustard and vinegar to the egg yolk, and whisk adding the oil a drop at a time. (Promise! It’s worth it!). Be careful to add it slowly as it may curdle otherwise, it’s not worth the risk. As you add the oil, it will start to get thicker, you can start to add it a little quicker then but not too much. When you’ve added all of the oil check the seasoning. Add the wild garlic and walnut mixture to taste.

Coat each slice of mushroom, firstly in the flour, then the egg white and finally the breadcrumb. Heat some oil until a piece of bread cooks on adding to the oil. Add your fritters to the oil and cook until golden brown, turning halfway through if necessary. This should only take a couple of minutes.

Drain excess oil and dry on kitchen paper. Season. Serve immediately with the mayonnaise.

13 Comments

  1. Kitchen Goddess says

    That looks so good Niamh.
    Know what you mean about the mushrooms, even though I’ve read the books and gone foraging with a guide I wouldn’t feel happy to go on my own.
    I hate finding chunks of walnut in savoury foods though, so think I’d replace them with a drizzle of walnut oil instead.

  2. Thanks George – I know what you mean – they can be very bitter. The puree was super smooth though, so it wasn’t an issue. I like the idea of making the mayo with the walnut oil!

    Becky – thanks and you know, I may be going to Bristol soon to visit a friend! I’ll let you know.

  3. I can only say it again. I’m jealous that you can go shopping at Borough Market and find gems like this.

  4. I’m with you on the mushrooms. Far too many horror stories abound, and I’d want mine checked out by an expert first!! One of my mom’s ex colleagues was on a camping trip (this was back in South Africa) and they ate mushrooms that they had foraged. They drank wine and talked late into the night… and soon all the adults were being violently ill. Their first thought was the mushrooms – but the three kids were fine, so they dismissed that. When they got back to civilisation and medical attention, they discovered that some types of mushroom are fine – until you add alcohol to the mix, which is why the kids had been fine but not the adults. See – there’s just far too much I don’t know!!

    If you find a good foraging course around London, do let me know – I’d join you!

  5. Oh wow – now that’s something you wouldn’t expect! It’s fraught with danger, the fungi path. I would love to go foraging in the Autumn. Perhaps we should arrange a bloggers trip?

  6. Looks scrumptous. Actually there was a glut of Chicken Of The Woods this year, especially during May and funny enough on Hampstead Heath as well as many other areas across England. Not all years are like this though, in fact 2008 was probably the best I’ve seen it for C.O.W. (excuse my abbrev.) Anyhow you might be interested in my walks and workshops which I v’e been running now for 12 years. You can check them out at http://www.fungitobewith.org. its the best way to learn about fungi or at least to get to the point where you feel confident enough to try a few. Check it out.

  7. Marilyn Shaw says

    My! British mycophobia seems to be running rampant. I question the figure of 300 deaths in France per year. It is true that there are many more fatalities in Europe than in the U.S., but I doubt there are that many. In the U.S. the mortality rate for the last 100+ years has averaged fewer than 1.5 per year. There are very few deadly mushrooms, contrary to popular belief. However, you need to be sure of what you’re doing before eating anything. IMPORTANT: There are NO reliable rules for testing the edibility of mushrooms. You must know the characteristics of each mushroom you eat. Do not go by photographs. Many mushrooms, some edible, some not, look alike to the novice.

    If you start out with one or two species that are easy to identify and not easily confused with anything poisonous and stick with those you should be OK. Each year you might learn one or two more. Always cook them thoroughly, eat only a small amount, and save one whole, unwashed specimen in waxed paper (not plastic) in your refrigerator for 24 hours in case an identification is needed. It is also wise, as noted, to avoid combining alcohol with wild mushrooms.

    I might add that you are much more likely to die from eating green plants collected in the wild. Wand lily (death camus) can be confused with the leaves of wild garlic or wild onion. The ferny leaves of hemlock can be confused with wild carrots. Either of these will kill you much faster than any mushroom.

    I am a consultant in wild mushroom poisonings. Since I’m on call 24 / 365, I always ask that you try mushrooms for breakfast, instead of for dinner. That way, if you have made a mistake, your friendly mycology consultant gets the call in the middle of the day, rather than the middle of the night. Unless you’ve made a really bad mistake.

    If you want to learn about mushrooms contact the British Mycological Society for information about opportunities for classes.

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  10. Liam says

    There is no need to fear picking your own chicken of the woods. There isn’t any other shelf mushrooms that look like it. Once you get comfortable identifying chicken of the woods try moving to oysters and morels for they are also easily identifiable.

    Maybe you could take a few hikes with a mushroom expert so you can become more comfortable identifying edible mushrooms.

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