Searching for wild mushrooms in the autumn is one of favourite pastimes, combining a walk in the woods with a culinary mission. I feel an almost zen like meditative focus on the leaves and undergrowth of the forest floor and I can be absorbed in the moment for hours, often much to my kid’s frustration! Although a financial/pocket money incentive gets them more involved, their renumeration is based upon the edibility and quality of their finds, not just quantity of course and they are all now able to tell a Bolete from a Brittle gill, even if they aren’t yet excited about eating them!
I was lucky to have had expert first hand tuition from my restaurant’s ‘Mushroom Guy’ several years ago, it goes without saying, picking mushrooms isn’t without risk, but as foraging has become increasingly popular, there are now plenty of courses available to learn the basics under expert guidance.
2 Wood pigeon breasts
5 Sheets of filo pastry, each cut into 4 squares
400g Mixed wild mushrooms
½ tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
Hand full of baby spinach leaves
100ml double cream
125ml white wine
2 cloves garlic
A drop or two of white truffle oil (optional)
For the crumble mixture
2 rashers streaky bacon, grilled until crispy and chopped
2 tbsp panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp chopped walnuts
50g Stilton, crumbled
For the crumble topping, add the butter to a hot frying pan, when melted and foaming, add the walnuts and breadcrumb and stir until golden brown, remove from the heat and stir in the bacon and crumbled Stilton.
Brush each square of filo pastry with melted butter and lay one by one, in over lapping layers, to line 4 tartlet tins (Yorkshire pudding tins also a good option). Blind bake at 160C until golden and crisp (10-12 minutes), remove from the tins and allow to cool.
In a large frying pan, saute the mushrooms until coloured, set aside in a separate bowl and add the garlic to the pan, fry until just soft and add the white wine, after the alcohol has boiled off, add the cream, bring to a boil and add the spinach and mushrooms, reduce to a thick coating consistency, add the chopped tarragon and season with salt & pepper. Add the truffle oil at this point if you wish and remove from the heat.
In a separate pan, quickly sear the wood pigeon breasts, add a knob of butter, season and leave to rest in the pan.
Divided the mushroom mix between each tartlet case, slice each pigeon breast lengthways and serve on top of each tartlet, sprinkle with the crumble mixture and serve right away.