The mushroom season is drawing to a close for me. I live in Donegal, North West Ireland – once November is upon me the foraging bounties turn into great walks & rambles through forests with very little wild mushrooms in my basket. The drop in temperature appears to put pay to the mushroom bounty.
I have been collecting/hunting/foraging wild mushrooms since 1989 – my first foray was in the West Country, England. Up a hillside & down a valley near the beautiful Bradford on Avon & not far from Combe Grove – cut Cotswold stone buildings & pristine rolling English countryside. Beautiful middle England! On that first trip we collected shaggy ink caps. The chief identifier of wild mushrooms that day is now my wife! (Isabelle a French lady from the Haute Savoie region of France). Our mushroom forage yielded enough for a meal of mushrooms on toast.
I started cooking with wild mushrooms in professional kitchens whilst working with Gary Rhodes & latterly Paul Flynn (Nico Ladenis). In these 1 & 2 Michelin starred restaurants we used wild mushrooms fresh, dried & frozen. Our suppliers sourced from Scotland, England & France. Dried Girolles partnered with garlic & sherry to make a fabulous cream & jus based sauce to serve with rack of lamb. Fresh Girolles served with lobster, spinach & homemade linguine. Fresh pied de mouton with roast guinea fowl. Frozen French ceps trimmed, diced, sauté served on top of lobster ravioli with a decadent truffle beurre blanc.
I don’t profess to be a wild mushroom expert. The Latin or scientific termonogly used to identify wild mushrooms is an area I don’t “hang out in”. I leave this to the well read & specialist knowledgeable fungi people out there (whom I have enormous admiration & respect for)
In the next edition of this blog I want to talk you through a combination of seasons & a year of wild mushroom picking in Ireland (Wicklow & Donegal). I will leave you with these
- I pick mushrooms on public land & private land (ask permission – its good manners, keep people on side).
- I pick mushrooms on managed woodlands & native forest, a mixture of both broadleaf & pine forest. I haven’t had much success in open fields & meadows – not since county Wicklow
- You can find mushrooms growing pretty much any where – whilst living in London we used to go foraging for ceps, shaggy ink caps & pied blue in Richmond Park
- I don’t forage near foot paths or trails – i.e. where my canine friends like to mark
- Be careful where you forage & respectful of the local environment
- Don’t be greedy only forage what you can use or preserve
- Don’t forage wild mushrooms – unless you have an expert whom can identify what eats well or what mushrooms can lead to renal failure & potential mortality
- Purchase a good guide book to assist in the identification of mushrooms & toadstools
- Jane Grigsons book “ The Mushroom Feast” – illustrations, recipes & prose
*This information above is for illustrative & informative purposes – its upto you as how you might use this information.
As most business operators in the hospitality trade will tell you they’ve been living with rising costs. So how can you absorb costs like this & be profitable. A good place to Start is with your current menu
Menu planning and the importance of the menu is an essential tool in creating the power to bring customers in though your front door. The menu is a highly important factor not only because of its content but also in the way it is set out. The way dishes are displayed and its use to maximize profit. When creating the menu – it is vital you understand the basic principles – Know your customer base. Know your produce & how to match/marry produce. What food gross profit margin you want to achieve & how much can you charge per item/dish on the menu
Okay, assuming that you have established your customer base via location or social media & old fashion word of mouth. Let’s move on to the produce/ingredients & how they marry together. Most business will leave this to the head chef. It normally takes the form of the following brief – write me a menu on what you want to cook? Or let’s write a menu that you can cook well & what the customers want. The latter statement tends to work much better as it satisfies the chefs cooking & creative needs & focuses on the customers taste.
Working on a food Gross profit margin of 70 percent will assist in pricing the dishes on the menu. So before you do this – a few questions to ask yourself – have you an upto date pricelist from your supplier? Do you negotiate quartly price agreements with key suppliers? Do you know who much you spent over the past 12months with key suppliers? Do you get quotes from the “usual” suppliers? Do you check invoice prices with agreed price list? Are you using a branded product when a yellow label product is better value? Do you employ a stock taker to measure your food gross profit? If you answer yes to all these, well done you’ll be ready for the decade of rising prices
Harrods Food Hall – Morel Mushrooms
Having pondered on my lack of success in collecting Morel mushrooms. I was curious as to what the market price of these luxury mushrooms would be in a large food hall. Well on my most recent trip to London I snapped the photo & modest price tag. Whislt browsing in Harrods Food Hall I was also reliving ever taste sensation from a long lunch . Having just finished dinning at The Ledbury Restaurant in Notting Hill. The meal was composed around a six course lunch, five different tasting wines is now firmly ranked as the best dinning out experience in my twenty five years in the Hospitality industry. Superlatives are not enough to describe this dinning experience, but in my next blog post I’ll give it a try.
So next blog round will also look at gardening in the Finn Valley & updates on the wild raspberries & Wild Bilberry.
Coming down the blog line will be “How to do extraordinary food with ordinary ingredients” #Keep it Natural