I discovered a new woodland paradise for girolles this summer. It's a narrow stretch in the Scottish Borders about two miles long, starting out as a thick pine forest and changing to airy delicate birch further along. There's a path which runs right through the middle of it, and when I approached the birch trees my senses heightened. I knew that girolles and birch are old friends and I was not disappointed: following the line between the edge of the woodland and the path was a seemingly never ending trail of the bright yellow treasures. I filled my basket in no time and had to fashion a knapsack out of my jumper to carry more of them. There were way too many carry! I had to walk back to the car to drop them off and return for a second load. It was getting late, and by the time I'd collected a second load it was starting to get dark. I hadn't even explored the whole wood! There were surely many, many more mushrooms to be found if I just kept walking along that path. It was with a heavy heart that I dragged myself away, promising to myself that I would return the following weekend.
After a couple of visits to that wood, I had about 15 kg of girolles. What to do with them? I already wrote about my experiment with pickling, which was a great success. Drying them was a simpler option, at which point I could decide to keep them whole (waiting to be rehydrated with some hot water before adding to a risotto or a pasta sauce), or grinding to a fine powder. I particularly like the latter option: it reduces the girolles to an intensely flavoured general purpose seasoning. You can sprinkle this on pasta or steak to give a kick of flavour, or effortlessly make a delicious sauce by whisking it into boiling cream.
You can make this with any kind of mushroom, of course. This year was a very successful mushrooming season for me and I now have several jars of different mushroom powders in my cupboard, including girolles, ceps and mousseron. The girolles have a particularly sweet, almost caramel flavour which is just amazing, the ceps are much earthier and pungent. You could also use button mushrooms: although not as tasty as their wild cousins, they will still give you a decent product.
- 2 kg wild mushrooms, such as girolles or ceps
If you have a dehydrator, you can use that. Otherwise, you're going to use the oven. I's important that the oven is clean. If it has a lot of grease inside it then your mushroom powder will end up smelling and tasting greasy. Set the oven to 50C, on the fan setting if it has one. Slice the mushrooms into approximately 5mm thick pieces. The more even the thickness of the slices, the more evenly they will dry out. Spread the mushrooms over baking sheets and place in the oven. Make sure the oven is slightly open, to allow the moisture to escape as they dry. My oven has a spring-close door so I wedge a rolled up tea-towel in the top to leave a crack open.
Leave the mushrooms for about 5 hours, shaking occasionally to turn them, until they are crisp and dry. Be careful not to dry them too much; if they become too dessicated they will lose a lot of their flavour. Put them in a blender or spice grinder and blend to a fine powder. Store in a sealed jar in a cool place.