Ragoût of Wild Mushrooms and Summer Vegetables

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Wild mushrooms are available year round, but they are not always good value or good to eat. The season in Britain begins mid-summer with girolles and progresses to the boletus family (porcini or ceps) soon after. Morels come in spring and the others (cauliflower fungus, beefsteak and the like), you will find on mid-summer walks in the woods. There is no formal set of ingredients to this dish; those here are only a guideline based on the market one fine summer day at the tail-end of the asparagus season.

Ingredients

  • 8 baby artichokes
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • a bunch of small carrots
  • 250g (9 oz/ cups) broad (fava) beans
  • 4 small leeks
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 200g (7 oz/1 cup) sugar snap peas
  • 200g (7 oz/2½ cup) mixed girolle and black trumpet mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra oil or butter for frying
  • 1 teaspoon crème fraeîche
  • salt

Method

Cut the outer leaves from the artichokes, then cut each globe in four lengthways. Boil them in a pan of lemon juice and salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.

Peel and scrape the vegetables as necessary. Remove the inner skins from the broad beans as well as the pods.

Bring 250ml (9fl oz/1 cup) of water to the boil, then add the vegetables in the order they need to be cooked: carrots first and sugar snaps last. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 6 or 7 minutes. Then add the cooked artichokes.

Fry the mushrooms in a little olive oil and set aside. Lift the vegetables from the cooking liquid and scatter them on warmed serving bowls. Top with the cooked mushrooms.

Add the pan juices from the wild mushrooms to the water in which the vegetables were cooked. Put this in a blender with the Parmesan, olive oil and crème fraîche and process to a smooth, light sauce. Check the sauce for seasoning, then pour it over the vegetables and serve.

A restaurant kitchen runs differently from a domestic one. The dishes in a restaurant are broken down like Lego into components, some of which are applicable to more than one dish. Things like chopped shallots, chicken stock and diced tomato, for instance, can be prepared in quantity and in advance.

Mornings and afternoons are spent skimming stockpots and preparing this sort of thing, the results of which are known as the mise-en-place. If you see the chef turn up at the same time as the diners, there are only two serious possibilities: elves and fairies make it all, or the chef buys in the dishes ready prepared.
The restaurant service, the time when lunch or dinner is actually being served and eaten, is a matter of cooking the trimmed pieces of meat and fish and assembling the ingredients of each dish from the little containers of chopped herbs and pots of reduced stock. This is why restaurant dishes can be awkward to reproduce at home, where the fridge may not contain carefully prepared fresh breadcrumbs or mushroom stuffing. The consolation is that straightforward dishes like roast Aylesbury duck are difficult to serve in good restaurants because the duck takes longer to cook than customers are prepared to wait and will be mediocre if precooked then heated up.
Strangely, everything is on both a larger and smaller scale then at home. Big pots of fish stock are made but single portions of a dish are put together and cooked at the time of each order. Visitors to the kitchen are always surprised by the quantity of tiny saucepans and frying pans found there, forgetting that they have just participated in a meal where everybody ate something different.