Tag Archives: horn of plenty

Lamb Shanks with Horn of Plenty recipe

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com

14/09/2017

Horn of Plenty / Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornocopioides)

As requested by several people, here’s my Horn of Plenty and Lamb Shanks recipe.

Ingredients:

2 large or 3 small lamb shanks
Lots of Horn of Plenty (and possibly other wild mushrooms, see below)
500ml vegetable stock
250ml Côtes du Rhône red wine
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
mixed herbs, salt & pepper
vegetable or olive oil for frying
optional: carrot, stick of celery, bay leaves, bouquet garni

For the mushrooms, horn of plenty is definitely recommended and works best, either on its own or mixed 50/50 with penny buns or other good quality boletes. They can be dried or fresh, and the quantity is up to you. Today I happened to use 50% horn of plenty (fresh), and 50% mixed penny bun, dark penny bun & summer bolete, and a couple of morels (all dried). You cannot overdo the wild mushrooms in this dish.

There’s two ways to cook it – a deep casserole dish in an oven, or in a slow cooker. The methods are about the same, but the slow cooker takes longer.

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C or set the slow cooker to high, and put the stock and wine in the slow cooker or the casserole dish. If using a casserole dish then put it on the hob on low.

2. Seal the lamb shanks on all sides in a frying pan with vegetable or olive oil. This takes only a couple of minutes. Add the sealed shanks to the pot.

3. Fry the chopped onion for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to fry for another minute or so. Don’t let either of them burn. Add to the pot, with a large pinch of dried herbs, seasoning, and all the mushrooms. Also add the optional ingredients if so desired.

4. If using a casserole dish (now put in the oven) then check every now and then to make sure there is enough liquid (it will depend how much is escaping). The shanks should be nearly covered with liquid. If there’s not enough, add some extra water. Turn the shanks occasionally to make sure all parts get long cooking. In an oven the meat should be almost falling off the bone after 3 hours. It will take longer in the slow cooker because it can take ages to get up to temperature and start bubbling.

Lamb Shanks with Horn of Plenty

5. Carefully remove the shanks, and put on a plate, then tip the rest of the contents into a large pan and return the shanks to the cooker/casserole. The shanks can just sit there keeping warm, and maybe getting a bit crispy round the edges. Now remove the optional ingredients from the liquid if you used them (they were just there to add flavour), and turn up the heat on the pan to reduce the liquid to a thick sauce with an intense taste. There’s an optional stage here too – you can either just reduce the liquid to a sauce leaving the mushrooms as intact as they still are, or you can use a hand blender to break them into smaller pieces. The first method produces a thinner sauce with identifable bits of mushroom in, the latter a thicker sauce without. Both taste great, which to do is a matter of aesthetics. You can also add a bit of cornflour-in-water to thicken the sauce if you would like more of it with a less strong taste.

6. When the sauce is sufficiently thick and tasty, plate up the shanks with seasonal vegetable and pour loads of sauce over each shank. The sauce goes particularly well with mashed potato.

Cornucopia of Craterellus

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com

10/09/2017

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides). October 2013. October is when you typically find this species in southern England.

Fungi foraging fanatics live for days like the one I just had. So many times you go out and find very little, or at least very little that you actually wanted to find. But by persisting, sooner or later you end up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, and you find something spectacular – something rare and beautiful, something you’ve never found before or just the motherlode of one of your favourites. Last weekend it was the something I’d never found before, today it was the motherlode of my absolute number one favourite fungus. Today I not only saw more Horn of Plenty or Black Trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides) than I have ever seen in a day before, I probably saw about as much as I have in my entire previous life before. Truly this fungus lived up to its name. I also learned something new about the way it grows and the way it spreads.

It wasn’t a great day for most other species. I was out with a private group and the only boletes we saw were a handful of Leccinums, the only Amanitas a few False Deathcaps, one or two Brittlegills, some Laccaria, along with a selection of very common inedible species like Wood Woollyfoot and Spotted Toughshank. Only the relatives of the Chanterelle were doing well, and not all of them were doing anything special. We saw a few Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), but 2017 is not, so far, a classic year for members of the genus Cantharellus. Their more-distant relatives Hedgehog Fungi were also about in good numbers, but that’s true nearly every year. It’s only the Craterellus species that are going crazy.

Wavy-capped Chanterelle (Pseudocraterellus undulatus)

Rewind to last week. When I got up last Saturday morning there were two British members of the genus Craterellus I’d never found in the 30+ years I’ve been hunting for fungi. (These are both better known under old Latin names, because they’ve recently been moved to Craterellus from Cantharellus. Recent evidence has suggested that all the hollow-stemmed members of this family should be Craterellus, not Cantharellus.) They are the Golden Chanterelle (Craterellus lutescens) and the Ashen Chanterelle (Craterellus cinereus), and I’d been searching for them without luck for so long that I wondered whether I might never find them. Anyway, last Saturday my wife and I were walking our labradoodle in a tract of woodland I have frequently visited over the past five years, and there were various sorts of Chanterelle all over the place. Significant quantities of Horn of Plenty in places I’d never previously seen them, Winter Chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) just starting to fruit, at least a month earlier than they usually do, but most noticeable of all were quite a lot of Wavy-capped Chanterelles. These aren’t Craterellus – their Latin name is (currently) Pseudocraterellus undulatus – but they really ought to be. They share the same smooth spore-bearing surface and hollow stem of the Horn of Plenty and Golden Chanterelle, and are closely related. They are also supposed to be rather rare, but they aren’t this year. I have found large quantities of them over the last week, in many locations I’ve never seen them before. Then my wife found yet another patch of Black Trumpets – apparently in better condition than a lot of the others, which were well past their best. But as I turned them over, I immediately noticed they had false gills – gill-like wrinkles like those of a Winter Chanterelle. Black Trumpets don’t have false gills – they are smooth underneath. Much as they looked like them from above, these were no Black Trumpets.

Ashen Chanterelle (Craterellus cinereus syn. Cantharellus cinereus)

They were Ashen Chanterelles, and it turned out that there were quite a few of them, although they are so rare that I only took a small amount for experimenting in the kitchen. It is not often I get the thrill of finding a wild fungus delicacy for the first time anymore, but one more was crossed off my dwindling to-find list that day. They turned out to be the most fragrant of any Chanterelle-relative I’ve eaten – intensely fruity, even more so than Black Trumpets. That day it became clear that 2017 is a classic Craterellus year, but only today has it become apparent to what extent, at least in some locations.

We were two-thirds of the way through today’s session, and we’d already filled a trug with Horn of Plenty and Hedgehogs. I decided to switch routes and headed off across a road to a different area, hoping to find something else. This was another very familiar tract of woodland, that I’ve observed carefully for the last few years. And I had seen some Horn of Plenty near the entrance to it before, and in a couple of locations in the interior. The most I’d seen in any one year was probably about enough to fill a couple of carrier bags – a decent “haul”, but not an explosion. Today there was a supernova. There were Horns of Plenty in every direction. They weren’t just growing in vast areas where I’ve never seen them before, but they were growing in dense clusters and some individual fruit bodies were enormous (for this species). I had not come equipped for foraging anything myself – the group had borrowed my trug and all I had was a small plastic carrier bag at the bottom of my rucksack. They also had a couple of bags. We spent nearly half an hour moving no more than 50 metres, collecting only the largest of the Black Trumpets, until we ran out of containers. Since running out containers pretty much ends a foraging session, we returned to our start point and the group disappeared off to Hastings planning a Horn of Plenty risotto – before a long evening of removing small creatures from their trumpets.

It had already been a very long weekend (I did another three-hour session yesterday), but my curiousity was such that I could not resist going back out in the woods one more time (my trug now returned, and my bag of trumpets emptied into a box in my car boot). I wanted to know what I would find at a location where, in previous years, there had been considerably more Horn of Plenty than where the group just hit the jackpot. It was only a ten minute walk.

Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides), today in Sussex. It was like this for 30 metres in every direction, and this was just one patch.

Oh. My. God.

This patch had also spread, and in the same relative direction, and the same relative extent. This wasn’t just an expanding mycelium, but hundreds of newly established mycelia, all fruiting like there is no tomorrow. I have never seen anything like it before, and that’s taking into account I’ve spent the last six years foraging full-time in the autumn, and I’ve seen mass-fruitings of this species before. There’s no way I could possibly have picked them all – I just grabbed handfuls of the largest specimens from each little patch, then moved on to the next. I don’t normally approve of “taking more than you need” or posting pictures of your “haul” but in this case these fruit bodies were unbelievably numerous, and a lot of them are at the point where if not picked, they would start to rot (and this is also a species not normally eaten by insect grubs, and largely left untouched by other wildlife (perhaps their strong odour is actually some sort of deterrent for other animals?). And this is one of the few species that is not only easily dried (it is thin-fleshed), but better dried than fresh, so easy to store in quantity without using freezer space. I too have a busy evening of cleaning and drying Black Trumpets; I have enough to last me until next Christmas.

Horn of Plenty, with a few Wavy-capped Chanterelles thrown in for luck.

What do I do with them? They go great in omelettes (a “tromplette”), with pasta, in a cream sauce with white fish, in casseroles and stews and quiches and have many other uses. But my absolute number one black trumpet dish is lamb shanks, slow cooked with mountains of black trumpets and penny buns. I am planning on getting round to posting the recipe some time soon, but tonight I have work to do!

 

 

The Cantharellales rule supreme

Email: geoffdann@hotmail.com
Phone: 07964 569715

31/10/2015

Chanterelles - 31/10/2015, Sussex.

Chanterelles – 31/10/2015, Sussex.

It’s been a superb October for fungi…if what you were after were members of the Cantharellales. If you were hoping for something else, it’s been somewhat less impressive. Yet again, the wild fungi have demonstrated that the only thing that isn’t surprising about their behaviour is their enduring capacity to surprise.

It was a good start to the season. From late August to mid-September there was a nice selection of brittlegills, milkcaps, agaricuses and large boletes to be found – typical fare for that time of year. It was also obvious from the get-go that it was going to be a stunning year for Cantharellus cibarius – I’d seen more Chanterelles by the middle of September than I had in the last four years put together.

Horn of Plenty - Sussex, 31/10/2015

Horn of Plenty – Sussex, 31/10/2015

Then we had a period of dry, warm weather and almost everything ground to a halt. I have been waiting for the recovery ever since, and there’s still no sign of it. Trekking through the woodland of Sussex and Kent this afternoon, you’d be forgiven for thinking it hasn’t rained in weeks, at least as far as the fungi are concerned. Nearly all the major groups of fungi are absent entirely. I was out for three hours today and I saw not a single Amanita, brittlegill, russula, Agaricus, puffball, webcap, deceiver, honey fungus or oyster mushroom. And the only bolete I found was a solitary Peppery Bolete.

Wrinkled Club - late October 2015, Kent.

Wrinkled Club – late October 2015, Kent.

There are some good edible things still to be found in numbers, and they all belong to the same taxonomic Order (an order is two levels above genus – humans belong to the order “primates”). That Order is called Cantherellales, and in addition to the Chanterelles (family Cantherellaceae) it includes a variety of other fungi including the Hedgehogs (Hydnaceae) and a family of club fungi called Clavulinaceae that look entirely unrelated to the well-known Cantherellales but have recently been moved there as the result of DNA testing. One unexpected advantage to situations like this is that I go to the bother of experimenting with what is available, and it turns out that Wrinkled Club – widely dismissed as not worth collecting – is rather good to eat! Perhaps not so surprising given that so many other things in its order are considered to be delicacies.

Late October collection (31/10/2015). Horn of Plenty, Hedgehog Fungus, Winter Chanterelle, Wavy-capped Chanterelle, Chanterelle, Wood Blewit, Clouded Funnel, Scarlet Waxcap, Snowy Waxcap, Peppery Bolete.

Late October collection (31/10/2015). Horn of Plenty, Hedgehog Fungus, Winter Chanterelle, Wavy-capped Chanterelle, Chanterelle, Wood Blewit, Clouded Funnel, Scarlet Waxcap, Snowy Waxcap, Peppery Bolete.

My afternoon was rescued slightly right at the end by a trip to a local churchyard. Even here, things were not quite as you might expect for the end of October, but there were at least a few other things – a patch of Wood Blewits, another of Clouded Funnel, and few scattered waxcaps where last year there was a carpet.

So what on earth is going on? I have no idea why it is such a special year for the Chanterelles and their allies, but one thing this group tend to have in common is that they are slow growing and long lasting. That this was going to be a classic year for them was already decided long before the weather turned unseasonally warm and dry in mid-September. They also last for a long time once fruited, so the large numbers of Chanterelles, Horn of Plenty, Hedgehogs and Wrinkled Clubs were already growing before the weather changed. The other autumn fungi fall into two categories from where we currently are – the late summer and early autumn species, which had already fruited their hearts out by mid-September, and the later autumn species which hadn’t even got going. And even though November starts tomorrow, the average temperature hasn’t got low enough to trigger their fruiting. At least, that’s the best theory I can come up with, and if I am right then as soon as the temperature drops significantly there should be decent recovery, and maybe fungi all over the place.

So we must wait for the temperatures to drop, and see what happens. Unfortunately, the current long-range forecast is showing temperatures staying unseasonally high, well into November. Here’s a prediction: this mushroom season will see a second peak in the third week in November…