by Jordan Caldwell, Training by Tara Brunet –
Some may think that as a chef, you would eventually get tired of preparing food, simply because you’re constantly surrounded by it, but I often wake up thinking about food pairings or how many litres of milk there are in the fridge! Although it can occasionally be overwhelming, food is like music. There are always different trends and variations that create a lifelong passion.
When we combine nature with simple ingredients, we open up a whole new world.
Nothing is better than immersing yourself in the elements with a single paring knife and a basket for all of the delicious and amazing nutrients just sitting on the earth’s floor. Foraging can be equated to fishing: even if you are out there for hours and don’t find anything, it still makes for a great day (although my girlfriend may disagree!).
The Saanich Peninsula offers spectacular foraging, from wild mushrooms** in the mountains to sea asparagus near the ocean. Hidden in the hills of Finlayson Arm and Deep Cove are some great mushroom foraging spots. From winter chanterelles to pine mushrooms, Sidney and the surrounding areas are a hot spot for edible mushrooms.
Mushrooms are an incredible group of edibles, with high nutritional value and medicinal properties. They’re sometimes referred to as the “meat” of the vegetable kingdom due to their high protein content, while staying low in calories. Mushrooms are also incredibly versatile: from soups to sauces and pies, you can use them to create any dish you desire. For now we will keep it simple and prepare one of my favourites.
Ghee, olive oil or butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
300 grams of wild mushrooms
3 garlic cloves – 2 minced, 1 sliced in half
¼ cup walnuts
2-3 sprigs of thyme (leaves picked)
1 or 2 pinches of crushed chilies (to taste)
2 slices toasted sourdough
Prepare the mushrooms. If they’re fresh, simply wipe them off with a damp paper towel (do not wash them with water, as they will only absorb the liquid and get mushy when cooked). If dried, soak the mushrooms in lukewarm water for about an hour, until soft. Slice the larger mushrooms; leave the small ones whole.
In a large frying pan heat ghee, butter or oil, then add sliced shallots. Sprinkle with sea salt and let cook on medium heat until the shallots begin to wilt and lose structure.
Add the mushrooms, making sure that they are not crowded in the pan (this ensures that the moisture that comes out of them can evaporate easily, and they will not boil in their own juices); toss a couple times to coat them in oil. Cook for a couple minutes, then add the walnuts, garlic, thyme, crushed chilies, some salt and pepper. Shake the pan and leave to fry gently for three to four minutes.
When the mushrooms have browned nicely, add a tablespoon of ghee/butter and a squeeze of lemon juice, and toss again.
Toast your bread until golden. Remove from toaster, and rub one side of each slice with the cut side of a half clove of garlic.
Place toasts on a large plate and pile the mushrooms on top, then sprinkle with extra thyme leaves.