Recently I ventured into the New Forest with the lovely Olivia in search of mushrooms. I've been mushroom picking (rather unsuccessfully) a couple of times before, but this time we set off armed with a basket, an opinel and a copy of Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1. We headed over to Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, which is probably one of my favourite spots in the UK, full of beautiful giant Redwoods and Douglas Fir trees. We began the journey assuming that we'd pull up in a car park and walk around until we found some mushrooms, however our trip ended up with us curb crawling for funghi! Olivia would drive at a snails pace as close to the edge of the road as her car would let her, while I stuck my head out of the window and shouted 'STOP!!' every time I caught a glance of anything that vaguely resembled a mushroom. We stopped for rubbish, we stopped for bright coloured leaves, but mostly we stopped for a variety of (mostly poisonous or unidentifiable) mushrooms.
We bundled anything we could find into the basket, regardless of colour, shape, size and likeliness to kill us.
We stopped with a full basket and attempted to identify our haul. This turned out to be a lot more difficult than originally expected. We separated the mushrooms into a few bags, 'Definitely Poisionous', 'Potentially Dangerous' and 'Probably Safe To Eat'.
We hopped over to Station House for their delicious taster platter before heading home.
I just want to take a quick break from my mushroom tales to tell you a little bit about Station House. It's a lovely place that we stumbled upon last year after a visit to Rhinefield. The building was originally Holmsley Station and dates back to 1847. There's an outside eating area with a take out/light bite serving hatch as well as an inside restaurant. It's a welcoming space with friendly staff who really know their menu well. The cream tea is very reasonably priced, with lovely scones served with Tea Pigs or Dorset tea, and the specials board boasts locally sourced produce. We were very tempted by the Sunday Roast, but already had a roast waiting for us and two in one day is seen to be a little excessive (although I wouldn't say no!) so we settled for the Taster Platter to see us through the afternoon.
I always judge eateries on their sharing/taster platters, to me it should be a selection of tasters of the finest foods the restaurant produces. It's kind of a way of showing off what they're good at, and presentation, taste and quality is key! I've had many a disappointing gastro-pub nightmare, however Station House delivered something quite delicious. One of the more expensive items on the menu, at £18.50 for two people the Taster Platter definitely is one for the artisan foodies. Our platter came on a lovely wooden spinning board (unfortunately I was too hungry to snap any pictures) and consisted of peppered pastrami, saussion- sec, oak smoked salmon, Lymington crab shooter, mixed olives, dressed Dorset leaves, tomatoes and toasted ciabatta crostini.
The saussion-sec was delicious and plentiful and the pastrami was flavoursome. The salmon was served in thick slices, and was also lovely. Olivia opted out of the crab shooter, and I worked my way through the pot (after accidentally crunching my way through a bit of shell), the crab was fresh, strong and complimented the olives and salmon well. The tri-coloured pile of tomatoes set on a bed of leaves really brightened the board, and the olives were of a good quality. The only disappointment was the ciabatta, although to be honest I never really understand why restaurants include it! It always turns up tiny, dry and way too crunchy! We had to order another round to combine with our delicious meats, but a nice slab of fresh soft bread would have been much more welcome! I still think £18.50 is a little steep for a sharing platter, however the food was obviously of a high quality, well thought out and locally sourced, and I definitely don't mind paying a little more for that.
On arriving home we identified as many mushrooms as possible with the aid of the book. On the edible front we gathered a fair collection of orange Chanterelles, a couple of Stump Puffballs, some False Saffron Milkcaps, Wood Mushrooms, Brown Birch Bolete, Deceivers, and a couple of Meadow Puffballs, although they didn't really appear to be in season. We also managed to fill a bag with Field Mushrooms.
We gathered a few of what either were Yellow Stainers or Inky Mushrooms, and a whole bags worth of poisonous yellow Sulphur Tufts. We also managed to get our hands on some Brown Roll Rims, Poison Pies and Silky Pinkgill, all unfortunately very inedible.
As well as these identifiable species, we collected 23 unidentifiable species of mushroom, ranging from minuscule single ones, smaller than a toothpick, to massive bright red things. A successful day for mushroom hunting, a less successful one for my kitchen.
Where do you guys go mushroom hunting? Any tips/favourites?