Fall is here! Leaves are turning color, nights are getting cooler and wild mushrooms are in season. Growing up near the Black Forest in Germany, this always meant outings into the woods, especially after it rained. My dad was an expert mushroom hunter, and I often got to come along. He could identify just about every mushroom growing in the surrounding forests. Neighbors and friends would stop by, knowing that my dad would be trustworthy to assist them in telling the edible ones apart from the poisonous ones. I loved being out in the chilly, damp forest, and carefully filling my basket with my finds. Sometimes, they were hard to spot among the leaf litter and pine needles. Some days it seemed like an eternity, for a child anyway, before we would stumble across a patch covered with chanterelles, porcinis and the occasional morels. My favorite ones to find though, were, what we called “Ziegenbart”, or Goat’s beard. And that’s exactly what they looked like: yellowish, and squiggly like the beard of a goat. In addition, they were tasty as well. I’ve never seen them anywhere else.
The Golden Rule for mushroom hunters always was, to leave some of the mushrooms behind. This way the spores could disperse and another harvest would be ensured. We never shared the location where we found our mushrooms, because many people would just trample through and pick every last mushroom.
I don’t go mushroom picking now, but whenever I spot some wild mushrooms in stores, I love to stick my nose right into the basket and inhale the woodsy scent of mushrooms, pine needles and specks of dark forest soil!
Last week, I made this wild mushroom goulash, along with some German Spätzle. Very yummy! I had gotten some chanterelles, fresh shiitakes, beech mushrooms ( these come in small plastic packages, and are inexpensive at Asian grocery stores) and regular old white button mushrooms. By using a mix of special ones along with the less pricey white or brown varieties, you get more mushrooms for your money, and it also increases the flavor and texture of the dish. If you use shiitakes, cut off the entire stem. They are too tough to eat in my experience. With other mushrooms, I just trim the end of the stem a bit.
Here is the recipe:
- about 2 lbs. of assorted mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 large leeks, carefully cleaned, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced into half moons
- a few cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- a little bit good olive oil
- ground sweet paprika to taste (smoked spicy paprika is nice too!)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 can of regular coconut milk ( 14.5 oz.)
- finely minced fresh parsley is nice
In a heavy bottomed deep sauté pan heat the olive oil on a medium flame.
Add the leeks and the garlic. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, stir and sauté gently until nice and soft, but not browned.
Then, turn up the heat to high, push the leeks around the outside of the pan and add some of the sliced mushrooms. Stir, and cook until they shrink a bit.
Clear the center of the pan again, add more mushrooms, sauté until tender.
Repeat until all the mushrooms are softened.
Keeping the heat high will prevent them from getting watery. Just stir, and keep an eye on the pan.
Sprinkle in the ground paprika, a little more salt and some ground pepper onto the mushrooms.
Cook for a couple more minutes, until fragrant.
Add the can of coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups of water.
Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Taste, and adjust seasoning, adding more paprika, salt and pepper if needed.
Sprinkle with the minced parsley right before serving.