What first-time mushroom foragers need to know

It pays to be very careful when foraging for mushrooms. Make a mistake and you could die.
It pays to be very careful when foraging for mushrooms. Make a mistake and you could die. Photo: Grant Turner

I am going foraging for mushrooms for the first time this year. What should I look out for? L. Hitchcock

Organ failure. A slow painful death. Sorry, I am being alarmist, but there is a mushroom growing in popular mushroom gathering areas around Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney called Amanita phalloides, also known as the Death Cap. It looks similar to a normal mushroom and is often found around oaks.

If eaten, the death cap can cause death in 48 hours. If you're going foraging don't feel obliged to pick every fungus you see. It is OK to simply admire the hundreds of different, often bizarre, funghi.

If you're inexperienced, learn from an expert. This autumn, try tours at Moorooduc Estate near Melbourne with Cameron Russell and tours and talks along the East Coast with Alison Pouliot.

Roast turbot at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal,  London.

Roast turbot at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London.

I have an English cookbook that calls for turbot. What can I use instead? V. Green

There is a statue in the Basque town of Getaria of Juan Sebastian Elkano. He continued circumnavigating Magellan's ships around the globe after Magellan was killed in the Philippines. Under the statue is perhaps the most underrated seafood restaurant in the world that shares its name with the local hero. Here you will get the best fish dish – char-grilled turbot. The large flatfish is doused in salty water, laced with vinegar and jamon, inside and out as it cooks over the coals. Rich, meaty and gelatinous with lightly crusted flesh, the turbot at Elkano is one of the most wonderful seafood experiences on the planet.

It's a shame we can't get turbot here. The closest fish we have in the surrounding seas is flounder. Flounder, however, has finer flesh and less of it, meaning it requires less cooking. Still – fresh flounder on the grill with a little pinot gris is nothing to be sneezed at. 

Miso Curry of Beef.

Miso curry of beef. Photo: William Meppem

If I defrost some meat to make into a curry or sauce, for example, can I then freeze the finished product? C. Heydon-Dixon

Go to the supermarket. Now look at the frozen pre-cooked meals. Sad, isn't it? Anyway, most are made with food that has entered their factories frozen. A popular brand of meat pies, for example, starts off as a one tonne block of frozen mutton. It's cooked in a pressure cooker put into pies, baked, cooled and frozen. Go for it. 

Letters, Corrections and Apologies

Recently we suggested to cover eggs with a lid as they fried to avoid runny yolks. R. Swift added to the discussion with, "If you use a metal lid the steam will condense and water will drop on to the egg. When I was very young and moving into my first flat, one of my aunts told me to put a folded copy of the Sydney Morning Herald over the pan – you keep the heat in but the steam is absorbed." (Note to Melbourne readers, this system is compliant with The Age as well). 


Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @Foodcornish