As great as it is, wild-mushroom season depends heavily on the right weather. Thankfully, there is a great range of cultivated mushrooms year round, from the familiar to the more exotic.
Chicken, leek and mushroom pie
This is a fairly traditional pie, old-fashioned even, but delicious, creamy and rich, and perfect with simply dressed salad greens.
6 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
Freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 litre chicken stock, hot
1 small (or ½ larger) brown onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely sliced
450g large pine or field mushrooms, carefully cleaned, finely diced
3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
40g plain flour
2 tbsp double cream
2 tsp heaped dijon mustard
1 handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
2 handfuls frozen peas
1 thick piece (about 375g) puff pastry
1 egg, whisked
1. Season the chicken thighs and brown, skin-side down, in a little oil in a large pan over medium heat - about 8 minutes. Flip over and add the hot stock. Simmer gently for 25 minutes or until the thighs are cooked.
2. Remove the cooked chicken and strain the stock. Skim off most of the fat from the stock (you can cool it first, if you like, making it easier to lift the fat from the top). Return the stock to the stove and reduce to about 400 millilitres.
3. For the filling, add about 50 millilitres of oil to a frying pan and cook the onion, garlic and leeks for about 10 minutes over a slow heat to caramelise and soften.
4. Add 25 grams of the butter, the mushrooms and the thyme and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees fan-forced or 210 degrees conventional.
6. In a medium pot, melt 40 grams of butter over a medium heat until starting to sizzle, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time, then add the strained stock. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes at a simmer, whisking constantly - it should be smooth and thick.
7. Take the sauce off the heat and leave to cool a little. Whisk in the cream and mustard, and add the mushroom mix, parsley and peas. Tear or chop the chicken and add to the mix. Combine thoroughly, and check and adjust the seasoning - the mix will be quite thick but luscious.
8. Cut the pastry sheet three centimetres larger than your pie dish to make a pastry pie lid. Brush the edge of the dish with the egg, tip the filling in and drop the lid on, crimping to seal. Decorate with the pastry scraps. Make an incision in the top to release steam and brush with egg. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and puffed.
Braised chicken with white wine and mushrooms
This is a succulent wintry dish with a deep umami kick from the dried porcini and layers of flavour from the pancetta, caramelised vegetables, herbs and wine.
1 free-range chicken, about 1.6kg, cut in 8
5 sprigs thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
5 thick slices pancetta, sliced into lardons (batons)
5 eschalots, peeled and sliced thickly
8 cloves garlic, smashed, skin on
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
15g dried porcini, soaked in about 200ml boiling water for about 20 minutes, liquid reserved
300g small Swiss brown mushrooms, cut in half (tiny ones left whole)
300ml dry white wine
500ml chicken stock
1. Strip the leaves from the thyme into a mortar with the bay leaves, salt and black pepper and smash to a paste - you can add a little oil to the herbs to lift them from the mortar. Massage the herbs into the chicken pieces.
2. In a large wide-based pot, brown the chicken pieces well in oil, season again and reserve. You want good deep colour on the chicken, but be careful not to burn the herbs. This should take 5 or 6 minutes.
3. Add the pancetta to the pot and fry for about 3 minutes until the fat starts to render out and the lardons crisp up. Add the eschalots and the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the celery and carrot, season with a little salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are caramelised.
4. Add the porcini and the Swiss browns, stir and sweat for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, porcini liquid and the wine, and simmer for about 6 minutes. Add the stock and cook very gently for 35 minutes or until the meat is tender.
5. Remove the cooked chicken and place in a serving dish. Reduce the braising liquid to your liking, correct the seasoning and pour over the chicken.
Drink Pinot noir
Barley ''risotto'' with mushrooms and speck
Barley has a lovely slippery, nutty texture that is divine with the earthy mushrooms and the smoky, meaty flavour of the speck.
250g pearled barley
1 litre quality chicken stock - if you're using commercial stock, make sure it's not sweetened
120g speck (or pancetta), diced
3 large eschalots, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
350g mushrooms, sliced - use a mix of wild or exotic (Swiss or king brown would work well)
3 sprigs thyme
Freshly ground pepper
150ml dry white wine
60g grana padano, finely grated
4 sprigs sage, leaves only
1. Bring a litre of water to the boil, add the barley and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain well. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and keep on a low heat.
2. In a medium, heavy-based pot, add the speck and fry over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the fat renders off and the speck starts to crisp up. Add the eschalots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until softened.
3. Add the mushrooms and the thyme (you might need to add a little butter if it's too dry), season and cook to soften. Add the barley and the white wine, stir and reduce. Add the hot stock gradually while stirring, just like making risotto, until the barley is cooked - I like the nutty, chewy quality of barley, so make sure there is some texture left in the grain. If you run out of stock you can use a little hot water.
4. Once the barley is cooked, stir in the grated cheese and some butter if it needs enriching.
5. In a small frying pan, fry the sage leaves in a little butter until they crisp up. Drain on kitchen paper, season and sprinkle over the ''risotto'' just before serving.