Find a fungi for that bunny
Shooting Times & Country|September 29, 2021
Rabbit, brown trout or venison pair beautifully with four of our tasty native mushrooms; John Wright simply has to pick the perfect wine
John Wright

Of the 7,000 or so larger — as in, not microscopic — fungi found in Britain, my educated guess is that about 500 are edible, 500 have varying degrees of toxicity and the rest are too small, too tough, too bitter, or too slimy to bother with.

Only about 150 of the edible ones have any gastronomic merit and of those perhaps 30 you would be prepared to pay for in a restaurant. Even then there is a hierarchy of excellence and the four I have chosen are true top-table species.

For those who wish to forage wild mushrooms, it is worth noting that only two dozen of the 500 poisonous species are deadly. This sounds encouraging, but very few of the thousand or so fungus forays I have enjoyed over the years have failed to find something that would have had me in intensive care if I’d eaten them. I see death caps a couple of times every year and I find the brown roll rim, which can catastrophically destroy all your red blood cells, in every autumn woodland I visit.

Wine pairing with the understated flavours of most mushrooms is a minority pursuit. I was prepared to have a stab at it and had a tentative list, but I found myself wandering without purpose around London when I encountered the discreet yet dauntingly impressive premises of Berry Bros & Rudd of Pall Mall.

Knowing it to be a bit cheeky, I expected a rather cool response to my mushroom-related questions, but they could not have been kinder nor more helpful. In fact, they sat me down in a Windsor chair next to a nice cricket table and introduced me to the dauntingly knowledgeable Edwin Dublin. The following recommendations are the result, though mushrooms seldom make a meal on their own and I have included some game that matches both wine and fungi.

Dimples

The penny bun may be more familiar to you as the cep, porcino, steinpilz or any of two dozen other names. I like the British name as the cap markedly resembles a mid-brown soft bread roll, complete with the dimples. It is a common species that is associated with certain trees, what I call the ‘big five’ — oak, beech, birch, pine, and spruce, the upshot being not to bother with sycamore or ash woods.

The penny bun is easy to identify: a brown, rounded cap that flattens with age, slightly sticky when damp, and with characteristic dimples.

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