Chicken of the Woods season continues!
A pro-tip for finding Chicken of the Woods. Look for a yellow cross spray painted on the trunk. This isn’t a secret code left hobo-style by foragers. It’s the way the forestry commission schedules trees for removal. Chicken of the Woods grows most commonly on oak, and the fungal mycelium which produces the mushroom is capable of bringing these mighty trees to their knees, hollowing out the thick trunks with rot, eventually killing and felling them. Little do the lumberjacks know that by marking trees thusly they are providing a helpful pointer to shroom-hungry foragers.
We’ve found so much of it that last week we made both our weekend chef’s specials a celebration of this bright yellow mushroom. Last time, I wrote about our lamb, chicken of the woods and water mint special. That dish is over now, being replaced with something new and exciting, but the other special, Chicken of the Woods and lemon balm risotto, will still be offered this weekend. It’s also a chance for any veggies out there to try the shroom in a meat-free environment.
Mushrooms and lemon are best friends. The aromatic high notes of lemon do something to counterbalance and expand the earthy umami flavours that make mushrooms so delicious. But lemon isn’t exactly a wild flavour, so we’re kicking it up a notch by substituting lemon balm.
Lemon balm, or melissa officinalis, is not originally a native British herb – it was imported from the mediterranean – but it is increasingly found growing wild around our neck of the woods.
It’s a relative of mint, but its aroma isn’t minty. It’s incredibly, coincidentally lemony. Chicken of the Woods is unusual among mushrooms for its summertime arrival. Rather than going for full-on autumnal heaviness, this summery herb allows us to keep a bit of Summer’s zestiness in this light and fresh risotto.
Come in this weekend (10th and 11th June) to try this special while stocks last.