There were boxes everywhere. We had arrived to a maze of cardboard mess. They unpacked them for us, and the mess grew. For two years we had lived abroad without any of these things. And we hadn't missed them. Not so much as even thought about them. Except for maybe the piano and our much loved mattress. Now standing among the unused, I was overwhelmed by wonder. Why did we store all of this? Why didn't we give it to someone who needed it? An excessive accumulation from the past, an unmistakable gathering of the superfluous – it was clear, we didn't need these things. None of them were essential.
The urge came in one distinct wave. To pack it all back in its boxes and give it all away. Things were different now. Time made them so. Time had taught us about necessity, viability and meriting quality over quantity. And now it was time to de-clutter. It wasn't solely about getting rid of the things we no longer wanted to live with, but instead, to only keep the things that we couldn't live without. Surely someone could find treasure from our excess? This felt better. To embrace only the essentials.
It seems that this embrace has also found itself a firm place in the day to day. And it is welcome. An air of simple, quiet and slow has ensued. Maybe it’s been the weather or living out in the bush again. Maybe it’s the result of not owning a TV. Or maybe in the absence of summer this year, I haven’t properly awoken from the winter. However it happened, I've found an intrinsic comfort in allowing myself permission to lull. To not want. To crave the basics and to take my time. To not worry. To not be chasing time. To say no if my belly tells me to and to welcome the clarity, relief and authenticity that this brings. It’s been a departure from the complicated and a nestling into the simple. And I've found that this way, this simplicity, has allowed me to find a more productive place. One that is both restful and invigorating. A place of thought and depth and calm. A place where essentials feel like plenty.
I’ve found that food too can embrace this simplicity. Sometimes it needs to. Sometimes an ingredient is so delicate, its flavours so inherent and its season so short lived, that it would be sad to not allow this ingredient to solely shine. Sometimes, all this ingredient needs is an accompanying vessel to let it do so. Like these foraged saffron milk caps. And like toast.
Short of serving these mushrooms raw, this recipe couldn't be simpler. Cooked in the pan with only a few ingredients and served up on some toasted, local sourdough bread. Not at all superfluous.
And all the better for it.
Saffron Milk Caps on Toast
prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 5 minutes
yields: 2 servings
4 medium saffron milk caps (pine mushrooms)
25 gm butter plus extra to butter toast with
1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil (or 1 1/2 tbs olive oil if you are vegan and omitting the butter)
1/2 tbs fresh chives, chopped
good quality flake salt such as maldon
cracked black pepper
2 slices of good quality sourdough bread
If the mushrooms are a day or two old, trim about 5mm from each stem to freshen them up and reveal their orange/saffron sap. Slice mushrooms.
Heat the butter and oil together in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chives and stir to coat. Place mushrooms in a single layer in the pan and cook along with the chives until just golden – about 1-2 minutes on each side. Season with a good pinch of salt and cracked pepper to taste and remove from heat.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat and grill bread until golden 1-2 minutes each side.
Butter the toast and top with mushrooms. Sprinkle a little extra flake salt and pepper on top. Serve warm.
A note on mushroom foraging:
When it comes to wild mushrooms, only take what you know won’t kill you. Many are poisonous.
Simply - if in doubt, go without.
These saffron milk caps (also known as pine mushrooms) were found in the NSW Southern Highlands in Belanglo State forest. Their season is short - late March through May. Milk caps aren’t native to Australia – they arrived with the conifer trees, their symbiotic hosts. Mushrooms grow overnight so the best and freshest picking times are early to mid-morning shortly after autumn rain. To identify these mushrooms properly please do you research well or go with someone who knows what they are looking for.
Picking and Storing:
Take a knife. It is best to cut wild mushrooms at their stem and then cover them with pine needles so that they grow back again next year. Pick mushrooms that are still fresh around their edges. As they age, they will become dry and wrinkly (still edible however). Saffron milk caps are very fragile, especially their gills, and will turn green if bumped around too much (again, still entirely edible, just a little strange looking). Store cap down and stem up in a paper bag or a covered glass container and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. If your bounty is grand – slice and fry them up with a little butter and store them in sealed bags in the freezer. These mushrooms are full of water and hold their moisture well so they will defrost with little effort and little change to their flavour.
Saffron milk caps can be eaten raw. They are also delicious on toast (see recipe above) or baked with eggs, in pasta’s, in soups, in gratins etc.
A fun fact/warning – this mushroom’s intense saffron hue will turn your urine a saffron colour too!