What a wonderful treat from nature - fresh morel mushrooms in a creamy wine sauce, served over warm and tender Bannock Biscuits! (Skip to recipes.)
What gifts nature has to offer, if we only stop to look - or listen - or thread a hook.
I've just come back from a week at my parents' cabin in northern British Columbia, on the shores of the shockingly cold and pristinely clear Francois Lake. It was a time to regroup with family and reconnect with nature. To have lovely saunas and run squealing into the lake. To pick teeny-tiny wild strawberries. To throw sticks for the dogs and build campfires. To swat mosquitoes and clean up sheds.
And of course to eat.
Every meal was a feast and some were more feasty than others. But the best ones were those using nature's gifts.
Between my sisters and I we had six children at the cabin between the ages of 12 and 15, so we had a constant supply of willing fishermen to head out in the canoe and sturdy old fishing boat. They came back proudly with their daily catch of fresh rainbow trout and even a few elusive Arctic Char.
Other days we were lucky enough to feast on campfire-roasted venison. Provided by my sister and husband, cut into rough chunks, marinated in wine and spices, then speared onto sharpened willow sticks and roasted to perfection over glowing campfire coals - crisp and browned on the outside, pink and meltingly tender on the inside.
Followed by a toasty spiral of bannock roasted on those same sticks and filled with drippy, oozing maple syrup to lick off fingers and lips.
But Nature outdid herself when she offered up for us to share - her abundant crop of wild forest morel mushrooms. These were thanks to the devastating forest fires that spread through this area last year. Every cloud has a silver lining, and we were really thankful for these. They grow best in burned out areas, so we reaped the benefits this year. A whole pailful of these funny, wrinkly-looking little forest caps. Tasting of the earth and the woods.
Slathered with just enough of a cream cheese and white wine sauce to enhance but not overpower their delicate flavour.
And served over wonderfully dense and chewy biscuit/pancakes made from the leftover bannock dough patiently fried by Hannah, my 12 year old niece.
This is more of a method than a real recipe. It all depends on how many mushrooms you can get your hands on, and what type of mood you're in (I imagine any other variety of mushrooms will do, too - they just won't have quite the same earthy richness) and how big your scoops of cream cheese and your glug of wine are. Proportions aren't really all that important. It tastes good whichever way it turns out - saucier or stewier.
- fresh morel mushrooms - enough to feed your crowd (I had about 8 to 10 cups chopped)
- 1 or 2 large onions - use 2 if you have over 6 - 8 cups of chopped mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 large spoonfuls of cream cheese (about ¼ to ½ cup each)
- 1 large glug of white wine
- salt and pepper to taste
Chop the onions.
Melt the butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent.
Meanwhile chop the morels (or other mushrooms) into bite-sized chunks. Leave small ones whole. (Don't wash the mushrooms, just wipe off any bits of forest still stuck to them.)
Add the mushrooms to the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released all of their juices,about 10 minutes. If they are fresh you will have quite a bit of flavourful mushroom liquid.
Dig two large spoonfuls of creamcheese out of your container and glop them into the mushroom mixture. If you have a block of creamcheese, cut off 2 corresponding-sized chunks.
Stir gently until the creamcheese has melted, then pour in a generous glug of white wine.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and let simmer a few more minutes until the consistency of the sauce is to your liking.
Serve over the bannock recipe that follows, or over rice, or pasta, or even toast. Or just eat it from the pan with a spoon and smack your lips often. Wash down with the rest of the white wine (well at least share the bottle with someone else).
We always make a big batch of this dough when we are at the cabin. We pinch off a bun-sized piece and roll it between our hands to make a long rope, then spiral it around clean de-barked sticks and roast it slowly over the fire. Nice hot coals work the best. And be patient. They take a while to roast, but when you are in good company, what does time matter?
When done, pull the baked bannock carefully off the stick, drizzle the inside with maple syrup or jam, and lick greedily off your fingers while you devour the whole thing. I dare you to wait long enough to let it cool so you don't burn your mouth.
Another way to do them, is to roast a sausage til crackling and bursting with juices, then wrap it with the spiral of bannock dough and roast it again til the dough is golden brown and puffy. A perfect campfire pig-in-a-blanket, well worth the wait.
See this post for a gluten free version of bannock, which can be pan-fried as biscuits in a cast iron skillet over the campfire.
- 3 cups (420gms) flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) melted butter
- 1½ cups (360mls) water
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter and the water.
Mix with a spoon until that doesn't work any more, then go in with your hands and work the mixture into a ball. Turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it makes a nice elastic ball. This is different from normal biscuit dough, which needs a very light touch. You don't have to worry about overworking the dough. What you're after is actually a dense and chewy dough.
It is now ready to roast over the fire, or roll it into egg-sized balls, pull them flat to make little pancakes and fry them in a mixture of butter and oil in a preheated heavy pan. When they are golden brown on each side, they are ready to serve topped with the morel mushroom sauce. Or you can just sprinkle them with sugar and eat them standing at the stove. Or do both.
This dough keeps, covered, in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, so make a large batch and it's always ready for your gourmet camping cravings.
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For other recipes using morels: