When I was little I hated mushrooms. I picked them out of spaghetti sauce, omelets and anything else my parents tried to sneak them into. I hated all mushrooms except for morels. Morels were different. Because every spring after the temperature climbed to just the right degree and we would get just enough rain, the morels would begin to pop up and my family would go morel hunting. We went to the same places every year and without fail, the morels would be there. All we needed were our morel eyes and the proper morel stick to find them. As soon as I spotted my first morel I would call out to let everyone else know. Dad would then hand me his smooth silver pocket knife so that I could cut it off at the base. I would then cup the morel in my palms, lift it my nose and breathe it in. As the saying goes, where there’s one, there’s more. After finding the first one, the second one usually wasn’t far off. We would pick until our basket was full and then return home. When I was little we used to find so many morels that we’d feast on some immediately and then lay the rest out on the deck in the sunshine to dry so that we had morels all year long. The best way to eat them was simply to fry them up fresh with butter and they were delicious. Not only was I lucky enough to have morels for dinner, but we’d also usually go foraging for fiddleheads at the same time of year and fry some of those up too.
This year I returned to the place I grew up, in search of morels. I went with my parents and we met up with friends of ours who still live there. These friends are the owners of the baby lambs, (who eventually become sheep) and they have a fabulous wool businesss, The Philosopher’s Wool. They are also the source of my wool when I make silly things like knitted cupcakes… Spring at their house means lambing season and the little guys are too cute to resist. I remember years where there were lambs, that for one reason or another needed to be bottle fed and they would stay in the house instead of the barn. I loved going to visit the bottle lambs. And while I was there I would go out to the chicken coop to collect eggs, always happy when there were some to find. I could use a chicken coop these days for the amount of eggs I go through.
But back to the morels. It was still early in the season when I returned to my old haunts to look for them. We were looking for the black morels as they come up first, followed by the more blond coloured ones and not in the same places either. There’s a certain place where we go early in the season and then it changes later on. On this particular journey we only found 8 morels. This is a far cry from the days when I would come home with an overflowing basket. Like I said though, places, people and things change and I guess morels are no exception. Change is inevitable but I’ll still pine away for the days of overflowing baskets, sand dunes and baseball at the end of the road.
The recipe you see here is from Jamie Oliver and is an Asparagus and Potato Tart. The only thing I’ve changed is to add fresh morels and fiddleheads, (which makes it a million times better, but you could still make it without and it’ll be pretty good too). As a bonus, the asparagus was picked fresh from the garden, some of the first spears this year.
Asparagus and Potato Tart (From Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home via the Foodnetwork)1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 ounces filo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated Lancashire cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar
3 large organic or free-range eggs
1 (8-ounce) container heavy cream
Pinch fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Get an ovenproof dish - I've used many different shapes and sizes. Layer the sheets of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 1-inch hang over the edge. You want to get the pastry about 5 layers thick. Put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top and put aside.
When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve just as you would a quiche for a quick lunch or supper, with a salad.