Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The leaves start to turn golden, as does the afternoon light, shortly before the sun fades for the evening. Right on the theme of warm orange colors, these beautiful pine mushrooms, otherwise known as saffron milk caps appeared at my local market this weekend.
These gorgeous saffron milk caps are as old as one could imagine, having appeared in frescos on the walls of villas in Herculaneum and Pompeii. Delicious and very meaty in texture, these mushrooms are one of the officially recognised species sold in French markets. They grow under conifers and are usually buried under a blanket of thick pine needles. Depending on the weather, saffron milk caps can be foraged from late Feburary to early April. The best place, near Sydney, to forage is around Oberon.
My natural inclination was to put these lovelies into a risotto, but given the incredibly meaty texture - I thought they could stand up well to a mushroom ragu, along with a couple of great big flat mushrooms, accompanied by fluffy little pillows of gnocchi. Inspired by the giant boxes of fresh olives at the market, I also decided to add some of the last of our preserved kalamata olives to the gnocchi for an extra touch of autumn.
Olive gnocchi with saffron milk cap ragu
3 large desiree potatoes
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
1/2 cup plain flour
250gm saffron milk caps (pine mushrooms), sliced
250g flat mushrooms, sliced
40 gm butter, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
80 ml dry white wine
To serve: Truffle or porcini mushroom oil and finely grated parmesan
1. To make the ragu: heat butter and a drizzle olive oil in large pan, add garlic and thyme, fry gently. Add the mushrooms, stir gently. Add the wine, cook until reduced by two-thirds. Keep warm.
2 . To make gnocchi: bring potatoes to boil in a large saucepan, cook until tender. Drain, peel and pass through a potato ricer into a bowl. Add egg yolks, add olives and flour and gently mix together. Turn onto a floured work surface and roll into thin logs. Cut logs widthways into about 1 inch pieces . Pinch the sides and set aside on the floured work surface.
3. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add gnocchi and cook over medium heat until they float to the surface.
4. Place the gnocchi in the pan of mushrooms, gently toss to combine. Serve with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil or porcini mushroom oil to bring out the delicious flavours of the saffron milk caps.