Pine mushrooms, colourful pals

There’s an old rule which pops up whenever mushrooms pop up in the fields and paddocks and forests. Don’t eat any which display blazing colours. But, like all rules, there is a wild exception. Pine mushrooms are bright orange, and their gills turn green when you rub them. If ever nature was trying to warn you off, it could not choose better colours. Anybody who suffers mushroom poisoning is more likely than not to turn orange then green.

Don’t be put off by the colours. Pine mushrooms cop their name because of their affinity with pine trees, but searchers have given them another descriptive title. They’ve also been called saffron milkcap. The saffron is self-evident. The milkcap is a neat touch. Pine mushrooms are most positively identified by their dimples, usually half filled with moisture. So when in doubt, look for the dimple in the middle.

There is really no big deal about cooking them. Rub away any dirt or pine needles. Chop them as roughly as you like, throw them into a pan with as little or as much garlic as you can cope with. Sprinkle with a little of the best olive oil you have, as much butter as your heart will take, salt, freshly ground black pepper and plenty of thyme from the garden. Work the lot around the pan over a low heat, the mushrooms will give their moisture to the pan and mix deliciously with the butter. When the fungi have just softened they are ready to go. The butter will be a gorgeous yellow colour. Throw in a hat full of chopped parsley. To give the dish a little crunch, mix in some just-cooked beans and throw the lot through some freshly made pasta. In fact you can cook any mushrooms like that — just make sure you don’t lose sight of the main event.

WINE: A hearty red. Try a shiraz from Clare or the Barossa — Birks, St Hallets or Rockford come to mind.