Morel and Marsala Sauce – Rarity with Flavour

First things first…

Before one tackles this dish, one needs something to listen to, and to drink. A late afternoon spent in one’s kitchen, away from the earth, its people and their varying degrees of bullshit, is a little pleasure. So if you ingurgitate some good booze and musics, then it will be a bigger pleasure.

This is what I’d drink and listen to as I cook this sauce. And probably while I scoff it, too. And there is reason for both, other than me being a ponce.

Drink Westvleteren 12 – so what if it’s the world’s rarest beer


This beer is exceptional not because of its rarity [though you can’t ignore the fact that as you, or your sleeve-tattooed  beer-dealer, have to drive to their monastery in Belgium to collect it, it gives it a certain prestige].

No. It’s the unbelievable depth of flavour with a refreshing edge. As opposed to pretty much any other Trappist beer, it hasn’t got that treacly texture that can be a bit much – sometimes a little too similar to Special Brew. Westvleteren 12 sits lighter and more refreshingly in the gob.

The flavour? Ooosh. It’s like rich Black Forest and dark chocolate gâteau. So it goes perfectly with the earthy flavor of the morel, and stands up against cream, and the richness of Marsala. Chances are you’ll be smothering this stuff on beef or duck. Guess what – this beer goes with them too.

Listen to Johnny Flynn – especially this:

If you haven’t seen the Detectorists. Do. Like, now. It’s everything that is gentle and kind and silly. Subtle and well observed. The title song by Johnny Flynn just goes with the feeling that comes from woodland and mushrooms and foraging; of the quaint eccentricities of the British. So does a great deal more of his work. Put on his first album Larum. Lilting guitar patterns and a soft-gruff voice. Yes.


Morel & Marsala sauce – Whatcha need

So… I’m not particularity bothered by specifics when it comes cooking – I believe a shit-tonne is a legitimate unit of measurement. However, morels are pretty expensive, so I’ll try and be a bit more thorough with them.

This recipe should be enough for about 6 people. It is to be lavished over either rare duck breast or beef steak. Or for you wonderful veggies, Chicken of the Woods (very seasonal, but hey!). I’ll give a little on the best way to cook ’em after the main event….


– 500g (have another 200g in reserve) of fresh morel, the star of the show – earthy and unique. (If you’re using dried, then about a 3rd less)

– 300ml(ish) of good beef stock (you may not use it all, or may use more). And if you’re wanting it veggie, I’d use dried morels, so you can use the stock from re-hydration, rather than veg stock. Maybe add a tiny bit of dark chocolate if it needs more depth.

– 300ml(ish) of good farmhouse double cream (again, you may not use it all, or may use more).

– 2 to 3 shallots, depending on size and pungency. Finely chopped.

– 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, depending on size and pungency

– 175ml of good Marsala (if you can’t get that, Madeira works). You may want more, or less.

– 50g of good farmhouse butter (not too salted).

– A touch of good, pure dark chocolate. You may decide not to use it.

Watcha do with it all:

  1. In a deep saucepan, melt the butter on a gentle heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Cook with compassion until all nice and soft-like.
  2. Turn up to a medium-high heat. Add the morel with the care they deserve. When everything’s ah-cracking and browning (but not burning), add the Marsala. It may may well ignite. In fact, it’s worth trying to do so yourself to hurry it all along. When the flames have subsided, turn heat back down to medium.
  3. Add some of the stock, maybe 200ml. Reduce for about 5 mins.
  4. Add the cream, maybe about 200ml. Season well, especially with pepper. Reduce for 10 mins. Make sure you’re on a low heat!
  5. Now it’s time to evaluate. Taste it. See how much sauce may be there after further reduction. Drink some of your absurdly obscure beer. Relish the alt-folk genius of Johnny… This is where you can start adding things if needed – If it’s too watery, add more cream; if it’s too creamy add more stock; not sweet-rich enough, add more Marsala; not enough depth, put a little chocolate in… Remember though, this is a celebration of the Morel, don’t destroy its unique flavour. 
  6. Now it’s time to lavish it all over some beef or duck breast… Se ma recommendations below


For Duck:

– Score fat and season, maybe a pinch of fresh thyme.

– On a red-hot pan or griddle, with a little oil, place skin down. Then place grease-proof paper over the flesh side and weigh down with a heavy pan. This will crisp up the skin.

– Check the skin after about 3 mins, to check it isn’t burning, either turn or cook for longer depending on crispness. Whence turned, cook for at least 2 mins on the other side, going up exponentially in minutes depending on how you like it. Though no more than it takes for medium rare. If you want medium, you’re just wrong.

For steak:

– Season stake

– Place on a red-hot pan or griddle.

– Turn every 30 seconds to get an equal cook

– Do this until the steak is coated in golden brown, but in full knowledge that just below it is red as the day it was slaughtered.

– Medium Rare is barely acceptable. Medium or above is a crime.

– Even though that blatant stock image has rosemary next to the meat, I’d maybe garnish with some fresh thyme. Tarragon goes very well with the beef/morel combo, it’s a pretty unique lemon/aniseed flavour. Make sure you like it or you will have ruined everything.

Now, smother that sauce all over it. Serve it up with some good roasties, some steamed tender-stem broccoli, or blanched and pan fried asparagus… Then put it in your face.

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