Easily identified edible mushrooms No. 2 - Cauliflower fungus

There is a very select group of edible fungi that always make me whoop with delight when I spot them - chanterelles and ceps are definitely on that list but cauliflower fungus is number 1.  They don't always appear but when they do their size, quirky appearance and sheer deliciousness means finding one is always exciting.  

Cauliflower fungus look like natural sponges and the first time you see one you can't quite believe what you're looking at.  Unlike sponges, they are very tasty - nutty and full of flavour, thay make a fabulous addition to any mushroom dish.  

They are one of those fungi that pop up every now and then, not generally in the same place every year.  They grow at the base of pine trees so next time you're in a pine wood have a look good around - you might strike lucky.

They often provide shelter to quite a range of insects though so make sure you give any you find a shake or wash them under a running tap before you start cooking.  Drying them in slices also allows you to pick out the creatures before cooking and that way you can keep some for another day.  They are often huge and too much for one meal.

Cauliflower fungus is delicious in risottos, stews, omelettes - any recipe that calls for mushrooms really.  They can also be cooked like a real cauliflower, covered in cheese sauce and baked in the oven.  The excellent 'River Cottage Handbook No. 1 - Mushrooms' by John Wright has a great recipe.