I came across this amazing Beef blood steak fungus growing at the foot of an oak tree near Runneymede, while on a National Trust ‘ancient tree’ training day. Tempted as I was to harvest it, I left it where it was (mainly because my colleagues had also clocked it). However, I have harvested this fungus before, and I must say, it must be the most flavoursome of all the English fungi.
It looks impressive, like a huge slab of meat on the butcher's counter. If you are a vegetarian, but still occasionally crave for a piece of meat, then here is your answer. When young, it looks reddish, like a very tender and rare steak, but after a couple of weeks the colour mellows to look like a medium to well-done piece of meat. It even exudes a blood-like juice.
The flavour is reminiscent of meat, but more mushroomy, earthy and something you would expect from the forest floor., It can be roasted or boiled, but I like to cut it into slices and simply fry it up with a handful of wild marjoram in a pan over a woodland campfire. If you’re in a kitchen and feeling more adventurous, then try adding a thick sauce made from sliced beetroot, grated horseradish root and double cream.
You can usually find them at the foot of old oak trees and occasionally sweet chestnuts. They appear between late August and the end of September.