Magical tasty treat growing in the woods
VARMLAND in the centre of Sweden was where I first tasted chanterelles, the magical yellow mushrooms of the forest; forget your truffles and shaggy ink caps, these curly gems are the best free food on offer.
My first taste came in 1979; the USSR had invaded Afghanistan, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister and the Sahara Desert experienced snow for thirty minutes – it was a memorable year.
I had risen early for a walk in the forest. Moving away from the lake, by which we were staying, the haunting cry of the divers vanished into the day and were exchanged by the noisy clamour of black woodpeckers – Swedish Black Beauties with their crimson crowns.
Ahead of me was a water meadow, and I counted eight elk feeding peacefully; in turn dropping their giant heads into the bog before emerging with all manner of plant life hanging like green moustaches dripping with water.
In an effort to get closer and steal a photograph or two I dropped to the ground and began crawling in a slow arc towards where I thought the elk were. I obviously miscalculated because on reaching a small ditch I lifted my head slowly upwards only to be greeted three feet away by a male elk staring back at me.
He made off and was joined by the rest of the group, and although there were no photographs taken it was a wonderful spectacle and besides I was surrounded by a carpet of chanterelles. With the memory of the encounter stored in my mind and dozens of the fungi bulging in my poaching pockets it was time for tall tales back at the cabin and one of the best breakfasts ever eaten – fresh chanterelles fried in butter with white pepper, smoked bacon and scrambled eggs.
I recently met Bengt Saxmark of www. getfunghi.co.uk who knows Varmland very well and often explores those same forests on his frequent mushroom safaris in his native country, but readers might like to try one of his ‘Mushroom Forays’ in the Peak District.
During the walk he will talk about the mushrooms found along the way, interspersed with advice on what family characteristics to look for to enable you to start picking with confidence if you are a beginner.
The emphasis is on having fun and learning some useful tips on how to recognise the many tasty edible fungi that can be found if you know what to look out for.
By the end of the walk you should have a good grounding in at least one of the families of beginners mushrooms, like boletus, and a basic knowledge of how to spot the nasties.
I asked for his favourite recipe and he recommends a winter chanterelle toastie.
Having tried it, I can’t argue:
One bag pre-soaked winter chanterelles 400ml stock 100ml double cream Two shallots or half small onion, choppedfinely
Two tablespoons chopped parsley
Two to three tablespoons flour
One / two tablespoons butter
Half teaspoon tomato purée
A few drops of soy sauce, one tablespoon of port
Salt and ground black pepper
Grated, extra mature cheddar
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop