Mag­i­cal tasty treat grow­ing in the woods

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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

Chanterelle mush­rooms

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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