We Love Cooking! + [mushroom]

:: Swedish Mushroom Hunting and Simply Cooked Chanterelles with Garlic Toast!

Mushroom hunting in Ireland is something that I feel takes place with something of an uneasy pleasure. While the idea of foraging for free food always gets me excited, mushroom hunting is somewhat more hazardous than picking a few juicy blackberries off a thorny bush. Last year I went on my very first mushroom hunt with a funghi expert who described the process as more dangerous than some of the most breathtaking extreme sports including skydiving and bungee jumping due to the large amount of extremely poisonous varieties! Mincing through the woods with a wicker basket suddenly just got a bit more manly!

The experienced mushroom hunter out there knows the chanterelle mushroom is the most prized variety. An expensive purchase at about €20 to €40 per kilo makes discovering these little beauties all the more satisfying to pick for free! With it's distinctive golden orange colour, funnel shape and thick gills, the chanterelle mushroom is by far one of the prettiest looking mushrooms and makes a delicious and meaty feast for cooking at home.

This week I headed out twice to Sweden's vast forests where foraging for chanterelles is a popular but highly secretive past time. The Swedes speak about mushroom picking hot spots in hushed tones and excited whispers, looking over their shoulders for fear someone might be lurking just out of sight to try and overhear the location of the latest hotspot! My first visit took place after we got a tip from a neighbour who had a friend who had got lucky on a path close to a lake near a forest just south of Gothenburg. The location was scrawled onto a scrap of paper, shoved tightly into a pocket and we were off. After about two hours of fruitless searching we finally came across a bumper patch close to the path, hiding at the base of a tree. The thing about chanterelle's is that once you find one, whether your eyes suddenly become aware of what you are looking for or they just grow close to each other, it seems inevitable that you will find more close by.
My second visit came last night, when we were accompanied to a spot just off the corner of a golf course, to a secret location which was hidden by a group of large trees. After battling our way through wild brambles our eyes opened wide to discover a clearing literally teaming with little golden dots every where we looked. It seemed nobody had been there before, so whispering quite excitedly, so as not to reveal our very own secret location, we gathered up armfuls of mushrooms and snuck back home to the kitchen!

Simply Cooked Chanterelles with Garlic Toast
Mushrooms can have the marmite effect on some people, you either love them or hate them. In my case I love them and while you can pick them up quite easily in most supermarkets, nothing is more satisfying than picking them yourself. If you are lucky enough to come across a bumper load of them in the forest, in my opinion you have to enjoy them straight away cooked as simply as this.

Serves 2 generous portions
A good handful of chanterelle mushrooms per person
A good knob of butter
A little sea salt and ground black pepper to season
1 clove of garlic
A good glug of extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of nice chewy sourdough bread, toasted

In a large pan melt the butter over a medium high heat.
Add in the mushrooms and fry until lightly browned and tender. This about 5 minutes depending on the amount you have in the pan. Some mushrooms will throw off a lot of water, but don't panic just continue to cook until all the water is gone. Season with a little sea salt and ground black pepper to taste. Try not to over season as you really want to allow the natural flavours to shine through.
While the mushrooms are cooking toast the bread, when it turns golden drizzle with a little olive oil and rub vigorously with the clove of garlic, finally season with a little sea salt.
Top the toast with the hot and tender mushrooms and serve straight away!