Summer is well and truly over and indeed for many of us it never seemed to arrive! However, there are upsides, not the least of which is that this is the only time of year that you can get fresh chanterelle, which for me are the very best of all of the mushrooms and while they are expensive their rich flavour means that they will go a long way. I am always excited to see a dish on a restaurant menu which claims to include wild mushrooms but I guess that I never learn or perhaps it is more a case of always travelling in hope, more often than not I am bitterly disappointed by the same old bland mix of mushrooms which have never seen a forest floor. However, chanterelle, also known as golden chanterelle or girolles never fail to delight and with their liberal coating of pine needles and bits of moss their wild credentials are never in doubt!
The first time that I had chanterelle was when I was a student and I had gone to Nova Scotia in Canada to do some research over the summer (the year before the tomatoes and bacon meal described in the previous blog) and I ended up spending a weekend in the woods with four or five other students, including two incredibly beautiful twin girls, blonde hair, blue eyes, long tanned legs and cut-off denim shorts, I am sure that you get the picture; unfortunately their nanny came too! (Is this a record, still having a nanny at 21?) The nanny was a rather forbidding women with a strong German accent but she knew her mushrooms and she had us collecting vast quantities of chanterelle which sautéed together with crispy Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs made a wonderful breakfast the following day – although the nanny was late for the meal, returning with wet hair and a towel around her shoulders to announce that she had been “How do you say? Skinny dipping?” Well life is full of surprises and as far as the twins went disappointments as well! Later I became reacquainted with chanterelle but not the beautiful twins or the nanny when I lived in Stockholm. Again you could forage for them in the forests or more easily and reliably go to the city’s wonderful Östermalms Saluhall market – as close to heaven as any place that I know! Out of season the Swedes even have canned chanterelle in their supermarkets and they are now available here in the UK too at the Scandinavian Kitchen but unfortunately it is not so easy to get the thin shavings of reindeer or elk which when cooked in a rich cream sauce made a wonderful accompaniment to the chanterelle. Anyway enough of the reminiscences and back to the here and now! Chanterelle are beginning to appear regularly in my favourite Glasgow green grocers, Roots and Fruits and of course as soon as I saw them I was sold. Without elk or reindeer that dish was off and while perhaps the very best chanterelle that I have ever had was in Germany, a simple tossed salad mixed with pfifferling (the German name for chanterelle) I thought that on this occasion I would try something even easier, especially as I wanted to photograph the mushrooms, so chanterelle on toast it was! Ideal finger food!Cooking chanterelle couldn’t be easier:
- Use a stiff short haired brush to remove any pine needles and other detritus (DON’T WASH them!) Cut off the base of the stems and discard and then cut the larger chanterelle in half lengthways, this not only makes them easier to cook but also makes it look as if you have twice as many chanterelle as you originally stared with!
- Melt some butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, (the pan wants to be large enough to take all of the chanterelle in a single layer) then tip in the chanterelle, season to taste with sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper.
- Gently move the mushrooms around in the pan so that they are uniformly covered with butter and continue to sauté for another five to ten minutes
- Meanwhile prepare the toast and warm the plates.
- When the chanterelle are done remove them from the pan and place them on some kitchen towel in order remove excess buffer and then arrange on top of the toast.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!