Monday, February 06, 2006

An ode to wild mushrooms

I have posted quite a few recipes and stories about various mushrooms since I started this blog, so it's probably not surprising to anyone when I say that I'm quite fond of my mushrooms. I like the musky and earthy smell of proper mushrooms that evoke childhood forest adventures; their slightly meaty, yet smooth, texture that gives a nice bite under your teeth; the way how they happily absorb any flavours of the dish, if you're looking for something to bulk up your dish without lots of extra calories. Unfortunately it's a fondness that is quite difficult to satisfy here in Scotland. Yes, I've spotted chantarelles in some of the upmarket delis in Edinburgh, but until I remain working in academia, their price is prohibitive. And although dried porcini is a brilliant standby and meaty shiitake mushrooms irreplacable when I'm making my staple blue cheese and mushroom sauce to douse into my pasta, the choice here is generally meagre.

Back home the situation is luckily still a bit better. I've mentioned going forageing for mushrooms with my grandparents when I was younger, and although I sadly haven't done that for years now, my relatives still provide us with a choice of varied forest mushrooms. In late summer and early autumn you'd be able to pick up wild mushrooms from elderly - mostly Russian, whose love for mushrooms is quite wellknown - women at any of the marketplaces in Tallinn. And if you fail that, then you can just pick some pickled or salted mushrooms in most supermarkets. So you can leave those handy, but disappointingly bland cultivated mushrooms on the supermarket shelf instead..

I brought back 3 packets of mushrooms during my last trip home - pickled chantarelles (kukeseened), salted woolly milkcaps (kaseriisikad) and salted rufous milkcaps (männiriisikad). I've been lovingly looking at them in my fridge for weeks now, and last weekend devoured the wooly milkcaps. The didn't need any cooking - only soaking in water to get rid of the excess salt. I made a simplest of salads, where the earthy mushroom flavour could deservedly dominate.

Mushroom salad
(Soolaseene ja kodujuustu salat)

300-400 ml salted mushrooms, soaked, rinsed and chopped
2-3 salted cucumbers, chopped
1 red onion, minced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
300 grams cottage cheese
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
green onions, chopped
crushed black pepper

Just mix all the ingredients, season to taste. I had the salad with toasted rye bread, but you can use it as a filling for jacked potatoes.

I had a handful of mushrooms left over, which I pan-fried later with some boiled potatoes and sprinkled with herbs. Also delicious, with intense mushroom flavour..

That is if you can get hold of some flavoursome salted wild mushrooms then..


Ilva said...

I never ever spent a thought about the state of mushrooms in Scotland! Are there really so few? I suppose that coming from Sweden makes me spoilt because I expect to find mushrooms everywhere! Luckily Italy is a mushroom country!

Stephanie said...

I'm surprised too. I adore mushrooms and it would kill me to do without. Strange, I cooked mushrooms for dinner today too as I needed comfort food.

Pille said...

Ilva - I guess Sweden & Estonia are pretty similar in terms of the availability and range of wild mushrooms, and I've heard about the Italians' love for mushrooms.
But you can't really get any wild mushrooms in towns- I've only ever seen chantarelles in Valvona & Crolla (an upmarket Italian deli here in Edinburgh) and they cost a fortune; sadly I haven't seen any at the farmers market:(
Some of my Russian friends go forageing every autumn, but unless you know where the right forests are, it's not an option really.

MM - mushrooms are a real comfort food indeed - so easy to cook and very satisfying!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pille, that's quite intersting. For my feeling the Baltic States, Sweden and Scotland are not so "far" away meteorology-wise. It must have something to do with the terroir. And as far as I know there are not so large forests in Scotland, maybe that's the point. However, I understand that you miss wild mushrooms, I also die for them. And I can recommend you a recipe for marinating them, but I think you have seen it already on dear Tülin's blog domestic cat. My geatest recipe regarding mushrooms is a combinations of chanterelles and - yes ! - peaches in a creamy sauce, I will blog about it when the season is on ! But, oh boy, there also is a problem with peaches in Scotland, as you have told me... Head up ! Times will come... hugs, angelika

Antti said...

I love wild mushrooms too, but until last fall I didn't know where to find nor how to recognize them (except for the ubiquitous chanterelles).

Luckily a friend of mine came to a rescue, and taught me how to pick trumpet-shaped chanterelles (suppilovahvero, lehter-kukeseen). They were really plentiful, and now I have heaps of them dried in my pantry.

I really, really love the russian-style (or Karelian style in Finland) pickled mushrooms, but they're a bit expensive here. Perhaps I should go to Tallinn for a culinary shopping trip :) I haven't been there since 2000... And your sausages totally ROCK!!!

BTW, when you have time, could you please update Doughboy's link, as it has finally moved permanently to

Anonymous said...

Mushroom salad on toast... YUM!

Anonymous said...

It's funny because when I was little I didn't like mushrooms, but now I love them.

Great post and great recipe!

Stephanie said...

Chanterelles with peaches?? Wow, do share!

Clivia said...

I was at the market yesterday and saw a mushroom salad looking exactly like this! I also saw Estonian blood sausages and salted cucumbers...
I too love mushrooms and enjoy picking them very much. We have many bags in the freezer and many glass jars with dried funnel chanterelles in the cupboards...

Nefritite said...

Hi Pille,
I can relate to your memories about gathering mushrooms in the forest.. brings loads of nice memories to me :)
When I was a child I used to go to the forest with my grandmother and her sister, and my grandmother knew the best places where to find good mushrooms - so the custom on these trips was to speak in hushed voices, as not to attract the attention of e.g. neighbours who would then discover our secret mushroom places :) My grandmother was a very dramatic soul and it was always great fun!

Pille said...

Hi Angelika - I know there must be lots of mushrooms somewhere here, but unless you know where they are, there are very few ways of obtaining them really.. Thanks for reminding me about Tülin's recipe - and just like MM, I'm looking forward to reading about your chantarelles&peaches recipe!

Heippa Antti - yes, I've read about "suppilovahvero" - they're a bit darker than chantarelles, no? Finnish recipe sites are full of recipes using them, so I gathered they must be very popular and abundant.
Culinary shopping trip to Tallinn might be a good idea indeed - I wish it was as easy for me (pop on the ferry and you're almost there:)
[I updated the link, thanks for pointing it out!]

Clare - yum indeed!

Ivonne - I went through a phase when I liked forageing for mushrooms, but wasn't too keen on eating them. And then I only ate the salted ones for a while, avoiding the pickled/marinated ones. Now I love them all:)

Hi Clivia - sounds like a good market! And I must go and find some funnel/trumpet chantarelles next time - you all keep mentioning them..

Nefritite - great story! And I can totally relate to it. My grandparents' house was pretty isolated, so there was no danger of someone competing for "our" mushrooms. But in more populated places, it's the same story:)