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.
(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..