My whole life has been a lie. ‘Camping sounds like a great idea. One night? Why not the WHOLE weekend!’…’a bush walk? What a fantastic way to spend our Sunday’…’why would we go to Paris? A country escape would be wonderful’.
The truth is: I hate nature. It is the worst. Had I admitted this years ago, my life would have been infinitely less stressful. But no, I chose to push forward. And here I now stand, in a horrible web of lies, surrounded with disgusting nature-loving spiders.
It’s not all bad. I don’t mind going on ‘walks’ – so long as there is a path to follow and the promise of wine afterwards.
But please, please, please – let me get this straight once and for all. No, I don’t want to go camping. Do you know what would be better than going on a bush walk on Sunday? Not going on a bush walk on Sunday. And Paris is always a good idea (thanks, Audrey) – especially in this instance, when it is a better idea.
And then along came The Swede. Given the Scandinavian passion for foraging, there should have been red flags flying all over the place. But I was too happily in love to realise I might actually have to partake. Stupid, stupid girl.
At the very first turn of Autumn, I was promptly whisked away to spend time with Mumford Swede and family at the summer house – for the sole purpose of mushroom picking.
I adore wild mushrooms and the idea of foraged food is wonderful to me – I just don’t necessarily want to be the gatherer. However, The Swede, the setting (a traditional red wooden house with white trim, set in the middle of a pine forest) and the promise of dinner coaxed me deep into the woods. The dark, wet, path-free woods.
Now, if there is one thing I am, it is competitive. Especially when it comes to food. I could focus on my nature-filled misfortune. Or I could make sure no other forager in this patch of pine gets any mushrooms. The forest became mine and those mushrooms belonged to me.
I quickly found that going on a crazed mushroom-picking spree in an attempt to free the forest floor of fungi equated to me having to sit in the garden for hours on end cleaning them all. Not ideal. To water a mushroom is to wash away its delicate flavour. So instead I was granted a knife, a soft brush and two hours of tedium.
The second downside of having too many mushrooms is what to do with them all. The Swede immediately requested soup – so, given it was his birthday, soup we had. My recipe below easily fed a family of six as a tasty starter, but would equally be good as a main for three to four served up with some warm, crusty bread. Delicious, autumnal comfort.
So what mushrooms did we forage for, exactly? Our latest venture in early October yielded a goldmine of trattkantarell, otherwise known as funnel chanterelle, yellowfoot or winter mushrooms. There were also quite a few end of season golden chanterelles, which I was extremely happy to include in the mix.
I guess nature in Sweden isn’t so bad after all. Especially if it leads to dinner.
Wild Mushroom Soup
600g mixed fresh wild mushrooms* (set aside a handful of nice looking mushrooms to garnish)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 handful fresh thyme, leaves picked
freshly ground black pepper
1 litre good quality chicken stock
1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 1/2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp butter
Heat a heavy-bottomed casserole pan over high heat and add a good splash of olive oil followed by the wild mushrooms. Stir quickly for one minute before adding the garlic, onion and thyme, along with a small touch of seasoning.
After a minute or two, you will notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms. Continue to cook for 20 or so minutes, until most of the liquid disappears.
Season to taste and add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Remove half the soup from the pan and blend to puree before pouring it back in. Stir through the creme fraiche and parsley. Season carefully to taste.
Melt butter in a pan and toss in the reserved mushrooms, frying them to crispy perfection. Sprinkle some finely chopped parsley in at the last minute (and a squeeze of lemon if you like!), season to taste. Ladle the sou into individual bowls and top with the pan fried mushrooms. Serve immediately.
*I used a variety of chanterelles – however, trumpet, shiitake and oyster would all work well too. Mix it up!