Sunday, 12 August 2012

Chanterelles as far as the eye can see

I'm at the summer house. And I'm online! The joys of 3G devices. Of course I will only be able to log for as long as my iPad battery lasts, as I won't be able to recharge it. But we might be making a detour to civilisation tomorrow so I might be able to kick some more life in it later.

Anyways, on to more exciting things. Like the Finnish forest. We were doing a small hike around the estate today, and oh my what yummy things we found. Blueberries, lingonberries, raspberries and chanterelles. It has obviously been the most amazing blueberry and lingonberry year, because they are everywhere. In abundance. As are the chanterelles. We had a huge bag full of them in no time. For absolutely free! They are so hard to get hold of in the UK, and if you get them, at least they are ridiculously expensive. And they are my all time favourite mushrooms. Not only are the delicious, they are so pretty too. We didn't even really go out mushroom picking, just went for a walk in the forest and picked up the chanterelles that happened to be on our path. And we filled up a big bag. Too bad there is no way I can bring some of them with me back home. Well, I could if we would get around to drying them, but we are so busy picking blueberries and lingonberries and experimenting with some outdoors cooking to have time to go through the hassle of drying the mushrooms. Some of them will be going into my mum's freezer so I will get some the next time I'm visiting.

Of course, the free mushrooms come with a price. They take forever to clean. After years of using only store bought clean mushrooms you tend to forget that mushrooms grow in a forest and tend to have a lot of dirt and other forest-related stuff all over them. But I guess that's part of the charm, to know you have picked and cleaned the mushrooms all by yourself.

In our family, the most traditional thing to do with the first chanterelles of the season is to make oven baked sandwiches with chanterelle sauce and topped with cheese. However, we don't have an oven here so that was out of the question. Ok, technically speaking we do have an oven, but it's one of those wood burning ones which you heat up for hours with wood and then they give off heat for a long time for baking. But the summer house gets so crazy hot if you heat the oven so we do most of our cooking in this fancy wood burning stove/grill in our out-of-doors kitchen. After watching pictures of grilled cheese on Pinterest for months and craving some, I decided the holiday is the wrong time to worry about calories and nutrition plans so I just went for it and made a creamy dreamy chanterelle sauce and stuffed it with some good Finnish cheese between two slices of bread and cooked it all in a cast iron pan which is probably as old as I am.

Chanterelle grilled cheese (serves 6):

One plastic shopping bag full of self-picked chanterelles (two full pans after chopping)

2 onions with greens (from your own allotment of course)

1 cup cheese flavoured cream (Valio Kippari cream)

6 slices of mature cheese (Valio Black label

12 slices of whole grain bread


The howto:

Cook mushrooms in high heat in two batches in a bit of butter. Set mushrooms aside while sautéing the finely chopped onions, add in the chanterelles and the cream and cook until the sauce thickens. Butter two slices of bread (the "outside" of the sandwich) and add a slice of cheese and a few tablespoons chanterelle sauce between the slices. Cook in butter on a cast iron pan on medium heat until the cheese has melted and serve immediately with some extra sauce on the side. Repeat for the rest of the sandwiches.

The verdict:

Cooking outdoors - brilliant! Self picked mushrooms - awesome! In cream... With cheese. Seriously, if you don't find that as exciting and mouth watering as I do, then you need to have your head examined. Or maybe come over to Finland and go mushroom picking in case you have never had the pleasure before. We have this thing called jokamiehenoikeus ("every mans's right") which means you are allowed to go into any forest to pick berries and mushrooms, as long as you don't go too close to habitation. So it's perfectly legal to drive out into a forest and start picking. And in fact, if you pick berries or mushrooms and sell them, any profit you make is tax-free. I'm not making this up. Apparently only about 10% of all fruits of the forest are picked and used, so there is plenty to go around for everybody who wants a bite. Or a bucket full.

We served the grilled cheese as a starter at our crayfish party (because, to be honest, you need some proper droid as there isn't too much to eat in a crayfish). And they seemed to go down quite well, even with the non-mushroom loving people.


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