Every spring and autumn the wild forests of Europe are occupied by eager hunters whose task is nothing more than back-breaking. The hunt is relatively easy to those who know the signs that tell them what to ignore.
Their quary is a delicacy.
It requires a foraging instinct and a keen eye.
They know their objects of desire by local names, we know them as mushrooms.
Mushrooms are highly prized, and always have been because they are protein and vitamin rich, and taste good.
Barley and Mushroom soup is one of the oldest traditional dishes in Europe. It combines field and forest, is earthy and wholesome.
Besides soup, barley and mushrooms came together as a porridge, not so much these days.
Creamed mushroom soup is also a very old dish, and is still found on a menu in a backstreet cafe – or in a can.
Mushroom sauce is as popular today as it was two thousand years ago.
Liver sautéed with mushrooms and onions has been reinvented so many times it is a wonder it still retains its original charm.
Fried mushrooms are amazing!
Mushrooms are stuffed in various foods, from eggs to pies to poultry.
They are an essential ingredient in dumplings, omelettes, pancakes, pâté (as a duxelles) pies (pirogi and pirozhki) and stews.
Chanterelles are pickled, forever it seems.
Agaricus – champignon d’Paris, white mushroom – has been cultivated since the 17th century when it was grown in the cool, dark, humid caves of stone quarries near Paris on beds of horse manure. Eaten fresh in salad but more often baked, grilled, sautéed, scambled (with eggs) and stuffed, and added
to sauces, soups and stews.
Boletus Edulis – cèpe de bolete, cèpes, porcino, steinpilze –
is the most famous of the European mushrooms. Eaten fresh
in season, if you are lucky to know where to go to pick them
or have a reliable supplier, and widely available dried. Used
in sauces, soups, stews and stuffings.
Chanterelle – pfifferling, girolle (yellow, black and white trumpets) – is a native to Europe as a wild species. Anything goes, especially fried.
Morel – black, yellow and white – is a delicately scented mushroom more often available dried. Popular in French, Spanish and Swiss traditional cooking, often as a simple dish sautéed in butter. Large morels are filled with pork sausage meat.
Oyster, grown in clusters on deciduous trees, has been successfully cultivated, primarily for its earthy flavour when picked young. Dried and ground it is used as a garnish. Oyster mushroom omelette is arguably one of Europe’s most popular traditional dishes.
Truffle – black Périgord, white Piedmont – is found in old forests near host trees, using spores to propagate. Attempts to cultivate them have failed and with the loss of wild forest they remain elusive except to trained dogs and untrained sows. Used in sauces and pates, especially pâte de foie gras.
Chicken Liver and Mushroom Pâté
500 g chicken livers, chopped 125 g pancetta 100 g shallots, chopped small 2 eggs 50 g porcini, dried, reconstituted, sliced 50 ml red wine 45 g anchovies 50 g pear, dried, diced 30 g butter 15 ml olive oil 5 g black pepper, coarsely ground 1 sprig thyme Sea salt, pinch
Sauté pancetta in half the butter until crispy. Remove from pan.
Sauté chicken liver in remaining butter, and oil for three minutes.
Mix in shallots and mushrooms, fry over low heat for ten minutes.
Add pancetta, thyme, bay leaves and seasonings, and stir.
Remove with slotted spoon, and put in a bowl with anchovies.
De-glace pan with wine, add to liver mixture.
Add pear to mixture, allow to cool, incorporate eggs.
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Blend mixture, spoon into a baking dish, cover with foil.
Bake for an hour.
This Finnish mushroom salad is more often than not made with mixed mushrooms out of a jar with sour cream mixed with lemon juice, garlic salt and dill.
The fresh version is better if you can get the mushrooms.
500 g fresh boletus, chanterelle, oyster mushrooms 250 ml sour cream 1 lemon, juiced 1 onion, chopped finely (optional) Dill, handful
Soak the mushrooms in cold water for ten minutes to remove dirt and grit. Dry with paper towels.
Mix sour cream with lemon juice, onions and dill.
Gently fold mushrooms into the cream.
Soy milk, flour and oil reduced to a sauce is a vegan alternative to the cream.
Griby v Smetanie
Another marriage of mushrooms and sour cream dish, typically Russian, despite being common across northern and eastern Europe, with few variations.
500 g mushrooms, fresh, mixed 8 scallions, chopped (optional) 160 ml sour cream 60 g butter 50 g cheese, grated (optional) 30 g flour 1 tsp lemon juice Dill, handful Salt, pinch Pepper, pinch
Fry mushrooms in butter and if using scallions until soft.
Mix sour cream and flour into a loose batter. Stir into mushrooms, add dill, lemon juice, pepper and salt.
Alternatively pour mushroom mixture into an ovenproof dish, top with grated cheese and bake for 20 minutes in a medium (175°C) oven.
Traditional Mushroom Dishes
Bigos – Meat, Mushroom, Sauerkraut and Sausage Stew (Poland)
Calamaretti Ripeni – Baby Squid, Porcini and Salicornia (Italy)
Ciuperci și Sos de Smântână – Sour Cream, Mushroom and Onion Sauce (Romania)
Fritaja – Bacon, Mushrooms, Sausages and Wine (Croatia/Slovenia)
Gerstensuppe – Barley and Mushroom Soup (Switzerland/Europe)
Gobova Župa – Mushroom Soup (Slovenia)
Griby v Smetanie – Baked Mushrooms with Cheese and Sour Cream (Russia)
Kaša sa Pečurkama – Barley Porridge with Mushrooms (Montenegro)
Lesnická Šunka – Ham in Bacon, Mushroom Wine Sauce (Czech Republic)
Murgues farcides amb carn de Porc – Morels stuffed with Pork Sausage Meat (Andorra)
Mushrooms with Garlic and Olive Oil (Mediterranean)
Palacsinta – Pancakes with Minced Bacon, Cheese, Mushrooms and Yoghurt (Hungary)
Risotto con Castagne e Porcini – Risotto with Chestnuts and Mushrooms (Italy)
Risotto con Funghi – Risotto with Morels and Porcini (Italy, Switzerland)
Selsko Meso – Baked Meat and Mushrooms (Macedonia)
Sienisalaatti – Mushroom Salad (Finland)
Vadgombaleves – Wild Mushroom soup (Hungary)
Vin Rouge – Red Wine and Mushroom Sauce (France)
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