I have a colleague at work called Björn; as nice a guy as you could hope to meet. Björn means bear in Swedish. How cool is that. I’ve never met anyone in England named Bear. So when Björn gave me a plastic box filled with wild mushrooms he had picked in the forest, naturally I couldn’t refuse. How could you?
It’s officially and most definitely autumn in Sweden. The leaves on the trees are burning red and the morning air is as clean, white and crisp as newly washed bed sheets. Autumn in Sweden brings many longed-for foods: game, wild berries, shellfish, but most importantly for the Swedish palate, wild mushrooms. Come September, swedes of all shapes, sizes and ages take to the abundant forest to hunt for edible fungi. A surprising number are remarkably adept at gathering mushrooms; an ancient art that has somehow survived in this increasingly urbanized and modern land.
For my part, I am hopeless at it; my one foray into the shaded woods near my house resulting in nothing more than wet feet and a single, mildewed, poisonous toadstool. Thank god for thoughtful, skillful colleagues.
Björn bequeathed to me a good handful of chanterelles: small, golden trumpets of explosive, fungal flavour. Surprisingly thoughtful for a man named after a ferocious wild animal, he had cleaned, chopped and froze them, ready for use in any number of seasonal, Swedish classics.
I opted for chanterelle sauce, a rich, creamy number that I served with a piece of rare-grilled rump steak, much to the family’s delight.
The sauce is easy: heat up a little chicken or veal stock, add a splash of cream, chuck in the mushrooms and simmer for five to ten minutes. Delicious.
I probably won’t be heading out into the woods again anytime soon, for fear of poisoning my family. But if Björn happens to be passing, I hope he remembers me.