When the days become shorter and the leaves are changing colour and tumbling to the ground, the time to forage is here. Autumn brings a bountiful harvest of apples, blackberries, blueberries, mushrooms, truffles, herbs, seeds, and nuts, which is why it will always be my favourite season.
There’s something so special and refreshing about creating a festival of flavours that hasn’t come from the supermarket shelves. Not only can nature provide us with some delicious fresh (and free!) ingredients, foraging also comes with the added bonus of bringing us closer to our environment and encouraging us to be more active.
In Scandinavia, we are lucky that there is a law called allemansrätt, meaning ‘every man’s right’ or ‘freedom to roam’, which means there are no trespassing laws. Paired with the fact that the Nordic countries have the perfect habitat for many yummy edible foods, there is a tradition to forage.
Anna picking wild mushrooms in a Swedish forest
Recently there has been a revival in this wonderful pastime. Wild mushrooms and fresh berries can be expensive in the shops, so personally I love that I can go fruit and fungi foraging and have food for free – not to mention unearthing exciting and versatile additions to my culinary repertoire!
Chanterelles from an afternoon's foraging set out on Anna's dining table to dry.
Britain is a small country with an awful lot of people unlike Sweden which is a very large country with a small population. That means that when we are looking for mushrooms there is a vast space which has not been discovered by others and the mushroom beds lie undisturbed until we come along and forage!
Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite foraging item is the mushroom. Although it may not appear to be the sexiest thing in the forest, mushrooms are incredibly versatile. They can drastically improve the flavour of a risotto or soup, as well as being a wonderful dish in their own right when fried in hot butter, seasoned with a generous dusting of salt and pepper, and served on thick toast. There is seldom anything more exciting than finding a rare and delicious wild mushroom.
Trompettes de la mort
Picking trompettes de la mort (also called horn of plenty or black chanterelles)
Since early childhood going into a wood where I haven’t been before and coming across little black curly trompettes de la mort has been a heart quickening experience. They are rare and some say it is the equivalent of finding a good truffle. Curiously when you actually tune your eyes into finding them, they seem to be everywhere; hence the other name for this delicate mushroom – ‘cornucopia’ or ‘horn of plenty’. These incredible mushrooms are particularly abundant after heavy rain. I love serving them in a risotto instead of the usual cèpes or ‘penny buns’ as they have a special earthy taste and a wonderful texture. They also dry very easily without spoiling and some say they are better dried than fresh. I often grind dried trompettes de la mort into a powder using a pestle and mortar and add it to stews. I find that this enhances the taste significantly.
Recipes being tasted at Borough Market
With foraging playing such a major part in Swedish culture there are many recipes that make use of free pickings. For instance, try my recipe for kantarell pesto (chanterelle pesto), shown being tasted above after our demonstration at London's Borough Market), or nypongelé (rosehip jelly). Both are absolutely Swedelicious (!) and you won't find them on the shelves of supermarkets, so you will be making something quite special.
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