Chanterelles or girolles, the former more precise as derived from the Latin name of the species, are the little sunny autumnal pots of flavour. No fuss cooking, serve them on toast for an amazing treat.
Foraging for mushrooms
If you’re a keen forager – or live outside Britain – you’ll know the little yellow wild mushrooms that grow in sandy patches of pine forests. The environment self-explains why they are not common here outside perhaps parts of Scotland: for some reason, when Britain broke off the main continent eight thousand years ago, it left behind in France all the mycelium that wild mushrooms grow from and spread by.
Wild mushrooms like the continent
When I hear of foraging for mushrooms in the UK, I laugh my head off. Let me demonstrate the difference: in the autumnal market in Munich, Germany a few years ago I saw stalls creaking under piles – mountains! – of ceps, chanterelles, and many more whose names are only known in languages other than English. They were sold by a kilo and even a wagonful wouldn’t break the bank.
And then I visited a farmers’ market in West Sussex that featured a very small basket of non-descript and hardly edible-looking wild mushrooms for a tenner or so. The stall holder almost bit my head off when I dared attempt to touch one of that sorry crop.
Girolles or chanterelles?
There is a problem with the name of the little yellow ones: as a sworn Francophile I always called those mushrooms ‘girolles’ and when, rarely, I saw them on restaurants’ menus, they were named thus too. It turns out I was pretending to be French or just being pretentious because the correct word for them in English is ’chanterelles’. It reflects the Latin name of the species Cantherellus cibarius and describes precisely the type of (yellow, small, sandy) mushroom.
And what are trumpet mushrooms?
There is apparently another type of related mushroom, called trumpet chanterelles: much more scraggly, reedy and not very appetising.
And there’s the rub: on the continent they don’t even bother picking those because they have plenty big fat funghi to choose from. Here in England we split hairs over the third division ones and try to convince ourselves that even oyster mushrooms are ‘wild’ or at least ‘exotic’.
How to clean and cook chanterelles
Unlike bog standard farmed cups or chestnuts, chanterelles have bags of flavour. They need not much cooking, just sautéing in a little butter, a sprinkle of salt and a twist of pepper mill.
They also do not need washing which might be hard to stomach for the modern hygiene-obsessed folk but you’ll ruin them if you soak them. They are not usually dirty: a few pine needles, sand and a grain of soil is all; easily removed with a paper towel or a soft brush.
And piled on a nice thickly cut toasted bread – a feast. Bliss. Divine.