Because of the terribly rainy summer, Sweden is invaded with golden chanterelles at the moment. My stepmum complains over being bombarded with everyone’s beautifully instagrammed pictures of them on twitter. The chanterelles, which only grow in the wild, have a floral, spicy and slightly nutty flavour with hints of apricot, and are known in Sweden as the gold of the forest (and the price tag for fresh ones in London suggests there’s something to that name). All the more reason to write about these tasty beauties, so here is my mini-guide to finding, picking and eating them.
Finding. My sister-in-law who is from the dark forests of Värmland has what we in Sweden call kantarellnäsa – chanterelle nose. This has nothing to do with the appearance of her cute, shapely nose, but rather to her mysterious talent of finding these mushrooms in the wild. No matter how hard I try, I never find as many as she does. Her main tips are to look on small hills in the forest with a sunny side, in areas where birches grow sparsely together with large fir trees. If you lift the lowest branches of fir trees growing in these conditions, you can often find some chanterelles. Also, stay clear of patches of the forest where lingonberry and blueberry bushes grow, because if you find one of these you’re rather unlikely to find chanterelles nearby. Chanterelles like rainy summers but also heat, so like grape vine they enjoy hillsides where they can soak up as much warmth from the sun as possible (however they tend to live in the undergrowth, so you rarely find them in direct sunlight).
Foraging. Whilst picked berries can be placed and stored in plastic containers, mushrooms should ideally be placed in an airy basket lined with newspaper, and be wrapped in newspaper in the fridge when stored at home. If you actually make your way to Scandinavia to forage, mosquito repellent and long-sleeved thin clothing is essential. Mosquitos are simply a pain, especially in the forest if it’s been rainy and hot, which means they co-exist with the chanterelles. Also, large parts of Scandinavia have ticks in high grass, who sometimes carry Borrelia, a very serious disease if it goes untreated. So make sure to check your elbows, knees and other skin creases after coming back from the forest or meadows with high grass. If you’ve caught a tick, gently remove it with a tweezer. Normally that’s all there is to it, but if you get a red circular rash developing around the bite after a few weeks, see a doctor.
A final hazard of foraging in the wild is the risk of picking the wrong kinds of mushrooms. Unless you’re an expert, stick to picking only golden chanterelles which are unmistakably golden and hard to confuse with anything else. Do not pick any white mushrooms at all, as you might accidentally pick Vit Flugsvamp, aptly named Destroying Angel in English, which looks like this. Even a small quantity can lead to a slow and painful death, so it’s important to wash your hands if you accidentally touch one.
On the upside, most of the berries you find in the forest and meadows are perfectly edible, so after all those heavy warnings, here are some cute photos of blueberries and wild strawberries.
Cleaning. Once you’ve gathered a basketfull of chanterelles for yourself, it’s time to clean them so they are ready for the pan. For this you need a small brush and a knife to remove the bottom of the stalk with. Cut the very bottom of the stalk just to remove the dirty root, and then carefully remove any other dirt on the mushroom with a little brush. You can use an egg brush for this. This is rather time-consuming, but do not under any circumstances wash the chanterelles, as this removes a crucial part of their flavour. If you’re too impatient or scared of bacteria for this process, you may simply have to stick with green-house grown mushrooms.
Cooking. With their distinct flavour, chanterelles take-over or accompany a great array of dishes and they blend beautifully in salads with apple, in reindeer stews with lingonberry, or with scrambled eggs. However, I prefer to just enjoy them on their own, pan fried in butter, and placed on toast. This is particularly delicious if you bake your own sourdough bread and toast it on high heat in the pan you’ve cooked the chanterelles in (but baking sourdough bread is something I have yet to learn and most likely requires a mini-guide of its own). Pan-fried chanterelles require a hearty spicing of butter (and if you even consider replacing it with something lighter you might as well not bother), however you must not put it in at first, but instead turn the water out of the mushrooms by dry frying them. This is a heartbreaking process in many ways, as you’ll see your large batch of chanterelles shrink considerably.
Once their water has evaporated from the pan, add a large knob of butter and let the chanterelles soak in this whilst frying for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, increase the heat and pan-toast your bread in the leftover butter. Place the mushrooms on top of the toast and sprinkle with salt and white pepper before serving. Absolutely delicious.
Being the eastern outpost for the London part of the blog, I happily remain easterly when visiting Berlin (although it’s sort of all down to my friend Tim living in Prenzlauer berg…). Berlin is my most favourite city perhaps ever, because it has everything you could have wanted from East London but is bite-sized, lively but not intense, feels strangely Scandinavian yet wears its history like scabby scars. And if you’re into history or are just a little bit emo, that has a strange appeal as well. The eastern parts of town have an abundance of amazing food and nice places to drink, and is cheaper than the majority of the European capitals. So, here are the meatball’s favourite haunts if you want to go exploring.
Eating. My favourite restaurant in Berlin is actually Russian, and is called Gorki Park. The interior looks a bit like the cover of Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitch record, with tacky decorations and loads of old family photos framed on the walls. Settle down here after a tiring day out on town with Russian strawberry drinks or cold Moscow drafts, and order in blinis, stroganoff with potato cakes and the mixed dumpling selection (wareniki) with sour cream. Their blinis (pictured above) are large like pancakes and come with fat red caviar roe. It is delish.
If you want something more German, Cafe Hilde serves a lovely Flammkuchen with smoked salmon, lemon bits and spring onion. It’s cheap and cheerful, in a lovely café that looks like your grandmother’s living room. Lots of things in east Berlin do. When I was at Hilde they were playing The Whitest Boy Alive, so they possibly also have very good music taste. Update: (10th August 2012) neo-German restaurant Oderquelle by Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg serves absolutely superb authentic, new takes on german food without robbing you – a good option for a nice evening out – more about that place here.
The Vietnamese scene is apparently strong in Berlin and I have been told there are plenty of good places to recommend. I was particularly treated at Si An, who impressed with their cheap and excellent cocktails (just check out the beauty below), a strong yellow curry and particularly nice summer rolls with a Tamarind-y sauce (not sure if that was in them but it tasted along those lines.
Lots in Berlin is about chilling, and people seem very good at it. If you need somewhere with decent coffee and a plug so you can do work, then Oberholtz is a good place to go – my friend Elke goes all the time instead of going to uni to study. Really wish there was a place like that in London. A general nice thing about Berlin café culture is that you don’t have much pressure to earn your keep by continously buying more cakes and more coffee – everyone just sits about, reading or working.
There is also beautiful French Café Fleury (although beware of the French/bitchy service), which is just next to Gorki Park mentioned above. If the weather is sunny and you just want to enjoy something soothing on a bench/pavement around Kreuzberg, I would recommend the hazelnut ice cream from local ice producers Eismanufaktur. They have a friendly bar in Kreuzberg. Eating their ice cream makes you this happy:
Going towards the evening, there are ridiculously many bars and clubs to explore for drinking and dancing. Since Berlin is so friendly going ahead and exploring can be a lot less painful than in other places (although places like Berghain remain rather selective in their admissions policy…). Fitcher’s Vogel, with its own little facebook page, put on good night AND show football. The ambience is lovely, bar staff is very friendly and the bar is, Berlin style, decorated with a mix of tit for tat furniture and odd bits. This includes miniature buddhas in the walls, religious drawings and Gramophones in the windows.
For some old school dancing, there is always Clärchen’s Ballhaus, the oldest ball room in Berlin (since before World War one). They have a gipsy-restaurant (sadly didn’t get the chance to eat there) and you can dance all sorts of dances in the evening. Old school as in really, actually old school, not Hammer Time. Finally, if German is the word then Tomsky is a cheap, gay-friendly, smoky and loud neighbourhood bar to enjoy.
Since summer is here (and as opposed to London, it really HAS come to Berlin) then picnics with a bicycle might be the best way to enjoy the city whilst eating. German supermarkets have excellent bakery, cured meats, cheeses and quark fillings to go mental with. Not to speak of all those cakes and sweet pastries with a sweet German white wine… and there are bike rental places all over the place. Berlin is small, so with a bike you can quickly make your way to the the deserted-airport-made-public-park Tempelhof, or go listen to people embarrassing themselves at public karaoke in Mauerpark. If you fancy going a bit into the wild you can also take your bike with you on the S-bahn and head to Teufelsberg, the CIA’s now abandoned listening station in the forest outside Berlin (since it was all about listening to and intercepting what people in East Berlin were up to before the wall came down, it’s being allowed it’s entry here. It is also where Tim is standing at the top of this entry). Spooky and eerie but with beautiful views over the city, and health and safety gone out of the broken windows, it might be one of the coolest places in Berlin.
Exploring London this weekend? Have a look at the Meatball and Salted Cod map of cheap cafés, restaurant reviews, food markets and other gems. The places we have reviewed are sorted by meatball score in the left hand side, and clicking on them on the map will give you a short description and link to the review.
The other pins may have been mentioned in blog posts (like markets or shops), or are simply places we love but have not had a chance to write about yet. From now on, you’ll find the map in the sidebar to the blog, where we pin our newest reviews and finds! (however it sits a bit awkwardly in such a small sidebar so for now you might want to click “view larger map” to find it useful…)
In preparation for the weekend and hopefully some sunny weather, we’ve decided to give you a mini-guide of some of our favourite markets in London. In procrastination-overdrive we even made a map with details on where they can be found.