Frills and gills

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 2011, 12:00am


One of the prettiest of edible mushrooms, the chanterelle's bright yellowy orange colour shines through even when freshly picked and covered with soil.

The cap is trumpet-shaped with frilly edges; the underside has deep ridges that run down to the stem. The ridges are a good hiding place for soil and bugs, so they should be checked carefully, then rinsed quickly just before the mushrooms are cooked.

Although chanterelles look distinctive, there are similar-looking non-edible varieties that can cause symptoms ranging from indigestion to liver damage - and/or death.

Chanterelles grow in woods and fields in shady, moist but not soggy conditions in parts of Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. There are several types of edible varieties, each with their own flavour and shade of yellow.

They're all highly prized (and expensive), and can be eaten fresh or dried for use later (these need to be rehydrated in warm water). They range in size from tiny - about 5mm long - to 5cm and larger.

In fresh or dried form, chanterelles are delicious when sauteed in butter with a little garlic, salt and a splash of wine and/or cream. Serve this with pan-fried veal or chicken.

For a filling pasta dish, saute the chanterelles in butter with a little garlic and diced shallot. Add some white wine and when most of it has been absorbed, add al dente pasta and stir to coat with the mushrooms and their buttery juices. Put the pasta on a plate, add a dollop of mascarpone cheese, and let it melt into the pasta to create a rich sauce.