Growing up, I was pretty jealous of my baby cousin. She always won our family card games and always beat me at mini-golf. She knew how to shoot a rifle. And because she lived in Switzerland (and I was far away in Canada), she was entrusted with a great family secret:
Which mushrooms to pick.
My grandmother was an expert mushroom hunter. She would take morning hikes through the forest, collect them in an old wicker basket, and then make Pastetli with mushroom filling for lunch. The secret of which mushrooms to pick was then passed on to my aunt and cousin.
Because mushrooms can definitely kill you.
(The photos below are random mushrooms we found in the Könizbergwald, they are probably NOT edible. I have no idea. Ask my cousin.)
Switzerland takes mushroom hunting very seriously.
Of the over five thousand different varieties of mushrooms in the country, only around two hundred are edible and twenty are very poisonous.
Each canton has different rules about what kinds of mushrooms you can pick, when you can hunt, and how much you can take. Some cantons, like Bern and the Appenzells, state that the mushrooms must be fully grown and carefully picked by hand. In canton Graubunden, you can't pick mushrooms in a group bigger than three people (unless you are a family). In other cantons there are rules about which part of the month you can pick (generally not between the 1st and 10th). Some have a 1 kilo quota, and others let you take home 2 or 3 kilos. Others have quotas depending on the type of mushroom, with Morcheln (morels), Steinpilz (porcini) and Eierschwämme (chanterelles) being particularly treasured. If you try to take more, they will be confiscated and you will pay a fine. In St Gallen each local municipality has its own rules, and in canton Neuchâtel there are no rules at all. More here.
Every year there are numerous mushroom poisonings of varying degrees, which is why Switzerland has mushroom control stations where experts check to make sure the mushrooms you pick are not poisonous.
For a book about a mushroom trip gone terribly wrong (middle aged man has mid-life crisis, goes to a hippie retreat with hot young girlfriend, takes hallucinogenic mushrooms that turn him into a violent psychopath and then retreats into the woods to live as a mountain man), check out Die dunkle Seite des Mondes (The Dark Side of the Moon) by Swiss author Martin Suter.
250 g puff pastry
egg yolk, whisked
Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F / gas mark 4.
Roll out your puff pastry with a bit of flour until it is about ½ to ¾ cm thick.
For mushroom shaped pastry, cut a simple form out of cardboard and use a sharp knife to cut the puff pastry into the right shape. You can also use regular cutters in any shape: circles etc.
For each form you will need three cut outs in total: one base shape and two shapes with holes in the middle for the filling. Cut out the base, then stack the additional two layers on top.
Before baking, brush with egg yolk.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.
knob of butter
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
2 carrots, diced
500 g mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp flour
100 ml wine or vermouth
100 ml stock
200 ml cream
salt and pepper to taste
chives to garnish
In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat until it is bubbling. Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn't stick to the pot.
Sprinkle the flour over top and pour over the wine or vermouth, letting this cook down a bit and thicken.
Once the mixture is bubbling, add the stock and cream and cook for another couple of minutes. Give it a good stir and leave it over low heat until ready to serve.
Spoon into the baked puff pastry cases and serve immediately.
- You can buy ready to fill puff pastry cases, sometimes known as vol-au-vent shells.
- This is commonly also served with meat, namely brätkügeli (little pork meatballs).
- Don't wait to eat these, they get soggy fast.