Posts Tagged ‘mushrooms’

Madame Forager and friends survive the mushrooms!

Ok, guys. Let’s get to it. It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The unveiling of the first harvest of my home grown mushrooms.

Let me remind you how they looked on Tuesday morning.

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And this is how they looked on Tuesday evening.

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I cut the biggest ones, split them in half and threw in a few shitake mushrooms I found in the fridge to bulk it up a little as there were five hungry mouths to feed. I fried them for about five minutes in a little bit of truffle butter and a splash of olive oil, until they had softened and started to sizzle. I fried for a few seconds longer then sprinkled a little truffle salt over to serve.

As there were only a few of the mushrooms, I didn’t want them to get lost in a bigger dish of vegetables so we had pea and mint soup to start, then the mushrooms were like a little post-soup novelty feature – just a small bite, given a space of it’s own in the evening’s dining. We all ummed and ahhed and made the appropriate noises to make sure all the weeks of growing had been worth it. And they were actually tasty (helped by the hints of truffly goodness). 

Then we had our main meal, a parmigiana with loads of greens on the side. More umming and ahhing and my self esteem shot through the roof. For, as I have previously mentioned (and anyone who loves cooking for and feeding others knows), it’s the praise for our food that makes us feel it is also praise for us. We feel loved when someone compliments our courgettes or enthuses about our endive.

All in all, it was a successful evening and a successful mushroom course, I’d say.

And no-one got mushroom poisoning (unlike the woman who picked some mushrooms from her garden to add to a can of mushroom soup and died).

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Well, that’s me for today. I’m off to Ham House in a mo to get my 17th century scullery maid groove on.

Madame Forager strikes again

And so the foraging fun continues. There have been lots more nettles, which have found their way into soups….

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… But there have also been dandelion leaves, which went into a lamb stew. Apparently, you can eat every bit of a dandelion plant, from root to flower, and it’s really good for you.

The next thing I’m about to tell you I’ve ‘foraged’ is a bit of a cheat because I’ve been growing it myself. I got the kit from Hen and Hammock and planted it shortly after getting back from Italy at the end of April. You ‘plant’ it in the pages of a book you have soaked with water. Then you wrap the whole thing in plastic for a few weeks, until it starts to grow a white fluff. Then you cut the bag open and let the little mushrooms start to grow.

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Within three or four days, they have swelled up like some alien GM food and the dark pinhead cups have faded a little…

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… With just two or three more days of growing, they are getting pretty big and ready for eating.

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The plan is to harvest them tonight when two vegetarian friends arrive for dinner. I’ll probably fry them in a bit of truffle butter.

So I haven’t even eaten them yet! So most of this post has been a lie. I told you I ‘foraged some mushrooms’ when I should have said, ‘I am growing some mushrooms from a kit I bought and I will eat them this evening.’

If there is another post tomorrow morning, you will know I have survived the ‘foraged’ mushrooms.

G is for…

GARDEN!

I have utilised two of my recent blogging themes today (Trying To Be Useful and AtoZ) to tell you about the latest exciting developments in my garden.

Simon Gear, in Going Greener, told me to start a compost heap, which I love the idea of and have been meaning to do for ages anyway. Then my Abel and Cole deliveries started and there were little hints in their booklet, of what to recycle etc. One of the things they mentioned was composting. So it seemed like I was being nudged into finally actually doing it and I took the plunge and started searching around online for a good composting option.

Before long, I came across the Wiggly Wigglers and started to get excited. I’d heard about composting by using worms and on this site, I found a starter kit for £32 which would get me started on using worms to make compost out of my old scraps of food waste.

The basic principle is this. I put my old food in the top, the worms eat the old food, the worms do a poo, the poo is compost that I can use in my garden, to grow my tomatoes and herbs and chillies.

It’s like having a small farm containing only worms in a bin, kind of. So just the worms. And no other animals. And no eggs or milk. Just the compost. So sort of like a small farm. Sort of.

My next garden-related challenge from Simon Gear was a challenge to grow my own veggies. Now, the tomatoes, herbs and chillies are a standard summer installation in the garden so I decided to expand a little more, to step out of my gardening comfort zone.

A friend recently told me about a grow-your-own oyster mushroom farm thing so I checked it out again and decided it fitted well with my instructions and have ordered one. The idea goes something like this – soak a paperback book in water, scatter the mushroom seeds inbetween the pages, put it in the bag they send with the seeds, leave it on a windowsill, watch your mushrooms grow. Apparently I will get about three crops from it.

Books and mushrooms, what’s not to love?!

I shall report back on both the worm farm and the mushrooms. They are due to arrive in the post any day now. Oo, you should get some too! Then we can compare notes on how our baby worms are doing, like mothers in the playground.

P. S. Following on from previous posts, I have not been to a supermarket for 12 days. So for 12 days, I have only bought or eaten food that was grown locally, by people who I have taken the time to do some research about. It feels great. I have also not taken a bath, since I was told to shower instead.

Danda, the phone and the dinner

Life with Danda is filled with fun. There are days out, there are long evenings talking nonsense and watching films, there are walks filled with Danda’s extensive knowledge of history, there are occasional bouts of cleaning and, weather permitting, lots of him gardening and me drinking tea and watching. Omygoodness, there is tea. So much tea. You can never have enough tea. But most of all, life with Danda is filled with hilarity. Stomach-clutching, eye-watering hilarity. Let me demonstrate.

Danda and the dinner
The other night, Danda offered to make the dinner. I’d like to think it’s because I had been working hard that day and was tired but I was probably just being lazy. We did one of those easy put-a-load-of-stuff-in-the-oven dinners. So I sat in the front room drinking tea, reading a book and listening to the sounds of Danda making dinner.

After about half an hour, he went to the oven to check and shouted that it was ready. I arrived in the kitchen and pottered around getting cutlery etc. As I turned around to collect my plate of food Danda had the two plates in front of the microwave as the microwave pinged.

In a moment of madness, he reached behind the plates and pressed the ‘open door’ button. The door did indeed open… sending one of the plates of food out at a hundred miles an hour before leaning gently to the floor and landing, surprisingly, facing upwards. The problem came with the speed that the plate hit the floor causing the fish and mushrooms to keep moving while the plate had stopped.

The plate that dropped, by the way, was mine.

Employing the three second rule, I whipped the food up off the floor quicker than you can say ‘clumsy’ and handed back to Danda to defluff.

I honestly couldn’t tell it had taken a little trip southwards as I ate it but, once Danda had got over his annoyance at himself, it was difficult to eat dinner because we couldn’t stop laughing about his casual lean around the plates to open the microwave door!

Danda and the phone
On Wednesday, Danda and I went to see Argo (fabulous, by the way). For those of you not in the UK, I don’t know if you get this thing called Orange Wednesdays. But basically, there is a phone company called Orange and if you are with them, you can text them on a Wednesday and they will send you a code to get two for one at the cinema. We have an old phone with a sim card in for Orange. Neither of uses it as our normal phone so this old phone sits in a drawer all week until Wednesdays, when we let it out.

So two days ago, Wednesday, I came home from work, turned on the Orange phone and sent the text to get a code. Until Danda came in, the phone was sitting on the table. When he came in, there was a flurry of phones and keys and purses, as the film was starting soon.

We walked to the cinema, it is only about fifteen minutes walk away. We got there with about ten minutes before the film would start.

“Two for one to see Argo please,” we told the boy behind the counter.

“Yep. Have you got your Orange Wednesday code?”

Danda turned to me. I checked my pocket. It wasn’t there.

“You must have it,” I said with certainty.

He checked his jeans pockets.

“I haven’t.”

My face dropped. I had made a point of tapping my pocket before we left and saying “Got the phone!” O man. I whipped off my jacket, held out my hands for the keys and said, “I’ll have to run back and get it.”

“No,” said Danda. “We’ll go together.”

I tried to insist on him letting me run back but he said we’d walk back together.

“Hold those tickets!” we told the boy and sped off out of the cinema and round the corner.

Laughing at ourselves, I mused aloud what had happened to the phone.

“I seem to remember something. Something about the phone and you keeping it or me keeping it. I had it in my pocket, remember? Where can I have put it?”

Danda chuckled good-naturedly, for he is a forgiving soul and wouldn’t hold it against me. It was a little chilly, so he put his hands in his coat pockets as we walked…..

And found the phone.

Yep.

It was in Danda’s pocket all the time…..

After a severe bout of laughing till we almost wet ourselves, we turned and ran back to the cinema. The film had almost started by now. We arrived a little out of breath, the same boy looking at us. We had only been gone about three minutes.

“It was in his pocket the whole time!” I exclaimed loudly, pointing at Danda.

At least I was in the clear….

P.S. I’ve got some time free today so will be on to some world-saving. I’ll report back tomorrow.

On mushrooms

Yesterday, I found an old skirt which had little pictures of mushrooms all over it and so I wrote about mushrooms for my Nanny Rhino. I am going to share my mushroom chat with you as I wrote ten thousand words yesterday catching up on the days I missed with Nanny Rhino so I am all written out for a day or so.

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There are so many things to do and places to go with mushrooms that it’s hard to know where to start. I’d love to start in Rome, where any restaurant worth it’s salt would be proudly displaying a wooden crate of porcini mushrooms on one of its tables outside. Since this visit and my mass consumption of the fantastic porcini mushrooms, I am struggling with eating them here as they are all of the dried variety, which was fine and nice and lovely, until I saw the fresh ones in Italy. Now I feel differently about dried porcini. I feel a bit sad for them as they are trapped there on the shelf, in a little jar, moisture-less. Without any fresh porcini of my own, I am simply not eating porcini mushrooms. It is a sad state of affairs. Dried porcini are great for risottos though, as you can use the soaking liquids to hydrate your rice. It’s still not quite the same though, is it?

 

My next favourite mushroom is probably an oyster mushroom as I love their shape and texture. I love how wild and uncouth they look, all misshapen and not at all uniform like their little cousins, the button mushrooms. The problem with this could be that people may mistake your oyster mushrooms in your stir fry for a slab of fat off the meat (as happened to me when making a duck stir-fry), so it’s your decision whether you want to run the risk of being thought of as a ‘fat-cooker’.

 

Shiittake are my next favourite, for similar reasons to the oyster mushroom. It is kind of irregular and a dark mysterious colour. They have a great flavour that I love cooking with beef in a stir-fry.

 

Enoki mushrooms, so long and thin and tiny are great for throwing into dishes last minute, for an extra bit of flavour. Their size means they don’t need much cooking before they soften and taste lovely. I love putting them onto a pizza last minute before quickly oven baking it as it adds another element to something with relatively few ingredients.

 

Next we have the portobello and the chestnut mushrooms, larger, meatier and better for roasting than their smaller counterparts. They can also hold their own quite well in a pie or vegetarian lasagne with spinach and ricotta.

 

Lastly we have the humble button mushroom, great for general use, fabulous fried in a breakfast, but with less of the qualities that draw me so well to the other mushrooms.

 

Actually, I have a less-than-fantastic memory connected to a portobello mushroom. I was seeing a guy for a few months and we could both see that things were in steady decline. In the height of our excitement while things were great, though, we had booked tickets to go to a literature festival somewhere in the countryside. The ticket had been quite expensive and I had booked the day off work so I was reluctant to give it up. Also the gentleman in question didn’t seem that keen on letting the relationship go, although I knew he knew it was over.

 

He was all up for driving there and giving me a lift and acting like things were fine so I took the lift, slept all the way there and planned other similar tactics of avoidance once there. I thought I’d just potter off and get lost in the crowds. He wasn’t so easy to shake though. It took him hours to finally say he fancied seeing something he didn’t think I’d like and wandering off in the other direction.

 

I found the furthest away corner and went for a long walk among the trees, where none of the fun was happening. I saw a group of people open water swimming and got chatting and generally just soaked up the lovely day. I eventually got back into the foray of people and book stalls and performances and fun and watched an old work colleague doing performance poetry. Here, I had solace. Should the gentleman wander along and want to sit down, I could say I was busily engaged in supporting my friend and paying attention to his performance and apologies but I wasn’t able to have a chat right now. The gentleman did not appear though and the next performer was hilarious so I stayed there. At one of the food stands nearby, I ordered an amazing portobello mushroom burger with halloumi cheese and red pepper. I sat down with my burger, deep in thoughts about life and this tasty mushroom burger. It was such a great moment, there, sitting on the ground, with people milling about, books in hands, intelligent discussion being had all around me, a performer on a little stage not far away and these beautiful purple flowers lining a little garden wall to my left.

 

That’s when the gentleman came along, greeted me in surprise and sat down next to me, ruining my moment. My excuses for silence were none, apart from the tasty mushroom burger in my hands, which required all of my attention. We were stuck together again then, for the rest of the afternoon, until it all became too painfully obvious and, in a quiet late afternoon moment, sitting on the grass, he fell asleep and I sneaked away, got my bag and headed for the nearest main road to find a train station and scarper off back home, away from this awful awkwardness that I should never have embarked upon in the first place.

Ever wondered how to make the complicated dish known as ‘mushrooms on toast’?

I apologise for leaving you all hanging so long but here it is finally, a little catch up with our favourite magazine, Chat.

My first stop off today is on the photo page. I’ve talked about this before, about how people just send photos of themselves or people they know, doing mundane stuff, which is of no interest to anyone else. For example, this week we’ve got a photo of a cat playing with water running from a tap, a picture of someone’s mum smiling and a baby looking surprised. The best one, though, is this one.
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The caption says “I love knitting! So much so that I made myself a little band of pirates.” What on earth?! How does her love of KNITTING explain why she’s made herself a load of pirates?! A jumper, perhaps? A scarf? Things which have more use. What use has a grown woman for six knitted pirates? And how does that prove her love of knitting? I’d say it proves two things – 1. Her love of cuddly toys. 2. The lack of excitement in her life.

Talking of toys, there is an amazing letter from a reader on the We Hear You page. It’s from a woman who talks about struggling with not having any children. She has found some comfort in her sufferings though…. “I have been collecting dolls for over 40 years! They’ve really helped me through the hard times.”

One good thing in Chat is a section called Bit On The Side. It’s often got things in like comparing prices and quality of microwave meals, usually Asda comes out on top for a ‘tasty’ looking microwave lasagne or something. Sometimes it has a fashion item. This week there are five pairs of summery wedge sandals. I’m definitely NOT on the wedge sandal bandwagon so that bit disappointed me.

Occasionally there are recipes. This week’s recipe is hilarious. If I tell you what it is, I’m not sure you’d believe me. So here’s a photo to prove it.
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Mushrooms on toast! MUSHROOMS! ON TOAST! A ‘recipe’? Is that a recipe? Honestly. The ingredients are (are you ready?) butter, olive oil, mushrooms, bread, salt and pepper, tarragon. O wait! There’s one more I’ve missed. It’s the ‘2tbsp ready-chopped garlic (available in jars from the supermarket).’ God forbid the readers of Chat might be asked to obtain some fresh garlic and actually chop it! No no! Mustn’t do that! Get it pre-chopped. In a jar. From a supermarket. Don’t venture out to a local farmer’s market and get some recently dug up from ground, still a bit muddy. Urgh! Freshness, urgh! No, best to get it in a jar already chopped from Tesco.

The recipe, let’s look at the recipe. I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow it. It already sounds way complicated. Ok, first cook the mushrooms in a pan. Then toast the bread. Then add the garlic to the mushrooms. Then add the tarragon and seasoning. Then put the mushrooms on the toast. I’ll need a lesson on Masterchef before I attempt that one, I think.

Ok, the Blimey, That’s Clever page is great this week. The best by far is this.

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The ‘tip’ is, keep some eggshells, draw faces on them and put cress seeds in them. When it grows it looks like hair…. That’s not a tip. It’s just not a tip. It’s nonsense. I have no more to say on this one.

Finally, there’s this tip…

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The woman who writes the tip says her granddaughter, Beatrice, found this pouffe comfortable. That’s it. That’s the tip. If you have a baby and a pouffe, put them together….

I know you’ve enjoyed this catch up with Chat. I’m just sorry there was such a long pause between the last catch up and this one. I promise not to leave you hanging for so long next time.

Dicing with death in Richmond Park

The day before yesterday, I had a day off and decided I was going to do an epic trip around some of London’s open spaces.

I started the day by watching the Olympic torch pass by. While I didn’t feel especially excited, I thought that in the spirit of Getting Excited About Stuff (a challenge I set myself a little while back), it might be good fun. And sure enough, it was. The build up took a while, one convoy came, then some motorbikes, then some running people. It went on and on. And by the time came, I barely had time to take one, slightly rubbish, photo and then it was gone.

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It was fun though, and the atmosphere was lively.

Then I headed up to Richmond Park to start a walk which also took in Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common. As I came out of the Roehampton Gate of the park, I managed to catch this amazing picture of a butterfly on a flower.

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I went to university in Roehampton so was back on familiar ground as I followed the road toward Putney Heath. I couldn’t resist popping up the little high street to a place called Dong Phuong’s, which we ordered from with such regularity that they didn’t even ask our address when we ordered anymore. O, the junk-food-related memories…

Next I was on Putney Heath and starting to feel the heat. I rifled through my bag and came up with some Body Shop body butter so slathered myself in it and hoped for the best. It didn’t have any sunblocking qualities. It was just moisturiser. But it was the best I had.

I fought my way through thick foliage…

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…until I suddenly stumbled onto an open playing field and a beautiful little hidden country pub called The Telegraph.

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From here it was a short walk to go under the motorway and on the other side I was greeted by Wimbledon Common and a beautiful pond, called King’s Mere. Virginia Woolf apparently called this end of the Common, ‘the bleak end.’ Now I don’t know Miss Woolf personally but I would argue that the bleakness was maybe not in the Common but in herself because this end of the Common is fabulous. It’s a riot of overgrown trees and paths. Everywhere I stepped, wildlife teemed. It was on this stretch that I saw two rabbits, a mother and ducklings, could hear the constant sound of birds and lots of dog walkers wandering about too. Not bleak at all.

This was my view during my Chocolate Stop (I was walking this one alone so was allowed a Chocolate Stop whenever I wanted).

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From here I walked toward Putney Vale Cemetery, which was essentially overflow, when all the church graveyards nearby were too full. At the end of this was a war memorial and some rugby grounds and that’s when I started getting hot again. The sun was out full blast. No clouds, just raw, untarnished, skin-cancer-inducing sun. I’d been shaded by trees for most of my walk until now. But as I crossed over the road and re-entered Richmond Park by the Robin Hood Gate, I started to worry and applied a second layer of my verging-on-useless body butter.

As I struck out across country, trying to get through the park as quickly as possible, I found myself with zero tree cover and started to regret my decision to wear jeans. Hotter and hotter, I got. I started to wonder if it was possible to die of heat in England. My water supply was rapidly diminishing and suddenly… I was in the middle of a group of extremely threatening looking deer with massive antlers!

Shit! How had that happened? Was I in such a heat daze that I hadn’t noticed them? I stopped…. They were heading straight to me…. I wasn’t terrified as such but I was quite nervous!

I started to edge sideways into the long grass and crouch slightly, trying to become invisible. Then I worried that they might think I was crouching ready to attack so I stood up tall again. They split and started walking either side of me. So close!

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They kept walking a few steps, looking at me, going again, stopping to look… Etc. It went on for what felt like ages until they were eventually all on one side of me. I carefully edged away from them, the deer looking back at me threateningly all the while. After about ten minutes of creeping and trying look as inconspicuous as possible, I continued on my path, heart racing. It was all very exciting/nerve-racking.

Shortly after this, because I had gone into the long grass, I stumbled across some mushrooms and was beyond tempted to take one home and cook it! I didn’t though, because I have no idea about which mushrooms are safe to eat.

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It wasn’t long after this that I reached Richmond Gate, my start point, and some trees to hide my burning shoulders under. I think I might wait until late afternoon next time I want to do a five hour trek in the open!

Lessons I have learned from this walk = don’t wear jeans on a long walk, always carry suncream, make sure the t-shirt you catch a tan in, is pretty much the same shape of most of your other t-shirts. I am suffering the teasing of having an odd shaped tan at the moment.

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