Quick Braised Wild and Oyster Mushrooms

Remember our beautiful walk recently?  We had such a wonderful morning and came home with about half a kilo of wild mushrooms.

Because they were so fresh, I knew they would keep for a day or two, so in the first dish I made, I used half of them and kept things very simple.

We grow oyster mushrooms in our garage. No, don´t worry – there´s no nasty fungus creeping up the walls or anything.  You can buy bales of straw which are impregnated with mushroom spores and then wrapped in black plastic.  You cut slits into the plastic and keep the “alpaca” as these bales are known in the dark and ensure that they are kept damp.  About a week after acquiring your little treasure your first mushrooms will appear.  Just cut and eat.  Then when you´ve harvested as many as you can, you flip the alpaca over and cut a few more slits.  If you keep it going you can be eating your own grown oyster mushrooms for several months.

I took about the same quantity of oyster mushrooms as wild, cut the wild mushrooms into thick slices and tore the oyster mushrooms into strips.

In a deep terracotta dish (or you could use a frying pan) I added three crushed cloves to garlic to the mushrroms together with about 3 good tablespoons of olive oil, some Maldon (or kosher) salt, several good grinds of black pepper and two red chillis (these are optional).  I turned the heat up to high and as soon as the mushrooms began to sizzle I reduced it and covered them to let them sweat and get tender for about 10 minutes.  I then removed the lid and added a small glass of dry white wine and let everything bubble away until the liquid had reduced by half.

We ate this as a starter with plenty of rosé wine and some crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.

 

PS. On a totally different subject – since I changed the look of my blog (i.e I changed the theme) my photos don´t seem to appear properly.  They are cut off on the right hand side!  Has anyone come across this and do they know how to resolve it? Thanks for any advice anyone might be able to offer me.

I´ve gone right off Medlars….

Ms Chica Andaluza, Somewhere Up a Mountain in Andalucia

Dear Ms Andaluza

We understand that you have recently made Quince Jelly, something which the readers of Mediaevel Medlar Monthly would be most interested in reading about in more detail.  A reporter will contact you shortly to arrange details of the interview.

Yours most sincerely

Ye Olde Editore, Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

Reporter: So Ms Andaluza

Chica Andaluza: Oh please, do call me Chica

R: OK, Chica it is.  The Medlar is not a widely known fruit, what do you know about it?

CA: Well, I suggest your readers check out this excellent post by Mad Dog, which gives some fantastic information about this fruit which was traditionally used to make fruit jellies and cheeses.

R:  How did you manage to get hold of your medlars then?

CA: I have a lovely friend, Florence, who let me pick a whopping 8kgs of fruit from her tree for my first journey into medlar jelly making.

R: Tell us a little more about it then

CA: Well, the fruit has to be “bletted” or almost left to rot before it´s edible.  This is the fruit when we picked it.

And this is the fruit about 2 weeks later.

R: Talk me through the process of making the jelly then

CA:  I used about 5kgs of the fruit which was “rotten” enough, and washed it to remove dust and leaves.  It tastes, as a fruit, of something like prunes and plums…a sweet, pleasant, earthy taste.

Then I added just enough water to cover the fruit and cooked it until it was mushy.

R: How did you know how much water to add?

CA: I searched the internet for recipes, which were all a little vague.  In retrospect, I should probably have used more water.

The reporter notes at this point that the subject of the interview is beginning to tremble slightly and mutter under her breath.

R: Once they were “mushy”, what did you do?

CA: The fruit has to be strained through jelly bags to extract the liquid which is then boiled with about two thirds of its weight in sugar until it reaches setting point.

The interviewee is beginning now to behave like Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films – shaking and twitching uncontrollably when the word Medlar (rather than Clouseau) is used.  A glass of wine calms the situation down a little.

R: Is there any special kitchen equipment needed for making this jelly?

CA: I´d recommend a step ladder

R: How so?

CA: Well, you need a large jug to put the jelly strainer over.  I went to get one out of my “despensa” and could not be bothered to get the step ladder, and tried to hook it down with a metal skewer. This resulted in a large wooden tray crashing onto my face and giving me a black eye.

Almost a week later and it still hurts!

R: Oh dear, any other experience you´d like to share with our readers…

CA:  Well, it took me almost 48 hours to strain the juice from the pulp.

R: That must have been a lot of juice

CA: Not really, about half a litre

R: Oh…

CA: And then I had to boil the syrup to hell and back to get it anywhere near setting point, so most of it evaporated

R: Oh…how many jars did you make in the end

CA: Not quite 2. I had envisioned inviting Roger over to take photos of my extensive stock of Amber hued jelly, but I don´t think I´ll bother now.

R: Will you be doing this again then?

At this point the interview was terminated as the interviewee collapsed into a hysterical heap clutching her eye and a large bottle of wine muttering “never again, never again”.

Ms Chica Andaluza, Somewhere Up a Mountain in Andalucia

Dear Ms Andaluza

Thank you very much for giving so generously of your time recently, particularly in your most delicate state of health.  Whilst we wish you a speedy recovery, we do not feel that the tone of the interview will convey the message of the true beauty, flavour and versatility of the Medlar fruit and will not be publishing your interview.

Yours most sincerely

Ye Olde Editore, Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

Advertisement recently seen in Mediaeval Medlar Monthly

FOR SALE: Almost two jars of unset medlar jelly, offers over £500 per jar or will exchange for a small house or sports car. Serious buyers only please.

The Lengths (or Heights) We Go To For A Mushroom

The rain poured down all night and some time around 4am, Big Man woke up and mumbled “If it´s sunny tomorrow and we set off early, we´ll go and look for mushrooms”.  Of course, he rolled over again, snoring was resumed and sleep once more descended.

The next day did dawn bright and sunny, we just slept through the dawn and a few hours of the beautiful  morning too, if the truth be told.  However, the weather was perfect for a long walk and if we found a few mushrooms too…well, that would be a bonus.  Please join us on our mushroom (or Setas as they are called here) scavenge.

You´ll need:

  • Two slightly overweight and unfit adults, brimming with enthusiasm and suitably attired and shod for walking
  • Two energetic pups
  • One pick up truck
  • 2 ham and cheese rolls for breakfast, water for adults and pups, doggy treats, camera
  • Net bag for collecting mushroom haul (so that the spores can fall out and spread more mushroomy goodness)
  • Penknife for cutting them (never pull up by the root)

Directions

Drive truck 4km up steep and slightly scary mountain track behind house, allow dogs to run enthusiastically behind.

Park up and start to climb.

Pass huge, rampaging wild animals and ignore The Goatherd With No Shame when he tells you there is nothing to be found and he hasn´t been up that way for weeks.  We saw the fresh tracks of his horses…you can´t fool us!

Admire old well.

Continue past The Lightning Tree.

Stop for a moment to catch your breath and look back at the view of the lake and then the sea in the distance.

Cross (not so) raging torrent.

Avoid anthills.

Finally…your first mushroom!

Keep going for three hours with a little break for breakfast and a chat with the Honest Goatherd who sends you off to look behind the Old Fig Tree where you are rewarded with a bumper find of mushrooms.

500g grams of delicious mushrooms which you will take home to make something delicious with. But more of that another time. Time for a cold beer and to ease your muddy boots off.  A good morning´s mushroom hunting all round.

Oh My – Chicken Pie!

On my recent trip to London I spent plenty of time talking to my mum.  As a fellow cook and foodie herself, we talked quite a lot about food. As you do.  She mentioned that she really enjoys making and eating pies, but that my dad is not so keen on them.  When she asked me what Big Man´s view was (you can tell can´t you that this was a deep and meaningful conversation) I realised that I had never made him a savoury pie.

Of course, once I was home, I couldn´t get the thought of a chicken, mushroom and bacon pie out of my head.  The rain came down, the fog closed in, the tiny hole in the roof that we think we´ve fixed each year started its relentless drip, drip, dripping.  It was time to make that pie.

I´d bought two old fashioned pudding basins in a junk an antique shop in Lewes, a beautiful town where a friend of mine is hoping to move.  As I´d managed to get them home without breaking them, I needed to road test them.

Making a pie is a straightforward business if you´re using ready made puff pastry – which was the case for me. If you´re making your own pastry (flaky or shortcrust), it´s not all that much extra work, just a little waiting time while it rests in the fridge.

To make two hearty pies I used

  • 2 small chicken breasts, cubed
  • About 4 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into small cubes (or use lardons or pancetta)
  • 6 mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of chicken broth (or you can use a mixture of milk and water)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Seasoning
  • Puff pastry
  • One beaten egg

Put the chicken into the flour which you will have seasoned and toss it around.  Heat the oil in a deep frying pan remove the chicken from the flour and seal it.  Don´t throw the flour left in the bowl away.  Now add the bacon and mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until the mushrooms have softened.

Add the remaining flour to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon to slightly cook the flour and then gradually add the stock whilst stirring to prevent lumps forming.  Once the liquid has all been added, turn up the heat and let it bubble gently until it reaches the consistency of pouring custard.

Put the mixture into a pie dish or small oven proof dishes if you want to do individual portions. Lay the puff pastry over the top, trim if necessary and cut a couple of small slits in the top to let the steam escape. Brush with the beaten egg and bake in a medium over (about 180º C) for about 25 mins or until the pastry is golden brown and risen.

Delicious served with baked or mashed potatoes and vegetables.  I made runner beans in garlic and tomato, we drank wine and watched the rain dripping down the windows.  Big Man voted the pie a big hit, and now wants to know if I can make him a beef one. I think we can safely say that we have another pie eating convert in the family.

For an idea of what to do with any leftover puff pastry, check out this tasty recipe.