Food and Drink Feed

Foraging for mushrooms

I love a good autumnal forage. At this time of the year, there's sloes to be found. I've found crab apples, elderberries and rose hips too in past. But my most exciting thing to forage for is, without a doubt, mushrooms. I think it's the challenge of mushroom hunting. I'm not very good at it and can't identify much, but the most common ones. But there is something gleeful about finding them. 

20151024_171046They are so expensive in the shops, so finding them is such a treat...especially when they are fried with garlic and a bit of butter. Mmmmm!!

It was mainly chanterelles that we found. But there are also three ceps somewhere in the depths of the basket.

I think we are going to try to dry some of them and see how that would be nice to have a stash to eat later this year when they are all gone. 


Chestnuts roasting...

This week I've spent quite a bit of time in the forest forging and managed to gather an enormous bag of chestnuts. I've been perusing The River Cottage Handbook on Preserves quite a lot lately (I've recently made spicy crab apple jelly from it and also beetroot relish) and spotted a recipe to make chestnut jam. Last year, I made creme de maron (vanilla and chocolate flavours)...but it doesn't keep well, so it was quite exciting to see a way to keep chestnut to enjoy off-season throughout the year. So my plan is to make a batch of the jam.



Now the last time I did anything with chestnuts, it was a real faff. Scoring, boiling and then roasting the chestnuts and then double peeling them when they are still hot...ouch, my fingers did hurt. It's worth it, but you do need to dedicate a decent amount of time to it. So this year, I thought I'd have a search online and see if there were any hints or tips for best ways of shelling them. I found a few articles which said you need to score half way around their middles (the round part of the chestnut)...and then roast them and they should open up like a clam. 

I gave it a go this morning and about half did actually pop out like a clam...I think I have some fine-tuning to do, as I think I might need to boil them for a few minutes before they go in the oven as I think the ones that didn't pop open might be due to them being too dry. So a few test runs are needed, but I'm quite please with the initial results. I'm having to roast in batches it does give me a  chance do some testing of the best method. 

I'm hoping I get to make the jam today and then, I might make some creme de maron and try glacing some of them...

Homemade butter

For some reason, when my parents recently took a trip to Wales, they thought it would be a good idea to bring back a Kilner butter maker. At the market on Saturday, there was a stall selling unpasteurised cream...perfect for giving the new butter churn a try. 

I've certainly never made butter before...but loving this type of thing...I was very keen to have a try. It's actually not that difficult, just a little time consuming. You need to churn the cream for about 15 minutes. It's a very odd thing, you think nothing is happening, nothing is happening and you keep turning and turning. Then all of a sudden it just goes. The picture is of the moment when the cream turned to butter and buttermilk. Next job is to collect the buttermilk and put to one side. It's meant to be great for scones, bread, cakes etc. Then you wash the remaining butter with ice water to get the rest of the buttermilk out. Once the water runs clear, it's time to pat the butter and remove any remaining water. I wanted salted once the water is out, you flatten the butter and sprinkle a little salt and mix it well.

My goodness, it was delicious. You need to eat it quite quickly...more quickly than butter you buy from the shops. I guess there's nothing added in home made butter to preserve it. But that makes it all the nicer and more special. I was actually really chuffed with the results and will definitely keep making it. The butter churn is a Kilner one and I would definitely recommend it. From 600mls of cream, you get about 400g of butter, so it's a pretty decent amount.  

I am becoming more and more conscious of wanting to understand where my food is coming from. January, I decided to go vegan and I really want to make sure that what I choose to eat is ethical in how it's produced. If I eat animal products, I want to make sure the animals welfare has been considered. Making my own butter, using cream from the market where the produce comes from small ethically run farms, makes me feel good. I know where the butter comes from. I know the cows aren't badly treated. This is a big part of why I can't wait to have my own chickens. I'll know where my eggs come from...that my hens are happy and have a good life. I'm considering doing another vegetarian/vegan month very soon. I have no issues with going vegan for short periods, but actually so long as I understand and know where the animal products come from and that the animals have been treated well, I'm happy to eat eggs and dairy. 

Plans for the fruit harvests

Over the past week or so, I've managed to harvest quite a bit of fruit and thought I'd have a go at making some jam. I have a large quantity of blackcurrants, and a few raspberries and blueberries. I just thought I'd throw them all into a jam. In addition, I needed to harvest more rhubarb (it's such a tough life, :)). I should have split the crowns during the winter, as they really need it. Unfortunately because I was so poorly, nothing I'd hope to get done from November to March ended up happening. As a result the rhubarb is massively over-crowded and needs to be harvested quite regularly. 

For the rhubarb, I first thought of making a rhubarb jam...but to be honest, I don't really eat a lot of jam. I already turned the last lot of strawberries in to a strawberry and chia seed jam. It's actually not really a jam and just involves mixing mashed strawberries together with chia seeds and honey or maple syrup or another sweeter. The chia seeds thicken it all together to get a jam like consistency. It's a raw food jam. In any case, that's only just I'm not keen on converting the rhubarb into jam as well. So in researching other things to do with rhubarb, I discovered a recipe for rhubarb cordial. Perfect!!! I love cordial and apparently rhubarb cordial is a lovely summer drink and you can also mix it with prosecco for a refreshing alcoholic drink. The recipe I found needs 1.5kg of rhubarb. I weighed my little haul and am about 200g short, so will grab another couple of stalks when I go and water today or tomorrow. Mmmmm, I am really looking forward to that cordial.  

Broad beans and burgers

20150111_111214I sowed broad beans back in November last year on plot 67 and surprise surprise they flourished. I did plant broad beans on Plot 18 in November 2013, but then the hurricanes came and destroyed the blow-away poly and plot 18 flooded, so no overwintered broad beans for me. Last year I bought a tray at the garden centre and planted them out in April. They did well, but I wanted another go at over wintering my own hand sown ones. 

I was really pleased with them. They grew about 4ft tall and were really lush. I harvested bag after bag of them. My good friend who also has a plot had her crop devastated by some beastie so I gave her a good carrier bag full too. She has has raved and raved about Yotam Ottolenghi's broad bean burgers. So I gave the recipe a go. They were pretty good, but difficult to keep together (perhaps I didn't mash the beans enough). By far the best dish I created with mine was a tomato, onion and broad bean salad served with campaillette. I basically simmered the broad beans for about 5 mins, chopped a large beefsteak tomato and half a red onion. I crushed the cooked bean a little and added the tomato and onion with olive oil, some herb de provence and salt and pepper. It was totally delicious. 

The broad beans are all over now. I did think about ordering some autumn cropping broad bean plants, but I've had my glut of them this year and there's something wonderful about eating seasonally. I'm sure I'll still have lots of other produce to get through by then. Plus I have lots of broad beans in my freezer which still need eating. 

P.S. I really wish I could have posted some pictures of the full sized plants or the dishes...unfortunately my phone malfunctioned and keep restarting over and over. I had to reset it to factory settings and lost all my photos. I couldn't even back it up as it would restart before the backup was complete....sooooo annoying and I really need to get into the habit of carry my camera around with me.