Tag Archives: wild mushrooms

Local food, foraging and an Autumn supper

One of the things I have noticed since I started hosting supper club is that I use the supermarket less and less…not just when sourcing for suppers but for all of my everyday purchases. Okay, there are some things I struggle to get elsewhere, or at least for a competative price, but the majority of the food that now enters my house is locally produced. As a result of this we as a family eat better, have great foodie contacts and are no longer drowing in a sea of plastic (since I stopped supermarket shopping my plastic recycling has been cut by two thirds). Carbon footprint successfully reduced!!

This weekend was the epitome of local. Hosting a harvest supper club made the most of everything local and seasonal…from the Nantmor wild mushrooms, to foraged blackberries and Bramley apples. Vegetables came from Moelyci as usual and extras from Hootons home grown in Anglesey…while over that way I bought sea salt from Halen Mon, arguably the best salt I’ve ever used and well worth the drive over (or the order on the internet). The chicken and dry cure bacon came from my usual Butcher Willams & son and the extras I used for experimenting with vegan dishes from a local whole food shop in Bangor.

We entertained a group of seven (one person was unable to join us on the night) with one vegan guest and two having travelled over from Chester (a good hour away!!) traeting them to five courses of hearty harvest fare.

The menu was as follows:

Margarita cocktails and Focaccia

Surprise Tatin with mixed leaves (another winning recipe from the Ottolenghi cookbook, although I changed the goats cheese for feta cheese on this occassion)

Chicken with dry cure bacon, wild mushrooms and marsala (a recipe I have made for supper club previously,  but since it is wild mushroom season I thought I’d reprise it)

Mushroom and Leek risotto (adapted from a recipe in an American Vegetarian book I was given years ago as a present called Fields of Greens) , buttered Kale

Blackberry and apple crumble with home made vanilla custard (the crumble was perked up with some mixed pumpkin and sesame seeds, pine nuts and flaked almonds and a hand full of rolled oats)

Local strong cheeses (Golau Glas, Caws from Rhyd y Delyn and Black Bomber) with apple chutney and spiced courgetter chutney) and coffee

Although we were entertaining a relatively small number, we ended up a bit stretched this time and I had a bit of a panic over the main course, which required me to have two sets of hands to keep everything stirred, turned and evenly cooked. The teen was still on crutches, leaving Sean to do the bulk of the running about,  but she bravely worked on (her choice, I did tell her she didn’t have to but her desire for pay outweighed the pain) and she did her best. She finally conked out after dessert, collapsing in a heap in the lounge upstairs.Pain got the better of her although I also wondered if the Margarita’s she’d mixed on the sly had contributed.

The Ottolenghi  tatin was amazing, even if I say so myself! I was so impressed at how well it turned out I had to take it out to show the guests. One said ‘wow, it looks fantastic’ and I replied ‘sorry, you can’t have it it’s not vegan’. She looked totally crestfallen, until I told her i’d made her some individual chick pea blinis with tomato and lime salsa which cheered her up again.

With the main course I realised that cooking too many things on the top of the stove at the same time was a monumental error. It almost led to the risotto spoiling, but mercifully with lots of shaking it stayed nice and wet and only stuck to the pan a tiny bit. I served the vegan portion before ladling in the butter, which added to the richness along with the wild chanterelles, shitake and chestnut mushrooms.

Dessert was a good old fashioned blackberry and apple crumble with some added nuts, seeds and oats in the crumble mix served with fresh vanilla custard. I wasn’t keen on using the vegan butter alternative. I’m sure it doesn’t taste as good and it feels like a bit of  cheat sometimes so I contacted Emma at Earth kitchen for some ideas on making vegan mousse, whips etc. She sent me a recipe for Anglesey Delight; a vegan, raw food dessert using coconut oil and Agave syrup as thickeners and sweeteners. I did a bit of experimenting and substituted slowly cooked blackberry and apple puree for her Avocado and Mango. The coconut oil, melted by warming in a bowl of hot water, whilst still in the jar, certainly thickened the fruit mixture and made a lovely smooth whip, but although it was nice tasting I thought the coconut overpowered the fruit taste too much. To tone it down I made a simple blackberry and apple compote and marbled the two together. I explained to our vegan guest that it was an experiment and if she wasn’t sure about it she could just have some compote. Thankfully she liked it. She liked the undertones of the coconut and said that it gave the dessert a creaminess that you obviously don’t get with a simple compote.

Later, while the others tucked into cheese (well those who still had enough room) Debbie, the vegan enjoyed her own little individual red pepper, almond and garlic pate.

Lessons learned. Don’t let the teen make Margaritas; don’t try and cook more than three things, on a four ring domestic cooker all at once and make sure any experimenting is done well in advance to avoid shredded nerves on the night!

cherry tomatos halved and ready for roasting

potatoes, tomatos, feta and fresh oregano layered and then covered with puff pastry

the cooked tatin

plating the tatins, with green mixed leaves and herbs and the vegan chickpea blinis with tomato lime salsa

plating chicken with dry cure bacon and wild mushrooms on risotto and kale

layering the blackberry and apple with crumble being sprinkled on

cooked and bubbling blackberry and apple crumble

our dinner guests enjoying dessert

The following day, instead of having a nice Sunday lie in, I was up bright and early and off to spend the day wild food foraging with Simon Maskrey, the Ray Mears of the Welsh Mountains. My hope was that in addition to spending a sunny day in the fresh air, I would learn more about edible wild plants and where to find them. In particular I wanted to learn more about wild mushroom habitats.

Anyone around these parts that likes food and foraging, and knows where to find wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles, tends to shroud their knowledge in a veil of secrecy! Dare to ask anyone where they get chanterelles and they will turn quickly away and tell you in no uncertain terms to go find your own patch. I have tried both stealth and innocence when attempting to ascertain the best location, “oh look at them, where did they come from then?” with an innocent look on my face usually has little success…so you can imagine my surprise when Rosie (one the other course attendees) happily chatted about the chanterelles she’d picked and when asked where she found them proceeded to give me the location of ‘her’ patch. I didn’t hint at my excitement. A little later Simon started to talk about mushroom foraging. He too explained that most people refuse to tell others about their secret locations. It was at this point that Rosie turned to look at me, the penny finally dropping as to what she had done. After staring long and hard she finally said “of course, you do realise I will have to kill you now”?

The course gave us the opportunity to find and pick a variety of edible wild plants, the type that I wouldn’t have usually thought of using and at the end of our collecting I made salad for my lunch. Most foragers are well aware of the usual finds; blackberries, damsons, plums, crab apples, sloes, ramsons (wild garlic) and even sorrel. But I always thought for example that yew berries were poisonous; it’s actually only the stone that’s poisonous, but to be honest I’d have to be desperate to want to eat them as they have the consistency of slug slime and snot. We did pick a variety of plants and herbs (sorrel, bitter cress, fat hen, chickweed and something I’ve forgotten the name of but it looks like a navel!!). We also found burdock (the root can be used in the autumn for dandelion and burdock and of course all parts of the dandelion can be used) and got very wet feed searching for wild mint but unfortunately found no edible wild mushrooms.

The most important lesson I learned was that the best time to pick plants is according to the growing season, for example, in the spring the plant puts its energy into producing new growth, therefore in the spring pick the fresh shoots and leaves, in the summer it’s the flowers and in the autumn and winter the fruit, berries and then roots.

Bitter cress

a sorrel leaf

The bizarely named 'fat hen'

navel wort

bitter cress in situ

foraged salad in he woods...with Moelyci tomatoes (the best toms I have EVER tasted)

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Ramona’s Saturday night supper….murder, fetish and a leg of lamb

a happy bunch of supper clubbers

Ramona, a local belly dance and yoga instructor http://www.ramona.org.uk/ and Kath Turner http://www.kathturneryoga.com/index.html another impossibly fit and supple yoga teacher had both been to supper club before, on that occasion to celebrate another friends birthday. This time Ramona booked her own party so partners and other mutual friends could enjoy a nice dinner too. Kath and her partner are vegan and another attendee was vegan and gluten-free….having said this I noticed that all three ‘vegans’ lapsed at some point during the evening….noticeably once the cheese board came out!!

I was asked to prepare a menu that kept both avid meat eaters and vegans happy…no small feat…but I hope I managed it their approval. The arrival of empty plates back at the kitchen is testament to it being good food I guess!!

The menu for the night was:

 Amaretto sour

Baked New season asparagus (with lemon)

Butternut squash risotto with crispy sage

Beef and wild mushroom Wellington, pink and green peppercorn sauce

Wild mushroom and spinach tart (vegan)

Potato and red onion gratin, Purple sprouting broccoli

Rhubarb and Cointreau cranachan (or compote for the vegans)

Tea or coffee, local cheeses, oat cakes and chutney

I noticed that one vegan decided to have the full cranachan for dessert, then the final two lapsed when the cheese arrived, although i did get some very lovely goats milk Camembert which is less harsh on the stomach than cows milk cheese if you don’t usually eat it . I also served Derimon’s smoked mature cheddar as used by chef Aled Williams for his smoked cheddar mousse on the Great British menu http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00sbqfc, just as it was with spiced apple chutney.

The wild mushrooms came from Cynan Jones who was featured on countryfile last night http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006t0bv and the Welsh Black beef from a local hill farm, via Paul, my usual butcher in Bangor. I had the advantage of being able to visit the Ynys Mon farmers market on the Saturday morning (its only on once a month, which for me is not nearly enough) so had my pick of the asparagus, onions and potatoes.The herbs and spinach all came from my mate Molly (again) and the rhubarb from other friends in the village Matt and Karen. I promised them all freebies in thanks!!!

The food inspired some weird and wonderful dinner conversations; Rosie the teen waitress, who was no longer on strike now I’ve agreed to pay her ‘minimum wage’ , like a ‘proper’ job, kept coming into the kitchen with anecdotes from the table…”do you know how to commit the perfect murder? I do. Go for a walk along the cliffs on a rainy night…” and then there was something about a leg of lamb…but I didn’t quite catch all of that one….when I eventually emerged from the kitchen I stumbled into the middle of a conversation about fetish wear. One lady was explaining how on a trip to London, being a country bumpkin, she decided to go check out a fetish wear shop…and was then encouraged to try something on. She squeezed herself into a lovely pink latex dress which left her “boobs round her ear lobes”.…but when she tried to get it off found herself stuck. Her companions tried in vain to peel her out and then the assistant came to help…he asked her if she’d used the chalk in the corner. She looked blank….It finally took several helpers to get the dress over her head and she eventually emerged which a pop…like peeling off a too tight rubber glove. Lesson learned, always add plenty of chalk or talc before putting on your fetish wear.

Another guest described getting lost on route to a friend’s, whom she was meeting on the way to a burlesque party. She ended up stuck in her car in a small country road fully dressed in stockings, corset the works, in the rain and the wind….and who said life in Wales is dull!!!!!!!

Anyway less of that, here are a few pictures of the night:

cooking wild mushrooms and herbs for the Beef Wellington stuffing

making beef Wellington with Welsh Black beef, wild mushrooms, herbs and spinach

The vegan and gluten free alternative, wild mushroom and spinach tart

new season asparagus

Sean shaking cocktails...Amaretto sour

baked tarts with potato and red onion gratin and PSB

Beef and wild mushroom Wellington with pink and green peppercorn sauce, potato and onion gratin and buttered PSB

Thanks family!!! Half the pictures of the night are of me with my head stuck in a cupboard trying to locate the last jar of spiced apple chutney. If only they took as many photo's of the food as they did my arse...

...anyway. I found it in the end

rhubarb and Cointreau compote and Cranachan's

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