Monday, 28 November 2011

Mmmmmm Mushrooms

The Husband has been doing the hunter gatherer thing, and the poor dog is going crazy for the brace of pheasants that is currently strung up in the log store. Being as how he only has 3 legs, he can’t do the back leg dog dance and actually get at them, but he spends a good amount of his time standing just underneath them, nose in the air and sniffing with longing. If ever a dog was going to make something happen just by looking at it hard enough, it would be Fred. To be fair, the Husband didn’t shoot the birds himself, but hunter gathered them from a work colleague. However, when he and Blue came back from a bike ride yesterday, the Husband was in a state of high excitement and disappeared back off to re-appear half an hour later with a load of wild mushrooms.

Now, this is not unusual behaviour for the Husband, and recently, he’s been getting quite good at choosing actual edible mushrooms. Earlier in his career as a forager, we would collect baskets of beautiful looking fungi only to get home, look at the book and decide that everything apart from the puffballs was at best inedible and at worst deadly poisonous. However, armed with the River Cottage mushroom book, and now a fair few years of disappointment, there have been more and more edible specimens coming home. These he has usually cooked up for himself with the rest of us tasting gingerly, but nearly a kilo is a whole lot of mushroom. They are, he has assured me, field mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, and they certainly look like them. There are a few puffballs too, but even I know what a puffball looks like.

I have been slightly concerned about this all day. If they are what he says they are, then they will be delicious. If not – what then? Certain death? There are too many of them to ignore at the bottom of the fridge for a few days till they go slimy – they fill up the whole of one of my veg compartments. By the time I got home from picking the kids up (and there were many this evening, but that’s another story, although I may touch briefly ...) I’d decided that I should go for it. I mean, live on the wild side – why not? I had a flick through the recipe books, and surprisingly fell on a Jamie recipe in Jamie’s Italy for risotto ai funghi e prezzemolo – roasted mushroom risotto with parsley. It looked scrummy – basically a plain risotto to which you add some roasted mushrooms and a load of parsley, and finish off with some more roasted mushrooms on top. I couldn’t resist. If anything was going to overcome my fear of an excruciating and painful death it’s the thought of a yummy plate of food.

The Husband returned home and helped me wrestle the children into bed, then I set to work – chopped an onion, made some stock and weighed out the mushrooms. Had a brief tussle with myself whether to make enough risotto for 6 – I mean, would we really keep 2/3 of it to re-heat for lunch tomorrow or just guzzle it all – started heating the oil and turned on the oven to roast the mushrooms at the appropriate juncture.

And then there was a knock at the door. A man I vaguely recognised was there holding a briefcase. I’m usually quite good with names and faces, but I drew a complete blank. “Hello” he said. I think he registered to totally blank look on my face. “Is he in?”. How to pretend that of course he was expected. The Scout trainer, come to complete the Husband’s scout leader training. “Of course, come in!” I breezed. “Can I get you a drink – I’ve just boiled the kettle”. In the background, I am aware of the Husband swearing quietly to himself.

So I decided to can the risotto. The Husband is now closeted away with  Bob and the cake tin, and is unlikely to resurface for some hours if the previous sessions have been anything to go by, and frankly I broke all the rules and finished off all the leftover chips from the kids tea. Talk about the shoemakers children never being shod – out of sheer insanity, I ended up with 4 extra children for tea. When the going gets tough, the tough cook hotdogs and oven chips, and one of the extras didn’t like chips.

But what to do with all those mushrooms? I had to say goodbye to Jamie, and now instead, I have a pan of mushroom soup in the making courtesy of Sarah “my-good-friend-Emma-Bridgewater-don’t-I-look –marvellous-doing-the-gardening-in-my-velvet-Boden-coat” Raven and her Garden cookbook. It all seems very straightforward. Onions and garlic cooked n butter and oil followed by the mushrooms, then add in some flour and grated nutmeg, whisk in some stock and simmer for 20 mins. There’s some complicated finishing off, involving cooking more mushrooms in some milk adding to the soup and them finishing with cream and lemon juice, but this is now unlikely to happen until tomorrow lunchtime.

 I’m still not convinced that we’re not going to die a horrible death, but the little taste I had just now at the liquidising stage were pretty fine. If I’m not there at pick up tomorrow, can someone rescue the children for me and call an ambulance – and if I am, then the risotto will be on the menu tomorrow.

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