Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mushroom Magic

Not strictly a Sunday roast post, but of interest all the same I figured ...

The other day we (well, B I should say) made mushroom risotto with some dried wild mushrooms that we'd gathered many months ago. Drying mushrooms for me is often the best bet as I'm never sure when they're going to get eaten, and most mushrooms dry very well. There's also the question of identification - whilst I'm pretty confident down the woods these days, and can easily tell the different between most dangerous and edible mushrooms, there's always that element of doubt for some! At least drying them means that you have a little extra time just to make sure you're right.

The risotto was made from parasol and hedgehog mushrooms though, two pretty unmistakeable types and if you're interested in gathering wild food then a good place to start. The parasol has size on it's side to mark it out, and the hedgehog is one of only a very very few mushrooms to have spines instead of gills or pores, so difficult to get wrong. But although the risotto was fab, that's not what I'm blogging about - it was the suppli/arancini we had tonight that has me up here typing.

The parasol mushroom

The hedgehog mushroom

Suppli/Arancini (same thing, different names, it's an Italian thing - very regional lot) are basically rice (often leftover risotto) formed into a ball around a central core, in this case mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs and then fried. They look a lot like our Scotch Eggs. These were just wonderful, one of those moments in cooking where something allegedly simple transcends it's simple origins and is transformed into gourmet cuisine - I'd post a picture, but you'd never get the taste, and besides, I've eaten them all :-)

Some arancini - these aren't ours, but if I put ours next to this picture you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference

I should add before closing that these are also just about as cheap as you can get - considering the chief ingredient, mushrooms, was picked up for free from the forest floor (though you might want to do a little bit of research before you tread that particular path!). A bit of good cooking makes a little food go a long way.

P.S. On the gathering wild mushrooms note please, please don't take this as a message to go pick mushrooms without experience. This season seems to have been particularly kind to the Death Cap mushroom, which is just about as bad as it gets and is not named as some sort of weird joke. Death Cap may well kill you and doesn't look that bad if you're not familiar with it. I've always followed sage advice (Roger Phillips for example) and the best piece of advice above all has been to get to know just one type of mushroom and stick to that. Then get to know another and stick to that. And so on. If you don't know what it is, leave it alone!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Traditional English Lamb

It can seem a strange time of year right now, as the year passes from the fun of the summer months into the new academic term, and the pressures of work intensify at the same time as the number of outside activites diminishes. But that's no reason to stop cooking ...

My local butcher was offering a special deal on lamb this weekend, and as I had half a mind to buy some anyway that seemed like a good deal. As usual though I walked away with a fair bit more than I planned to, but then again meat always seems best roasted in large quantities. This time I got a full leg and roasted it very simply - just a light rub with olive oil and salt & pepper and then in the oven, although on a rack this time to get a nice even cook.

The meat fresh out of the oven - ready to rest for 20 minutes or so

It was a well hung piece of meat and cooked very tender with great flavour, and as I've said elsewhere in this blog lots of variation across the meat as to texture and depth of flavour as well. We were a bit lazy and dug out some dauphinois potatoes from the freezer to go with it, but did manage to get a good crop of runner beans from our own plants to go alongside.

Food dished up

With all the current pressure on finances lately at both a national and an international level it seems mad that more people don't cook like this seeing as how far you can make food stretch. True I've had to spend tonight preparing leftovers - a lamb pilaf which will feed six or so and some shepherds pie mix which will probably be frozen until we need it (and will feed at least six again) - but you get great food for little money this way.

Ah maybe I'm just old fashioned already - but I know my gran(s) would approve :-) And I know my belly approves as well!


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