Mushrooms Galore

Field mushrooms in basket

 

Hooray!

It’s a bumper year for mushrooms on the farm. This morning there were fairy circles in every paddock.

It doesn’t happen every year. Last year — and the two before that — mushrooms were a scarce commodity in Garston. The weather was too cold … too dry … too something else.

But not this year. A hot, dry January followed by cool mornings and rain in February equals perfect mushroom conditions.

There’s no telling where they’ll spring up. The ground gives no hint. In the evening the paddock looks as it always does; nothing but green grass as far as the eye can see.  Next morning it’s dotted with white caps.

Field mushrooms are not like the fungi you buy in the supermarket. Those have been raised on mushroom farms, packaged and cooled. They are firm, and last for days in the fridge.

These mushrooms are far too delicate for that. We pick them fresh, the same morning they appear. By evening they’ll be drying out. Tomorrow will be too late.

Storing Field Mushrooms

There’s no point in trying to keep these mushrooms in the fridge. A day, two at a pinch, is the most you can hope for.

Our forebears dried them, but I’ve got an easier way; I’ll just put them straight into the freezer. I used to cut them up first. Some years I even cooked them in butter and wine, and froze them in cute little pottles to add to winter casseroles and soups.  

These days I’m lazy: I have a plastic bag in the freezer. A brief wash (outside only — leave the delicate interior dry) and in they go. The soups and casseroles still taste the same.

In the Kitchen

Of course some we eat fresh. Mushroom omelettes or mushroom sauce with a juicy steak: yum!

Today we had mushroom risotto. This is my favourite way to eat mushrooms, and over the years I’ve managed to perfect this method. Provided I pay proper attention and don’t get distracted by the iPad or a good book, it turns out “delish!” every time.

I don’t claim to be a chef. I can’t follow a recipe. Seriously, I just can’t do it. The basics remain but I’ll tweak the rest every time, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. I specialize in deconstructed; a method born from the sheer frustration of raising four children, each of whom disliked a different commonly used ingredient. Onions, cooked tomatoes, pineapples and mushrooms were among the most frustrating. As a result, I tend to cook things separately and people help themselves to whatever they like best.

So here’s the risotto I made today, with mushrooms and love.

PLEASE NOTE: Some wild mushrooms are very poisonous. You should never pick or eat mushrooms unless you have positively identified them as edible.

2 bowls of mushroom risotto
Not-Quite-Traditional Mushroom Risotto

Lyn’s Not-Quite-Traditional Mushroom Risotto

1 cup uncooked arborio rice 

2-3 cups chopped mushrooms

2-3 cups chicken stock           

 ½ – 1 cup white wine

2 onions, finely chopped 

1-2 tsp crushed garlic

1-2 courgettes, chopped 

4 rashers bacon, chopped

Garlic salt to taste Pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp olive oil + butter

1-2 handfuls of grated parmesan or tasty cheddar cheese. The parmesan has more bite; the tasty adds to the creamy texture.

The secret to a good risotto is three-fold.

  Tips

  • Use the correct rice: Arborio is the best.  
  • Add the liquid hot, and in small amounts, allowing the rice to absorb each cupful before adding the next.
  • Taste and use your own judgement as to the exact amount of liquid needed. The heat of the cooking surface and exact amount of rice you used will determine how long to cook and how much liquid is needed. This particular batch took 25 minutes to cook.

 

What to do:

Step #1: Prepare your onions.

Melt the oil and butter in a large, deep pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently until they are soft and tender.

Step #2: While that’s cooking, chop mushrooms, measure rice and heat the first ½ cup of stock and wine combined.

Stir the rice into the cooked onion until each grain is coated in oil/butter and is well heated through.

Add the hot stock and stir gently. Cover and simmer.

Step #3: Begin to fry the mushrooms quickly in a separate pan.                            Field mushrooms can leak far more water than supermarket ones, so it is difficult to prevent them stewing. I tip out the liquid periodically. Set aside in a separate bowl when cooked.

Step #4: While the rice is simmering and the mushrooms frying, heat the second half cup of water+wine. Chop the bacon and courgette.

Continue to add half cups of hot liquid until the rice tastes cooked to you. Don’t let it dry out: risotto is quite a creamy dish. The rice should be soft but not gluggy. Add pepper and salt to taste.

Step #5: When the rice is nearly ready, fry the chopped courgette and bacon in the same pan you used for the mushrooms. Reheat the mushrooms if necessary.

At the last minute, stir grated cheese through the rice.

To serve:

Ladle spoonfuls of rice into 3 or 4 bowls. Top with the courgette and bacon mixture and, of course, the mushrooms.

Enjoy!

 

To download a PDF of this recipe, click the link below.

Lyn’s Not-Quite_Traditional Mushroom Risotto

Do you have a favourite mushroom recipe to share? Or maybe an experience of picking mushrooms in the country. 

I would love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

The Easiest Tech Tip Ever

Mobile phone charging

How many chargers do you have in your life? How many flash drives/USB sticks/”those stick things”? I’ve got thousands!

Well no, of course that’s a massive exaggeration, but it’s fair to say I’ve got heaps. And I bet you’ve got a few too.

Now, when you come to insert a charger into your phone/tablet/other device, or a flash drive into a USB port this is what happens: you try to put it in one way — it doesn’t work. Then you turn it the other way — it still doesn’t work. SO you turn it back the first way and hey presto! It goes in.

I have wasted hours of my life trying to put those damn things into their slots. (Oops – exaggeration again. Well, minutes, anyway.)

Today I noticed this.

Charging Cable Symbol

OMG!

That tiny symbol means THIS WAY UP. It’s on (almost) every thingamy I own.

Please tell me I’m not alone in never noticing this before!!!

In my (and possibly your) defense, the size of the symbol ranges from tiny to miniscule, and the colour range is THE most difficult imaginable for my poor old eyes, BUT STILL…

I will never have a problem with this again.

And neither will you.

Bonus Tip 1. I just found out that the “thingamy” is actually called a connector. USB charging cables

Bonus Tip 2. To make life even easier I’ve drawn a bright red dot on the symbol side of each and every connector I own.

Save Your Phone From the Kids.

girl playing on mobile phone

There are plenty of reasons why you should keep kids away from your phone.  

Too much screen time.

Have you seen how much time children spend in front of screens of all shapes and sizes these days?  Television, tablet, iPod, Computer, It’s scary when you add it all up. They don’t need to touch your phone too.

Much better to send them outside to play — or settle down with a game, or a book. Old-fashioned fun it may be to them, but it’s a much-needed break from the realities of modern life. You could join in — after all, you need a break too.

They might muck up your settings.

After all, you spent a LONG time getting your phone just so. Everything is  exactly where you want it. Let the kids loose on it and who knows where every app will end up. And there’s nothing more frustrating than searching in a desperate hurry for the app that used to be on your home page and isn’t any more.

You have important stuff in there.

Emails, texts, contacts, banking apps… there’s plenty of information on your phone that you really don’t want anyone to share. One wrong finger tap and it could all disappear — or be shared with the world. Either way, it’s enough to make you grab your phone back now.

But the REAL reason you should never let kids near your phone is…

They will beat your high scores every single time!

 

Picking Up What?

“What are you doing next?” said my husband.

“Why?” I asked, somewhat warily. I’ve been caught out by this question before. You never know what a farmer might suggest.

“It’s time you had some fresh air,” he replied firmly. “Come and help me shovel the cowpats.”

So I put down my pen and went to help him pick up poop.

It’s not as bad as it sounds.

You see, last week we sold our 15 cows and calves. They had to go — we’re so dry that there wasn’t enough grass to feed them any more.

I was sad to see them leave. After all, the cows were the main source of beautiful free fertilizer for my tunnel house gardens.

So, really, I was delighted to go pick up poop.

And it really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Now there’s a lovely pile of weathered fertilizer conveniently located near the tunnel house door.

It doesn’t smell. It’s well past that stage. My plants will be pleased.

So am I.

Miaow

“I don’t want another cat.”

I said it, and I meant it.

Our beautiful old boy had died after 21 years and he couldn’t be replaced.

Then along came Miaow, a cat like no other.

We found her one cold winter’s night, sneaking into the pantry to snack on the farm dogs’ biscuits. She’d been “sizing up the joint” for days before hunger drove her in.

She was perilously shy. One whiff of human scent and she fled.

But slowly, cautiously, back she came.  Food, warmth, a place to sleep eventually enticed her to stay.

Over the years we’ve come to an arrangement, she and I.

I feed her every biscuits in the morning and cat food each night. Once in a blue moon she will graciously allow a pat. I can tell she’d love more, but she just can’t bring herself to accept them.

From Wild Cat to Farm Cat

Miaow patrols the territory she’s claimed as hers. There’s no sign of a mouse in the pantry during winter, when she curls up on the box of stored farm papers she’s appropriated as her bed.

The hayshed is home over the summer months. Hidden in the hay, she keeps a close eye on the ducks nesting between the bales. She may be the bane of sparrows and mice, but I’ve never seen her pounce on a duckling. Early on, the ducks and Miaow declared a truce. Muscovies are big: the drakes easily outweigh and outnumber one little cat. Discretion is the better part of valour in Miaow’s pragmatic eyes when it comes to ducks and farm dogs.

Feed Me Now!

There’s no ignoring Miaow when she wants breakfast or tea.  A piercing call leaves me in no doubt that food is required. And not just any food: oh no, a nice cheap can of Chef or Whiskers would never do.  It’s got to be Fancy Feast, please, or maybe the expensive Dine Desire. It’s not worth my while to feed her anything else; the sounds of her displeasure can go on for hours.

All in all Miaow’s got me  wrapped around her little claw.  She is possibly the world’s most unrewarding cat. And yet, I’m pleased that she trusts us enough to stay.

I wouldn’t be without her.

Miaow.

Listen and Learn

A whole new vista has opened before my eyes — or should I say “before my ears”. Inspirational talks, new skills and even controversial opinions are taking my brain by storm. And best of all, it fits perfectly into my day. What is this new love? Welcome to the wonderful world of podcasting.

A podcast? What’s that?

A podcast is an audio file which you can access on the internet. You can listen to it online or download it to hear offline at a later date. Podcasts are often done as a series of installments and the ones that I follow are a bit like audible blogs in the fields that interest me — education, inspiration,  and of course, blogging.

Podcasts are broadcast by all sorts of different people and websites and are available on just about any topic you care to mention. A simple Google search will generate dozens of possibilities.

But I don’t have time to be stuck by the computer all day.

Neither do I. And this was my biggest problem when I first discovered podcasts.

But you can listen to a podcast on any device.

Particularly, you can download them onto your phone. This is a game changer. My favourite listening times are during my morning walk and on long drives. We have lousy radio reception where I live, and a limited CD collection in the car, so I was beyond delighted to discover the podcast alternative.

So how do you do it?

You will need to install a podcast app onto your smartphone from either Play Store (android) or the App Store ( iPhones).

There are lots of different ones out there, and it can be hard to choose.

Think about what features are important to you and what amount you’re prepared to pay. When looking at an app, click on  READ MORE and a full description will appear explaining all the features of the app. Return to the short version and scroll down to see the user ratings and reviews.

Which app did you choose?

I use CastBox. (The latest, version with the orange icon.)

It was simple to download and install. On opening it asked me a few questions about my interests and then recommended some podcasts based on those. However, I knew the podcasters I particularly wanted to follow, and it was easy to type each one into the search box. Up came the link and I hit “subscribe.”

Once subscribed, a series is then in my list. It’s easy to choose a few episodes, download them at home where I have plenty of internet data, then listen offline while I’m walking or driving. Piece of cake!

Make sure you delete them afterwards though — you don’t want too many podcasts taking up space on your phone.

Now I’m not affiliated to CastBox and get no advertising revenue from mentioning them. I actually chose them because they had replied to a comment on the reviews, which mentioned a bug in that app. The reply explained that there was a new version in which that bug had been fixed. I found it and the rest is history.

So now you know. All it takes is a digital device and the right app.

Be inspired, informed or entertained: it’s all at your fingertips.

What are you waiting for? Make a start. Join the wonderful world of podcasting today.