Mushrooms Galore

Field mushrooms in basket

Hooray! It’s Mushroom Season Again

2018 is a bumper year for mushrooms on the farm. Every morning for a fortnight or more there have been 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 for long. A day or two is the most you can hope for.

Our forebears dried them, but I like to cook the mushrooms in butter and wine then freeze them in cute little pottles. Then it’s easy to slip their tasty goodness into winter soups and casseroles.

In the Kitchen

But the best way to eat mushrooms is straight from the paddock.  We love mushroom omelettes and mushroom sauce with a juicy steak. Yum!

But my favourite meal is mushroom risotto.

And over the years I’ve managed to perfect a slightly unconventional method for cooking a crowd-pleasing risotto.

I don’t claim to be a chef but honestly, I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. I’m far more likely to check out the basics and tweak the rest depending on the ingredients I have on hand.

And just to complicate matters, “deconstructed” is my go-to style.

When you’re raising four children, each of whom dislikes a different commonly-used ingredient, the only thing to do is give lots of choices.

Between them, my kids hated onions, cooked tomatoes, pineapples and mushrooms. As a result, I tend to cook things separately and let 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 – a deconstructed way to give everyone the flavours they prefer.

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 3 Secrets To Creating A Great Risotto

  • 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 the 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 from 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. 

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

More From Autumn Harvest On The Farm

The Old Apple Tree

Precious Pears

Hops in a Hurry

Gathering In The Grain

More Farm Recipes On The Blog

10 Tips For Success With A Bread Maker

How To Make Perfect Cheese Scones

Choco-Banana Ice Dream  (how to make a healthy ice-cream in minutes.)

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.

Piece Together a Picture of Paradise

 

Every December I have the same problem. Christmas Cards. I really want to send them, and I really, really want to include a letter as well.  After all, for some of my friends, this is the only time of year we’re in touch.

But, here’s the thing. The end of the school year is taken up with one thing, and one thing only. The School Production.  It consumes every waking moment (and sometimes sleeping moments too) as we work to get the big show ready. So, no time for letter writing there.  

And of course when it’s all done and dusted, so are my energy levels. Now I have the time, but my brain has shut down. Inevitably what happens is, the packet of cards sits on the shelf and stares accusingly at me, never to be sent.

So this year I did something a little different. Instead of cards I sent some postcard puzzles. Intrigued? I hope so. Here’s the article I wrote on my daughter Jenny, and her clever idea.

Piece together a slice of New Zealand

Young and carefree, Jenny McNamee loved to travel, working where she could and exploring the wonders of the world.  And even when she touched base back home in New Zealand, as a tourism expert she helped  travellers from all over the globe to experience the beauties of her own, lovely country.

But whether overseas or in New Zealand, the same problem always presented itself: Where to find that unique, small, lightweight, easy to pack or post, perfect souvenir?

Fast forward to 2017, and the arrival of baby Harvey presented Jenny with the perfect time to focus on solving the problem.

A search through her diverse collection of stunning photographs… the giant jigsaw on the dining room table… an exploratory click on the internet and “Postcard Puzzles” was born.

A jigsaw and a postcard in one, Postcard Puzzles solve the souvenir dilemma in a unique and playful manner.

You can break it up and do the puzzle yourself, or write on the back and mail it to family and friends.

All the photos are from Jenny’s own South Island collection. With four iconic images to choose from and more in the pipeline, postcard puzzles are available at selected outlets in Oamaru, Garston and Te Anau, or contact Jenny online through her Facebook page

 

“Give Me Today My Daily Walk”

When I say “I go for a walk every morning,” I’m positive the picture that pops into your mind, is not the reality that is my daily walk.

This is the best way to begin my day. Body and brain, heart and mind — all are refreshed and kick-started into action. It’s the fitness routine that I simply can’t do without

Such a beautiful route

Every day is different as I start walking up the grassy paddock that constitutes my backyard. In December the light will already be well advanced, but now that it’s nearer February, the 6 a.m. daylight is pale. Sunrise over the mountains is still more than an hour away. The dawn chorus is over by now, but the ducklings in their pen by the pond can be heard cheeping long before I see them. They know I’m bringing food and fresh water. The older ducks waddle up, ever-hopeful, but they’re always disappointed. Terry will feed them this evening.

Past the duck pond and into the second paddock. This one is steeper, leading up to the hills which form the rugged boundary of our farm.  Once upon a time, I toiled up this hill, but now I speed up to get my heart-rate going. This familiar walk is no longer the challenge it once was.  At the top, I’m relieved to see water cascading out of the water tank.  The overflow means that all is well with the farm water supply.

Up I go

Climbing through the wire fence, there are many possible routes to take,  but my favourite at the moment is scrambling up the creek. This is the lovely spring that feeds our house and much of the farm. Sometimes it’s a torrent that I wouldn’t go near, but today it’s a trickle. We are so close to drought — but so far this little spring has not let us down.

Where the creek meets the water race I pause to gaze at the panorama spread out before me. It’s a familiar, ever-changing, spectacular view of the valley I call home.

The water race is filled in now —  a winding path that takes me across the mountainside. But it was designed to be a deep ditch, full of rushing water, for use at the goldmine in the next-door Nokomai Valley. There’s no hint of this today.  Now the path is filled with tussock and rocks. The cows and sheep have their own tracks meandering along, showing the easiest route to take through the dips and hollows of the seven little streams and marshes that cross the race.

Heading home

The homeward walk is all downhill. It gives me time to reflect on the day to come and give thanks for the wonder that is my daily walk.

Do you have a favourite walk or an unmissable start to your day?  Do, please,  make a comment about it.  

I’d love to hear about your routine.

A Few More Farm Stories On TOML

Making Hay While The Sun Shines

Gathering In The Grain

Oh! Those Gum Trees On The Farm

Is This Your First Visit To TOML?

Discover the Who, What and Why of Time of my Life 

 

3 Lists to Sort Out Your Day

Lists on notice board

You absolutely need a list.

Do you find it difficult to get things done? Do you end each day wondering what you achieved? Frustrated by the never-ending chores still looming? If this is you, the solution is clear: you need to make a list.

Why make a list?

Lists are an invaluable tool for creating order in your day and in your life. Your list lets you see the tasks to be done and set priorities so you don’t get overwhelmed.

When you follow a list you can master your day. You won’t find yourself spending hours on social media or mind-numbing TV. Your tasks are done,  and believe me, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of a crossed out list. If you’re a champion procrastinator, an over-worked parent or simply overwhelmed by life, a list could be the tool that saves the day.

Here are my top three essential lists.

The Daily Task list

This list organises your day-to-day life. Simply write down the tasks that you want to achieve during your day. I include everything – work, study, food, leisure, gardening, housework, walking the dog, visiting a friend, reading a book, checking Facebook. That way I get a balance in my day and don’t feel overwhelmed with hated tasks (housework!).     

Cross off each task as it is completed: there’s nothing like the satisfaction of a crossed-out list. What a lot you accomplished today!

Break it down

Break large tasks into specific jobs. Take a moment to think about a good order to tackle them and which ones could be multi-tasked. Maybe laundry is on your list,? Just put the washing machine on and then move onto another task. You can cross them both off together – two for the price of one, hooray!

If something unexpected comes up don’t stress. If friends call in, or your husband suggests “let’s go out for the day” say “sure!” and add it to your list. It might bump the housework down the pecking order, but that’s okay. Your list is a tool to help your life, not to stop you from having fun.

Finally – don’t beat yourself up if a few tasks are still undone that night. Smile and reschedule them for another time.

Weekly menu plan

At the end of a busy day, the last thing I want to do is decide what to have for dinner.

What’s in the cupboard? What did we have yesterday? Can I be bothered? It’s much easier to reach for the phone and order take-out.

But take-out every night is bad for your wallet, and terrible for your waistline.

What’s the solution? Make another list.

It takes a bit of practice to decide on your meals for a whole week in advance, but the savings in time and money make this list a no-brainer.

Think about your needs first

Start by writing down any activities or commitments that will happen on a particular day for you and for your family. That will help you decide what sort of meal to cook.

Will you get home late on Wednesday? Plan on a slow-cooker meal: you can start it in the morning and come home to a delicious meal at night.

Rushing off to a class after tea, or taking the kids to sports practice?  Plan for cold meat and salad with a bread roll – easy to put out and even easier to pack away afterwards.

Maybe Thursdays are your quiet days: that’s the time to be adventurous and plan for a meal that will take more time to prepare and cook.

Decide on the menu

Once you’ve sorted your activities, choose your meals and write them next to each day.

Make it as simple or detailed as you want.

Doing a little thinking and planning once a week will save you the stress of having to make decisions when you’re tired and hungry. It will save you time and money when you shop because you’ll know exactly what you need to buy. And it allows you to eat healthy, budget-friendly meals every day of the week.

Once you’ve got a few menus prepared you can simply rotate them, with a few tweaks for changing activities. So three or four plans could last you an entire season before you feel the need to change. What a bonus!

The S.M.A.R.T.  List.

Most people have a dream they’d love to achieve. But often it’s so big and vague that it’s impossible to succeed. But your plans CAN be realised: with the help of a third list.

S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Orientation and  Time-bound, offering the perfect framework for reaching your goals.

To create a SMART list, think about steps you need to take to achieve your dream goal. You might need to break each step down into even smaller goals. For each goal, set a time limit by which you will get it done, and write down the results you want to see at the end.

You can do it!

You can use SMART lists for any goal, be it personal or professional. I was overweight and unfit after years of working too hard and neglecting my health. But when I finally decided to stop moaning and actually do something about it, I made my goal specific – to lose 10 kg in 3 months. This was specific, measurable results-oriented and achievable and making it time-bound helped me to focus on achieving milestones at regular intervals. It was amazing to see those pounds disappearing and my SMART list kept me motivated.

The Power of a List

Don’t underestimate the power of these lists. By using them you can free up your mind and your time. You can make room in your life for yourself, your family and your friends. Your goals can be achieved; Tasks will be done: Meals will be a breeze!

So my new year’s resolution (made at the end of  January) is simple:

Keep on making lists.

If I don’t have a list, it won’t get done.

So what am I  waiting for? What are you waiting for?

Start enjoying life again. Get things done. and feel that sense of accomplishment.

Make that list today.

Writing a list.