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.

Here’s to the Gum Trees

Our house sits on top of a hill, alongside a gravel road and nestled behind a row of tall, leafy eucalyptus trees planted by my father-in-law 40+ years ago.  

Eucalypts — otherwise known as gum trees — are a very hardy group with plenty of annoying features. They’re not pretty trees: they don’t change colour in autumn nor have blossom in spring. There are no lovely scents or delicious fruits appearing on our trees. The bark peels off at the drop of a hat, it seems. Great swathes of the stuff, which blows all over what passes for our front lawn. Accompanied by myriad dry leaves, these cover the grass and blow into the carport every time the wind picks up.

Gum trees are vigorous. Their roots suck the goodness from the ground all around, and those pesky leaves create a mulch through which very little will grow. That’s my excuse for not having a decent garden.

In autumn, winter and spring,  the tall shadows slide over the house, blocking out the precious sunlight far too soon. On the other side of the row it’s bright and breezy. Behind, in our garden, cold and grey.

And yet we will never chop these trees. For their good far outweighs their bad.

When the wind is howling along the road, stirring up a choking cloud of dust, there’s not a speck on our side of the trees. During summer’s scorching heat that early shade is a welcome relief. So many storms have beaten on those trees: they’ve withstood every one. No windows have been broken, no trampolines tossed, no rubbish bins rolled: the trees are our protection and shelter.  

So here’s to the gum trees. Long may they stand.

“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 a 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.