Monday, May 02, 2011

Busy Doing Almost Nothing...

When able to buy mushrooms reduced in price, worth getting more than is needed as the surplus can be easily dried to use later. Dried mushrooms will keep for up to 2 years, and can be used to enrich stews, sauces etc.

There are three ways to dry mushrooms:
1)Use a wide-eyed needle and strong sewing cotton, and thread the mushrooms - allowing a gap between each, and hang these up above a warm stove, central heating radiator, or in a warm, dry and airy room for 2 weeks until they feel thoroughly dry.
2)Slice, arrange on a rack and leave in an airing cupboard for several days until dry.
3)Slice, arrange on a wire rack in a single layer and leave in a very cool oven (140C, gas 1) for 6 -10 hours until dry (for convenience this could be overnight).

Store the dried mushrooms in airtight containers and check regularly that they remain dried out. These mushrooms can be used dried in soups and stews, or rehydrate by soaking in hot water for 15 - 30 minutes. The soaking water will take on some of the flavour, so can be used as part of the cooking liquid.

A couple more mushroom recipes to follow. One first using dried mushrooms, the second is a pate. It's worth keeping a pack of ciabatta bread mix in the larder, then - when having friends for lunch (or evening snack/buffet/starter)- the bread can be used when serving both dishes. Otherwise use 'ordinary' toast. But the name of my game is to serve something a bit more special without having to spend more (and without being forced to go to the shops to achieve this).

Creamy Mushrooms on Ciabatta: serves 2
1 oz (25g) dried mushrooms
8 oz (225g) button mushrooms
1 tblsp olive oil
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 oz (100g) creme fraiche or cream cheese
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
2 slices ciabatta bread
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, just covering with hot water, then leave to soak for 15 minutes. Drain, but reserve the liquid.
Quarter or slice the button mushrooms. Put the oil and butter in a frying pan, and when heated add the mushrooms and cook over high heat until golden, then stir in the garlic and soaked (drained) mushrooms plus 1 tblsp of the soaking liquid and cook for a further minute.
Reduce heat and stir in the vinegar, creme fraiche, parsley and seasoning to taste.
Toast the ciabatta and spoon the mushroom mixture on top.

This next recipe makes a pate that can be served in several ways. It makes a great 'starter' when entertaining, but also good as a 'basic' sandwich filler. Made slightly slacker, also makes a good dip to eat with crudites. Although the mushrooms in this recipe are 'open-cap', this doesn't necessarily mean the large field mushrooms, smaller mushrooms also are 'open'. Don't use the still-closed mushrooms as they have less flavour.
This is a good recipe to use up the last of the mushrooms that may be in the fridge. Past their best, but as partly 'dry' tend to hold more flavour.
Mushroom Pate: serves 4
1 onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) butter
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
11 oz (300g) open-cap mushrooms (see above)
1 oz (25g) breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) cream cheese
grating fresh nutmeg
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
Put half the butter and all the oil into a frying pan, and gently fry the onion over low heat until soft but not coloured. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan with the garlic, cover and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes.
Remove lid, the raise heat to medium and cook off most of the moisture that will be in the pan. Remove from heat then add remaining butter and rest of the ingredients.
Tip the lot into a blender and 'pulse' until smooth. Pot up into one large or four individual ramekins, cover and chill before serving with slices of toasted ciabatta.

Am almost aching to get back into 'my' kitchen again, as still a little (lot really) more sorting to do in there to bring it up to my idea of perfection. Stores in the larder are becoming less (deliberately) but need to keep a check on what needs replacing (such as a new batch of home-made marmalade - I have the sugar, I have the MaMade!!).
Think I'll get B to paint a sheet of plywood with blackboard paint, so it can be hung in the kitchen and I can chalk up the food that needs ordering. Yes, I know I can write this on paper (often use backs of greeting cards or old envelopes for this - but usually end up misplacing them, the blackboard would be a fixture).

Was thinking about this last night, and remembered how (when the children were very young, and we still lived in Leicestershire) I used to have a small board hung in the kitchen that had food items printed on it, with a little hole at the side of each item, and a number of tiny pegs that could be inserted into said holes. The idea was to put a peg against the food that needed replacing. There weren't THAT many names on the board, but obviously enough. In those days we didn't have the variety of foods to choose from today. Perhaps there was just a peg for 'meat' and we could then choose the type we wanted, same with 'vegetables'. But at least the idea worked well, and the board checked each time we went shopping (which was often several times a week) so that we didn't 'run out' of the necessary.
How simple cooking was in those days, and although I often think it would be nice to go back to the meals served then (same things on same days of the week), am sure we would now find this boring, and although now have favourite dishes that I enjoy cooking (and B really enjoys eating), still continue trying out new ones. Not always with success. Sometimes the older tried and tested dishes remain better than the 'new' versions that keep appearing in cook books and magazines.
Made a mistake the other day by using a different recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Think I'll have to print out my favourite recipes from this site, and keep them together in a ring binder, then never bother to try out new ones. Or shall I? Easily tempted, that's me.

Make the most of our good weather, it could be the only summer we have. On the other hand it may stay fair for some time, then instead of enjoying it (as we should do) we will no doubt be complaing about the drought and having to lug watering cans all over the garden, saving our bath water etc... We British are never satisfied whatever weather we have.

One sobering point to finish. Read the other day that we should no longer call the animals we keep 'our pets'. Apparently this is agains their 'animal rights' (I ask you, do they even CARE what they are called?).
Those who have 'pets' now have to call themselves 'animal carers'. Now this is where the danger lies. A farmer is an 'animal carer', and if we can no lonter keep animals as pets - to me this means something that is not just 'cared for' but also LOVED - then no longer being able to keep 'pet' rabbits, we might as well just keep them for food - and they end up in the pot (as happened in wartime). This is just to show how pathetic our bureaucracy is becoming. How on earth anyone can justify paying a wage to people who are there just to decide 'we can't do this, we can't say that, we can't call ourselves the same anymore....!
Why change 'personnel' to 'human resources' is an example. Or change 'blackboard' to 'chalk-board' (in case we upset some darker skinned people I presume, and almost certainly they cared not one jot). There are far more important things we should be concerned about, not just continually finding something else we shouldn't be doing. So much money would be saved by not employing people who have nothing better to do.

Obviously got another bee in my bonnet today. But then always do like to find something to moan about, don't I? Put it down to old age. My mother was the same. Bet older readers of this site agree with a lot of my 'mutterings'. Younger ones, maybe not. Don't really care. I know I'm right. Most of the time.

Better say my farewell for today before I bring out my banner and start the march against the whole lot of bureaucrats. I know my place, stuck in the kitchen and caring for the needs of my lord and master. Possibly what nature intended, and she's always right.
Back again tomorrow, and hope you will be too.