Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Making the Most Of...

That large fruit cake made three days ago has just about all been eaten. Perhaps I should feel gratified that it was 'good enough to eat', but when food is being scoffed (by B) 'just because it is there', it is not easy to keep control. I really don't want to have to hide food away, if it's been made then what else can I expect. I know if it wasn't being eaten then I'd probably be annoyed, so I'll just carry on making the most of what I've got until a lot of it runs out. Then will have
another think.

What would it be like for my Beloved if we had to live on war-time rations again? Was reminded of that when watching Turn Back Time last night. It took me back to my childhood, and at that time living through the Coventry blitz realised that - as they said - children must have been terrified with all the bombing. Just the sound of the siren put shudders up my spine. While 'safe' in the Anderson shelter my dad had built in the garden, it was OK, even when I could hear the whistling sound of bombs falling nearby,. Dad had said we'd be safe in the shelter, so I believed him. It was the day when daylight raids began and Dad was at work so my Mum shoved me under the stairs to shelter, I remember her calmly moving tins of food from the shelves in there "in case they fall on our heads", and I was screaming to get out and go to the shelter.
In some ways I accepted what happend, as children do, too young to remember much else (I was 6 when war began), in other ways WAS very fearful. Several generations have been born since then who have never experienced anything like it, let us hope programmes such as the above show them what life WAS like then for their ancestors, and they give those - that are still alive - due respect for what many went through.

Later watched a 21st Century remake of 'The Canterbury Tales', this being 'The Wife of Bath', (the wife played by Julie Walters so I knew it would be good). Would like to read the original tales by Chaucer. In the update version Julie W. was an 'older' actress who eventually married a much, much younger actor. This led to me last night dreaming that I was doing much the same, and my 'young man' was the chef James Martin (I should be so lucky!), having managed to persuade him (and everyone else) that I was about the same age as he was (around 30?) although I was - in the dream - nearer the true age I am now. Must have had Botox or something.

Thanks for your comments, with a mention from Sairy about charity shops. Many are struggling to keep open as they don't have enough things donated, usually folk take their goods to the better known charity shops, so if possible give the smaller shops your 'discards', also buy from them as well. Thanks for letting us know about this Sairy.

Susan G. has given a mention to freezing mushrooms in response to Campfire's query. More on that later.
Did see a mention that two of the 'centurions' had died since the programme was made S.G (you have the same initials as me!), and when they gave ages (date of birth and how old they were at the time of making the programme), it seems the programme was made several years before it was completed because at least one lady was said to be 1002 (born 1910) when she was actually three years older at the time of showing (depends on the month I suppose, she could have been two years older), but she wasn't the one that died, so is still living.

Now to the mushrooms. Myself have successfully dried mushrooms in a very low oven Campfire, then keep these in airtight glass jars. They need soaking in warm water to reconstitute.
Am giving some recipes for mushrooms, so to make and eat whilst still fresh, the first couple as a way to keep them.

Pickled Mushrooms:
2lb (1kg) small button mushrooms
1.5 pints (900ml) malt vinegar
4 blades of mace
1 level tsp freshly ground pepper
2 level tsp salt
2 shallots, chopped
few sprigs marjoram
Trim then wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth and set aside. Put the rest of the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the mushrooms and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and have shrunk slightly. Spoon into hot sterilised jars, pour over the hot (strained) vinegar, and cover immediately with airtight vinegar-proof lids.
Store in a cool, dry and dark place. Best left to mature for at least one - two months before eating.

Drying Mushrooms:
Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth - do not wash them. Can be left whole or cut into slices or quarters. Spread on baking sheets and dry in a cooling oven (or warm airing cupboard, or over a central heating boiler/radiator) until leathery in texture. This can take up to 8 hours.
When dry, remove from heat and leave to cool, then pack into jars/containers and store in a cool, dry, well ventilated place.
Add mushrooms dried to soups, stews and casseroles, or soak in water for 10 minutes if wishing to fry or grill.

Mushrooms soak up flavour, so for this next recipe worth brushing with lemon juice or chilli oil before grilling to add that extra 'zing'. Ideally the mushrooms should be the large flat 'field' mushrooms or 'Portobello' mushrooms. If using smaller mushrooms blitz the mushrooms with the other ingredients (but not the bread, salad or cheese) and form into burgers to fry.
Mushroom Burgers: serves 4
8 flat mushrooms, stems trimmed flat
olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 small chilli, finely chopped
half a snall red onion, finely chopped
4 baps or crusty buns, halved and toasted
handful salad leaves
4 slices Emmenthal, or other quick 'melting' cheese
Heat a griddle or frying pan, brush the mushrooms liberally with the oil and season to taste.
Cook for 3 minutes on each side. Mix together the tomatoes, chilli and onion with a glug of oil, then build up a couple of layers of salad, burgers, cheese, and tomato salsa, finishing with a bap 'lid'.

Although this recipe has been given before, it is worth repeating. We could omit the spinach and use another green veg (cooked broccoli and/or peas, mange tout etc), and also use a different cheese. Instead of spaghetti we could use the smaller pasta shapes.
If you wish for a creamier 'sauce' to this pasta dish, then fold Philly type cream cheese into the hot pasta. It will melt to make a lovely sauce, and you could then omit the blue cheese (or still include it if you wish). Garlic goes well with mushrooms, so a way to make a similar but easier dish is to use garlic flavoured cream cheese, omit the 'greens' and almost everything else but of course still use the mushrooms and pasta.
Creamy Mushrooms with Spaghetti: serves 4
14 oz (400g) spaghetti
4 rashers streaky bacon, cut into strips
9 oz (250g) mushrooms, sliced
1 x 200g bag baby spinach
4 oz (100g) creamy blue cheese, crumbled
Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Meanwhile fry the bacon in a large frying pan for 5 minutes, and when starting to crisp up, add the mushrooms and fry for 3 minutes or until cooked.
Drain the pasta and add to the contents of the frying pan along with the spinach and cheese. Toss together over low heat until the spinach has wilted and the cheese has melted. Serve hot in individual bowls.

A favourite dish of ours is Mushroom Strogonoff. Any size mushrooms can be used (sliced) but I prefer to use large flat mushrooms cut into strips as these then look very much like strips of beef fillet when cooked. Fry in a little butter and oil until tender (I like to first fry sliced onions before adding the beef/mushrooms), then add a good splash of sherry (opt), some sour (or fresh double) cream, seasoning to taste and serve with cooked rice or noodles. Between you and me I use a garlic mushroom ' mix' instead of the cream, or even a 'strogonoff mix' to make the sauce. Some convenience 'mixes' are worth using despite them being more expensive (there are times when I am lazy and can't be bothered ot make everything from scratch), but generally I use only half (or even a third) of a packet of mix, and just fold the packet up tightly to use again another week/month.

Mushroom soup is another option when wishing to use up mushrooms. This could be made and frozen for 'cold weather eating'.
Raw button mushrooms (after wiping) are lovely added to salads or used with other 'crudites' for dips.

Here are a few more recipes to whet appetites. The first, although called '...caviar', is more usually called 'duxelles'. When made this can be frozen in small tubs to use as the recipe suggests, but is also used to spread on top of fillet beef before wrapping in puff pastry to bake as 'Beef Wellingtons'. As chefs order (and use) a lot more mushrooms than we domestic cooks at any one time, they normally make their 'duxelles' using with just the mushrooms skins and stalks. When we have any amount of mushrooms, then we could do the same - in other words making use of the parts that others might throw away, and still have the main mushroom to use in other dishes (or to freeze).

Mushroom 'Caviar':
1 lb (450g) mushrooms, finely chopped
5 - 8 shallots, finely chopped
2 - 4 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
3 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Fry gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add seasoning to taste, then continue frying over low heat until all the liquid (from the mushrooms) has evaporated, and the contents of the pan are brown and fairly dry (this can take up to an hour).
Leave to cool for a few minutes, then either leave as-is (depending if originally chopped small enough) or put into a food processor and blend to a chunky paste. Serve spread on hot toasted bread.
If you wish to 'pretty up' this dish and serve as a dinner party 'starter', spoon the 'caviar' into bowls and garnish with chopped hard-boiled egg, spring onions and parsley. Serve with toasted rye bread.

Next is a quick and easy dish to make. The mushroom sauce can be made in advance but needs reheating when ready to use.
Souffle Omelette with Mushrooms: serves 1
1 oz (25g) butter
3 oz (75g) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tblsp plain flour
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
salt and pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, separated
1 tblsp water
First make the mushroom sauce by melting HALF the butter in a frying pan, then add the sliced mushrooms. Cook gently for 4 - 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Stir in the flour, then slowly add the milk and don't stop stirring until the sauce boils and thickens. Add the parsley and seasoning to taste, then keep warm (see above).
Make the omelette by beating the egg yolks with the water and seasoning to taste. Whisk the egg whites until stiff then fold these into the yolks.
Melt the remaining half of the butter in a large frying pan and pour in the egg mixture, then cook over gentle heat for 3 - 4 minutes, then place under a pre-heated grill. and cook for the same amount of time or until the top is golden and 'set'.
Slide omelette onto a warm plate, pour the mushroom sauce over one half and fold the other half of the omelette over to cover. Serve immediately.

Final recipe is made with dried porcini mushrooms, but 'home-dried' ordinary mushrooms could be used instead. Or make it using fresh mushrooms - you would then need about 8 oz (225g), and you would also need the liquid, just add a ladleful of hot vegetable (beef or chicken) stock and cook until absorbed, then add another ladleful and continue to do so until absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy.
Unlike most risottos, this dish doesn't need standing over and continually stirring as it is finished off in the oven. However - if prepared to stand and stir, then cover the pan and continue cooking using the hob, but continue to stir from time to time. Serve with green veggies as a main course. Or eat as-is as a light lunch or supper dish.
Mushroom Risotto: serves 4
1 oz (25g) dried porcini mushrooms (see above)
1.25 pints (750ml) boiling water
1 onion, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) risotto rice
2 tblsp oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the mushrooms for half an hour in the boiling water, then drain through a sieve, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms and pat dry.
Heat the oil in a roasting pan on the hob, add the onion and fry for 2 - 3 minutes until softened, then add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms and garlic. Stir in the reserved mushroom liquor, add seasoning then cover the tin with foil.
Place in a preheated oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 and bake for half an hour, giving a stir half-way through, until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Serve immediately in individual warmed serving bowls.

That's it for today. Hope the above recipes have been useful. Myself love eating raw button mushrooms like sweets, and have to say as they are very low in calories, would manage to eat a LOT knowing they would add no inches to my hips.

Still the weather is staying fair (well fair enough compared to what it was), and today - at least here - is supposed to be sunny later this morning. It is already sunny, but quite breezy. Really must get those geraniums put into the larger containers this afternoon and against the south-facing garage wall as tonight it is expected to be much cooler. Even cold!

Am hoping we'll all be able to meet up again tomorrow, and if so - see you then.