love bug

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love bug biccies

I’m not much of a baker and although I used to love it as a teenager, I don’t have much time for it these days. There is always something I’d rather be doing if I was honest.

a plate of bugs

a plate of bugs

But Valentines Day is a tricky calendar event when it comes to us girls getting for our boys.

fizz and love bugs

fizz and love bugs

My plan was to make some romantic sweet biscuits for JC.  So, I thought I’d spend friday evening making these cute little love bug biscuits.

It was quite therapeutic and fun too although I am clearly short of certain tools such as icing bag and nozzles which meant the icing bug head, tail and spots are painted on with a brush.

half finished love bugs (I like these and will make them like this next time)

half finished love bugs (I like these and will make them like this next time)

Not my best artistic endeavours but they are tasty and look really cute.

shadows of the heart cut outs

shadows of the heart cut outs

Might have to rethink next year though as I’m not sure they went down quite as I had planned. LOL.

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foraging for fungi

field mushroom harvest

field mushroom harvest

I have expressed my desire to learn more about identifying fungi before and I still haven’t done the course that was a present from hubby christmas 2011. I really must! If only to broaden our menu and save us from inevitable tummy ache.

freshly cut with ring in tact

freshly cut horse mushroom with ring in tact

It hasn’t, however, stopped my foraging this week. There is a field where we walk at the weekends that has a small but productive crop of enormous and delicious horse mushrooms. I haven’t seen them there before but they are certainly there now and boy are they tasty looking.

The fields are still very green and the bright white beacon of deliciousness that these wonderful wild food sources are is clear to see in the middle of the field.

bright edible domes amongst the grass

bright edible domes amongst the grass

I couldn’t help but notice them and after clearing it with the farm I collected only those that had been knocked off their stems by the ponies in the field.  Each morning, though, the ones that were tiny the day before had become monsters and so I couldn’t resist and picked some of those still growing.

the smallest of these is about 100mm across

the smallest of these is about 100mm across

Picking them properly is important (always use a sharp knife and cut off at stem, never pull them out with the whole stem) and you should never harvest an entire field.

Always leave plenty behind. There may be others who want to enjoy natures larder too but it is also important to maintain the crop to ensure they grow another year.

shades of pink and brown gills

shades of pink and brown gills

There are lots and lots left that will come to maturity over the next few weeks so we should see them again next year.

cider vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper

cider vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper

Preparing them is nearly as important.  Never wash them. Clean off any dirt or insects and then brush the outside clean. I’m a great believer that a bit of muck and interest adds to the flavour but if you prefer, the skins can be peeled to remove any possibility of unwanted flavourings (whatever form that might take!!).

I love mushrooms. I love their meatiness which makes them a great substitute for meat in a vegetarian dish. I especially love risotto, chicken and mushroom pie and I particularly love fried mushrooms on a thick slice of thoroughly toasted wholemeal or artisan bread.

What a wonderful autumn gift.

We had Chicken and mushroom pie on Saturday night but we ran out of time for any other mushroom dishes this weekend. In order to continue to enjoy the taste and waste nothing, I have gifted some, dried some and preserved some for later when the crop has finished.  Loving them fresh as I do, I have held back a few of today’s harvest to go into a mushroom based dish (whatever it ends up being) that I will conjure up later in the week.

horse mushrooms preserved in oil

horse mushrooms preserved in oil

The dried ones have a much stronger smell now they are jarred and I understand that drying enhances the flavour. I can’t wait to use them in a nice juicy dish in the middle of the winter when they are no longer available.

The others I have preserved in oil and vinegar from a recipe in the preserving book I bought some time ago. The flavours in the oil say to me that they should be eaten straight from the jar  raw but we will see as I have never used mushrooms in oil before. New things are great!!

dried mushrooms

dried mushrooms

The smell of freshly picked wild mushrooms is amazing. It is rich and earthy and reminds me very much of being a child. We always came home with field mushrooms or something edible and free when we had been raking around the open countryside for as much of the day as we could squeeze out of it.

It brings to mind people like my grandparents and my gran particularly who loved a bit of free food and a forage. I’m sure it is her tasks to us kids to bring home something tasty that fuels my interest in hedgerow eating. I realised the other day when I looked at a photo of me holding the mushrooms that I picked that I have her hands…. almost identical!

dried and preserved

dried and preserved

 


Marrow and Ginger Jam

peeled and seed the marrow ready to chop

peeled and seed the marrow ready to chop

Since we started growing our own veg and salad in 2010, we’ve had varying levels of success but one thing that we always manage to grow lots of is courgettes.

cut the marrow into manageable pieces before chopping into cubes

cut the marrow into manageable pieces before chopping into cubes

Most seasons, we have used them all up in salads, pasta and anything else we could use them in and this year was not different.

We were away for a few weeks recently, however, and thought we had pretty much harvested everything that there was left to eat or that hadn’t already passed it best & gone to seed. When we got home, there was a monster Marrow hiding under the umbrella leaves of our single but very productive courgette plant.

zested and juiced lemons set aside

zested and juiced lemons set aside

I love courgettes but I’m not a great fan of marrow (seems weird when it is the same product in effect, but there you go) so I knew exactly what I would do with it. I’d use it to make one of my favourite home made jams – Marrow and Ginger.

ginger peeled and ready to chop

ginger peeled and ready to chop

Unlike the last time I made this delicious marrow and ginger jam, when we had a glut of courgettes, this enormous 2kg holiday marrow would be the ingredient in this one.

lemon halves and pips set aside

lemon halves and pips set aside

A quick dash to the supermarket for lemons and a check that there was enough ginger left, I set about my foody task for the day.

lemons into muslin bag to go into the maslin pan

lemons into muslin bag to go into the maslin pan

It’s a really easy recipe to follow and the results are so tasty.

It is a jam (with an equal amount of sugar to marrow unless you reduce it slightly as I prefer) and has a real sweetness to it but it also has a certain sharpness from the lemons & a lovely heat from the ginger that makes it equally delicious with cold meats and cheeses.

chopped ginger and lemon zest ready to go into marrow

chopped ginger and lemon zest ready to go into marrow

I absolutely love it on a slice of chunky bread and butter.

lemons in muslin bag in boiling jam

lemons in muslin bag in boiling jam

Here is the recipe for any of you that want to have a go…….

Ingredients

5 unwaxed lemons

2kg of marrow (pealed, deseeded and cut into small cubes)

2kg of jam sugar (with added pectin)

1 large knob, about 150g, of fresh ginger (peeled and shredded/very finely chopped)

Take zest off all lemons and set aside.  juice lemons and set juice aside.

Put left over lemon shells (including the pips) into a muslin bag for later.

Put marrows into your maslin pan with a splash of the lemon juice.

Cook on a medium heat until the courgettes become clear and soft (I don’t like the lumps so I let it go mushy or mash it).

Stir in sugar, rest of juice, zest, ginger and the muslin bag of bits.

Boil to setting point and then decant into sterilized jars

Yummy!!!