Monday, June 17, 2013

IS STATUE...OR IS IT LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS ON A MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR?




Do you ever feel like you’re a statue in a city square?

You try your utmost to be upright and stoic at all times, particularly in the face of adversity. You endeavour always to look the world and those who roam around on it directly in the eye. You do your best, but then you discover it’s time to get your sou’wester and raincoat out of moth balls. Out of the blue, when you least expect it, flocks of pigeons fly overhead, and proceed to dump their load on you – not literally, of course; but it does feel like it! You know what I mean without me using unnecessary descriptive verbs, adjectives and nouns.

And, how often have you felt like a mushroom? I don’t mean being overcome by a compelling urge to eat mushrooms. How often have you’ve felt like you WERE a mushroom – being kept in the dark - you know how it goes without me elaborating further!

In fact, it’s not too bad; particularly if you’re fed shiitake. There have been times I’ve felt like a mushroom, but it no longer bothers me. I’m grown past all of that these days. I could care less.

Many mushrooms are very cultivated, more so these days than ever before. Some are even morel; they may be morel, but they are toxic when raw! Don’t allow yourself to be hoodwinked into thinking all tan-capped mushrooms are portabellas; or those others of a pale brown colour are all of the porcini variety. There are little tricksters that pop up about the place with gold tops. Those little devils have magical powers. If you happen to fall victim to the magic of the gold top mushrooms it’s not much fun. Magic is best left to the likes of the late Houdini or David Copperfield, the Illusionist; or Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. I speak from experience regarding magic mushrooms.
An accidental experience; and one I never want to go through again.

Often when we were kids we’d go armed with buckets to gather mushrooms that magically appeared in the lush green paddocks fringing the Mary River after spring storms. Our presence barely raised an eyebrow amongst the disinterested cattle nonchalantly grazing on the thick grasses. From our childhood frolics I believed I was familiar with edible, non-life-threatening mushrooms. I can still taste those richly flavoured field mushrooms in the delicious sauces our grandmother prepared to accompany steak or top toast. Mushrooms these days, in my opinion, don’t have the same distinctive flavour. To my taste, cultivated button and field mushrooms are pitifully bland.

Having a false sense of security regarding field mushrooms I had no hesitation cooking the three I found growing at the base my backyard orange tree in Glenden. They were a healthy-looking trio. They smelled like field mushrooms are supposed to smell; they looked like field mushrooms are supposed to look. They didn’t look suspicious to me; so I added them to a dish I was preparing for my lunch. Enjoying my meal, I went back for seconds; probably not my best decision! The afternoon was spent hallucinating. There was nothing fun about the trip I went on! I spent hours (days it seemed) lying on my bed feeling like I was on a rollercoaster; but I wasn’t enjoying the ride! I dared not venture outside. It was very frightening. It’s an adventure I have no desire to repeat any time soon; or later! My heart pounded as if I’d just completed a marathon. All about me was crystal clear. A powerful, brilliant white light lit up the area, it seemed. The sky was iridescent blue. All around me shimmered in the extreme brightness.

Be careful when picking wild mushrooms in the wild outdoors. Buckle your seat belts – you could be in for the wildest ride of your life – not an enjoyable one!

Wild Mushroom Soup: Place 1/2c dried porcini in a bowl, and 1/2c dried morels in another. Pour 1-1/2c hot water over each (3 cups hot water total); soak 30mins. Line strainer with paper towel; drain porcini liquid, reserve 1 cup. Drain morels; remove stems; rinse well under running water; discard morel liquid. Wipe 500g fresh mushrooms of choice; slice thinly; set aside. Heat 5tbs butter in saucepan; sauté 1/3c finely-chopped shallots with 3 finely-chopped garlic cloves about 3min. Add fresh mushrooms; cook a few minutes more; add dried mushrooms; place a round of buttered parchment paper over pan; sweat over low heat, 10 min; uncover; add 8tbs plain flour; blend well. If it seems too dry after a minute or so, add a small mount of butter. Add 4c chick or veggie stock and reserved cup of porcini liquid. Bring to a boil; lower heat, cover; simmer 20 min; season. Add ½-1c cream to taste, a splash of Madeira, dry port or dry sherry, chopped parsley and chives just before serving.

Snow Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms: To large frying pan or wok over med-heat, add 1tbs sesame oil; heat until hot. Add 2c snow peas, 1/2c sliced shiitakes, 1tbs each minced garlic and ginger; cook a few minutes until warm. In bowl, combine 1/2c veggie broth and 2tsp cornflour until smooth; add to pan; reduce a few minutes; add 2tbs Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, 1-1/2tb soy sauce, 1tbs chilli-garlic sauce, 1tsp sugar, 1/8tsp five-spice, 1/3tsp red pepper flakes; season; cook until sauce thickens; add the snow peas-shiitakes; warm through: serve.

Baked Eggs in Portabellas: Line tray with foil; spray lightly. Wipe clean 2 large portabella caps; remove stems;s prinkle with pepper, salt, chopped chives and shallots. Crack 2 eggs into each mushroom; place on tray; sprinkle with grated cheese of choice if you like; bake in preheated 190C oven 25-35mins or to taste. Sprinkle with more herbs and ground pepper; serve.

20 comments:

  1. You are right on all counts. Field mushrooms have a wonderful flavour. The cultivated variety are just a shadow of 'real' mushroom. Gold tops are one thing (and would be very, very frightening) but a chef prepared a handful of mushrooms he found on his way to work earlier this year - and killed himself and two friends. The only person who survived will need a liver transplant.
    If in doubt - don't.

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  2. Yes, I remember that case, EC...very sad. It was a Chinese chef, I think, from memory, wasn't it?

    The thing was the three mushrooms I picked, cooked and ate that day (and they were only a small part of a larger dish...I didn't eat much of them in reality) were indistinguishable from the edible field mushrooms. There were absolutely no differences that I could see or smell.

    It was some trip...it was pretty scary.

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  3. Yes, it was a Chinese chef. It was lucky (though very sad) that he didn't serve the dish at the restaurant but made it for other staff and friends.

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  4. Only daft folk eat wild mushrooms!
    The ones bought in shops are indeed bland these days, but so is most veg and fruit. Growing your own is the only way f you have a garden or time.
    Just lucky they were not toadstools.....

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  5. Well, I must be daft. For all of the rain we have had this spring had me itching something awful to go out and find some morels deep down in the hollers south of here. Of course, I am no longer physically able to go, but that didn't help with the itching none!

    By the way, was that bowl of brown "stuff" the result of someone getting a hold of a bad mushroom? Hey, it happens to the best of chefs, I know.

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  6. I don't and have never classed myself as being "daft", Adullamite, but perhaps I've deluded myself and should thank you for making me aware! ;)

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  7. I know the feeling, Jerry...but since those three renegade mushrooms I found that day, I've not again dared to pick any that I've seen growing about the place.

    That " bowl of brown stuff" as you so descriptively describe it is as per the recipe given for Wild Mushroom Soup in my post.

    Thanks for popping in.

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  8. Hello again, EC....yes...I agree...how disastrous it would have been if he'd served them to the patrons. I cringe at the thought.

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  9. Yum! I am not that trusting, but I appreciate the recipes ;)

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  10. I go the other way (careful!) = mushroom kilpatrick = chopped bacon and worcesterdhire sauce and a little olive oil in the muchroom and grill. Yummo. The eggs can be poached on toast in the morning.

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  11. One of my friend's husband fancies himself a chef and picks wild mushrooms to cook - I won't touch them. I just don't like to take that chance. I get them from the grocery store. :)

    Your food always looks so good.

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  12. Hi Riot Kitty...all the years we picked field mushrooms I never had a problem until that one day...and those three little mushrooms.

    I think I've talked myself into having some stuffed mushrooms on the weekend.

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  13. Hi there Cosmo! How nice to see you...it seems ages since you popped in.

    There are so many delicious ways to prepare mushrooms...Kilpatrick, as you say, is a tasty way, too. Mushrooms Kilpatrick are probably better than oysers k....because I, personally, prefer oyster natural...no trimmings - I love oysters!

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  14. Hello Lynn...as they say...better to err on the side of caution! :)

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  15. Wow. I love mushrooms but never dared to pick any as I was cautioned that I could get a not nice one. Sounds horrible when you do and you were an experienced huntress. I love light so I would make a very sad mushroom. LOL However, sometimes I do like to take on the trait of being in the dark when affairs get to complicated. Dumped on oh yeah Lady Di gets all the shhhhhhh details. Then I grow DUCK FEATHERS AND IT ROLLS RIGHT OFF. LOL PEACE

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  16. Good for you, Lady Di! lol

    I've been dumped on many times...I learned how to duck very well! ;)

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  17. A nudge to the memory banks brought forth clear, and happy, reminiscences of summer holidays spent at my uncle's farm, and my sister and me setting out through the fields, in the very early morning, with the sun low, lighting up the dewdrops, it was so beautiful, we'd go out past the chicken huts, opening the little doors to let the chooks out to start their day, over the fence and up the hill, then down to the river-pasture, where we'd gather mushrooms as big as plates, carefully laying them in my dad's old army knapsack.
    Back to the farm, stopping to pillage the chook's beloved eggs.
    Auntie Frances would be bustling about the kitchen, mmm bacon! and mugs of tea would be issued. Our treasure would be carefully inspected, washed, and added to the bacon fat. Dad and Uncle Raymond would be heard outside, in the 'mud-room', shucking off boots and overalls, and Robert would come chugging into the yard on the old Fordson tractor. My mum would be there, tending to my 'new' baby brother, and we'd all sit down to breakfast in the big old farmhouse kitchen, that was truly the heart of the house. As I write, I can smell that great smell of bacon and mushroom, eggs and fresh bread, with home-churned butter. Slices of Russet apples from the orchard, cows lowing contentedly as they make their own way back from the mistal (local dialect word, a cow byre, milking parlour).
    No bad mushrooms. Can't remember any ever. I think my grandfather started teaching us what we could and could not harvest from the fields and hedgerows as soon as we could walk.
    And now I'm thinking of him, his rough tough hand, hard with a lifetime's farming, holding my small soft hand. Wills Woodbine cigarettes. Him consulting his big pocket watch, telling us it's time to turn for home, picking berries from the hedge as we go. Grand-ma points a finger at me... You've been eating! Grandad winks, behind her and shakes his head. So my sister and I deny it fervently.
    Until she picks up the mirror that stands on the wooden draining-board, and shows us our purple, juice-stained faces.
    Ha! Busted!
    Lots of washing with a brick of green 'fairy' soap.
    Oh my. All these memories from mushrooms.

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  18. Ahhh...Soub...thanks for sharing your wonderful memories with me. I love it!

    We never found any bad mushrooms, either, when we were kids collecting them by the bucketfuls. That's why I was so surprised when I had that experience. From all appearances, those three I picked were just fine...smell, look, shape, colour...everything...but they weren't as it turned out.

    Like you, my brother and I loved those excursions and the delicious feasts that followed.

    Take care, and thanks for dropping by. :)

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  19. Toad's Wild Ride !! I think it does occur sitting beneath overly large mushroom caps!

    I suppose I should consider myself lucky: inherited allergy to mushrooms. Just as my mother, I could tolerate mushrooms when I was young. Over time, however, I became increasingly ill after partaking of even the mildest, blandest market version.

    My college boyfriend often recalled fond stories of tripping on 'shrooms! Smart me refused to partake. Smarter me dumped the boyfriend :P

    xxx

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  20. Hi there RDG aka Lola...these weren't Gold Tops - which were "popular" back in the Seventies and Eighties.

    You were smart to decline. Thanks for coming by. :)

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