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.