Friday 29 May 2015

Mushrooms and foraging

I have previously posted about the joy of gathering 'wild' food in random places and creating dishes with the produce.
I couldn't believe my eyes, when on one of my recent daily walks around the neighbourhood, I spotted four large beautiful mushrooms growing on a grassy patch of council owned land (which  says to me people can collect said food at leisure).
I immediately picked one and using my limited knowledge of mushrooms declared them perfectly safe to pick and take home to eat. The hubby was not so sure, so I was reluctantly convinced to leave them there for someone else to take the risk.
The next day they were still there, including the one I picked."It was a sign", I said! So I ducked home, grabbed a large brown paper bag and gathered them up.
Much discussion was had around toxins ripping through my body if I consumed them. I even asked for a friends help, calling over to her house to ask "do you think these are poisonous"?  After much debate, inspection and sniffing we agreed they looked very much like Portobello mushrooms.
I also checked on the Internet and became even more convinced my mushrooms were of the Portobello variety and therefore perfectly safe to eat.
How to cook them? Many of my favourite recipes came to mind, Coq au Vin, cream of mushroom soup and rice rissotto. In the end I chose wild mushrooms fried in butter, piled on toast. Delicious!  I must admit they were a little stronger in flavour than the store bought ones. But they reminded me of the field mushrooms we collected as children on our many Easter camping holidays in the country. My mother used to fry them up on a camp fire. Foraged free food made her pretty happy too and like my story, we all survived to tell the tale!
I forgot to take a photo of them cooked ( I was too busy devouring them), suffice to say they were a lovely rich brownish/black colour.


Saturday 2 May 2015

Parcel cooking, with Lamb

Further to my previous blog I thought I would report on another recent 'experiment' - cooking a leg of lamb - in a brown paper parcel.
I must admit, I was a bit of a nonbeliever in said method for such a large piece of meat. And you could say I was a little reckless cooking it for the first time for dinner guests.
When I ordered the meat at my local butcher, he was quick to tell me they didn't wrap their meat in brown paper any more! I reassured him I had that in hand. I had managed to purloin some from our local picture framers!
The upshot of all this was a cooked leg of lamb which was surprisingly -  a roaring success.

I used a recipe by Ruth Pretty, which recently appeared in the Dominion Post.

Smear a large leg of lamb, mine was just under 3kg, ( chump removed but cooked alongside the leg) with a mixture of 1/4 c lemon juice, 10 - 12 sprigs of oregano, olive oil, seasoning, and poke slivered garlic into little slits neatly made in the meat.
Place a layer of baking paper on top of a large sheet of brown paper and making sure the fat side of the lamb is facing up, wrap neatly to ensure it is all completely enclosed.
Secure the parcel with cooking string and some expert tying techniques and 'bobs your uncle'.
Be sure to place the lamb parcel on a wire rack sitting in a large meat dish. 
Preheat the oven to a high heat then turn down to 170 C and slow cook for 3 1/2 hours. Don't be tempted to break the seal while it is cooking.
Remove from the oven and let it rest for 20 - 30mins - still wrapped - this part is essential.

I think my guests were a little surprised to see what I was about to serve! The big reveal was a little fiddly but the man and I had heaps of fun unwrapping the steaming surprise, while saying quietly to ourselves 'please G, make it be cooked' ?  A quick check with the meat thermometer confirmed all was well. The meat almost fell off the bone.
Be careful to save the juice as this is used to serve with the meat, or if you prefer,  to be the basis for your gravy.  I served it with roast vegetables, peas and beans.
It all made for a delicious Good Friday dinner with great friends. This now completes my go at 'parcel' cooking. It has been such fun.

I prepared the lamb day before, left in the fridge overnight, bought to room temperature and placed in the oven when needed

With the meat coming away so well from the bone, it looks cooked but best to confirm to be sure