Monday, April 13, 2015

5 weeks break - pine mushroom schnitzels

Here's another recipe idea for using Pine Mushrooms. I chose the smallest button Saffron Milkcaps we picked on Sunday for this dish.

After cleaning the mushrooms with a dry paper towel to brush off dirt and pine needles I trimmed the stems a little.  I mixed breadcrumbs with freshly ground salt and pepper and dried marjoram.  I double crumbed the mushrooms by dipping in egg, crumbs, then repeating.
I deep fried the mushrooms which quickly formed a crisp crust.  

Served with Donna Hay's coriander mayo.  Delicious.  This will actually work for any type of firm fleshed mushrooms but pine mushrooms are so special having such a short season.

5 weeks break - Curry pasties

Last week we had a planned black out. The power was off about 3 hours longer than expected which wore thin once dark fell.

As I knew about the black out before it happened I planned my day around cleaning out my chest freezer. It wasn't an exciting job but it was a good job to get done. Its certainly been on my list too long. My chest freezer is in the laundry and I really went to town, cleaned out cupboards and drawers and completed more de-cluttering. So that fell good. I threw out some of the contents of the freezer but I re-discovered some great food that I forgot I had.  

One of those finds was several tubs of forgotten lentil and vegetable curry.   
Today I turned the curry into delicious pasties or curry puffs if you will.  I added some spinach, a spoonful of curry, turned the pastry over and crimped the edges. A little egg wash and bake for 20 minutes. Yum.

Tip: If your curry is a moist soup style you will need to drain it first. Pasties and lots of liquid don't mix.

5 weeks break - Day 17 exploring Macquarie Rivulet

This afternoon I went for a small bush walk along the edge of the Macquarie Rivulet at the bottom of Macquarie Pass, Green Valley.  I drive this road every day to and from work but I have never stopped to discover its delights.  Oh I've thought about it, said "I should".  But that's the problem with life isn't it? You get into habits, you avoid doing fun things because you have somewhere to be, something you have to do. By taking 5 weeks off work I am able to go where the wind leads me and today it lead me to this idyllic spot.  A short walk from the main road there is this lovely swimming hole where the water trickles over stones.   Here are a few photos from my visit.

 The tree canopy reflected in a muddy puddle always reminds me of my favourite Escher artworks.
 Fine maidenhair fern fronds along the path.
 I don't know wht this plant is but it was popular with bees and butterflies.
Stunning fungi sprouting from a rotting log on the rainforest floor.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

5 weeks break - baking potato bread

This bread is the most amazing recipe as it makes a firm but moist loaf of bread with beautiful texture and a light garlic taste. I've adapted it from I don't remember where sorry.

If you use a bread machine place the ingredients in the order listed. I find it a bit moist and usually have to take out the dough and add a little more flour before its ready to bake. I highly recommend letting it rise and baking in an oven, but feel free to let the bread machine do all the kneading for you.

·         1 cup of water
·      2 tablespoons butter
·      1 egg
·      4 cups bread flour ( I used wholemeal spelt)
·       2/3 cup mashed potato - boil or steam 1 large or 2 medium potatoes and mash with 1 extra tablespoon of butter
·      1 tablespoon sugar
·      1 1/2 teaspoons salt
·      1 clove of garlic peeled and crushed

·      2 teaspoons yeast
      Mix together all ingredients and knead well. Let rise.   Roll out into 2 long sausages. Twist together then place in a lined bread tin.  Leave in warm area to rise again.  Bake until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, 20-30 minutes at 200C.

5 weeks break - Day 16 mushroom foraging

At last its that time of year, the autumn rains have come and the wild mushrooms have begun to appear in the local forests.

Howard and I went out this morning to forage for Saffron milk caps or pine mushrooms. These delectable delights secret a bright orange sap making them very easy to identify.

Its early in the season and plenty of people were out and about but not the number we will see in a few weeks when things get into full swing.  We worked hard for half a basket but got plenty for a few meals.

There is a delightfully simple way to cook these pine mushrooms.
Clean with a dry piece of paper towel then slice the mushroom.  Cook over heat in chilli infused olive oil and crystals of rock salt.  Serve on fresh bread toasted to make a delicious bruschetta.

Sorry I ate it all and didn't take any photos of our cooked dinner. Go cook your own :)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 weeks break - day 15 Harper's Mansion, Berrima

I don't know if you ever play the tourist in your own town but I do sometimes and its fun.  A great way to discover new treasures and see your home through fresh eyes.

In Berrima, a small historic village in the Southern Highlands of NSW, there is a splendid grand old home called Harper's Mansion.  It wasn't open to the public when we moved here and when it did open about 6 years ago we'd spend many an hour in the village already so didn't ever go into the house. Until today.

I had a great time!

I was shown around the house by a knowledgeable guide who told me the history of the house from the mid 1830s until 1970 when the last tenant left and the house was a complete ruin. The Southern Highlands chapter of the National Trust own the house and have restored it beautifully. They rely on donations, ticket sales and use of the property for private functions.

From convict beginnings to this grand house in a few short years, sadly James and Mary Harper didn't get to revel in the splendour for long as James died only 9 years after its completion. Situated on top of a hill, the symmetrical two story house has a straightforward charm and would have dominated the village throughout its history.

The extensive gardens are modern but contain many heirloom roses and interesting herbs.

Pineapple sage
The original well from the 1830s

I walked through the maze. My first ever time in a maze. It was so much fun. I went round and round in circles giggling all the time. The other people going through laughed as they kept bumping into people from different directions to the last time they saw them.  The maze is made from Leylandi and it smelt gorgeous, trimmed to perfection. I want to go back and do the maze again.

If you are in the area I recommend a visit: 

Friday, April 10, 2015

5 week break - Day 14 cultivating oyster mushrooms

Back in 2013 I did a course with Milkwood Permaculture in cultivating mushrooms.  I have neglected it over the past year more or less but hey, as I'm on leave I've had the time to start up my cultures again.

Mushroom science 101:

Take an existing mushroom, cut some tissue from the inside and place in a petri dish of agar (seaweed gelatin and food for the growing fungi).  Leave until the dish is full of fluffy white fungi.  Transfer to grain to let it grow some more, then straw and let the mushrooms, or fruit of the fungi, to grow.  Add humidity along the way.

The course was wonderful. Day 1, I was convinced that I could never learn it.  The science hurt my head. If this was what high school science class had taught me I would have loved the classes.  All the theory in the world is useful if you can see no useful application for it. Please hear that science teachers out there.

Overnight I got determined and went back to the course with renewed vigour.  Some wonderfully detailed notes later as well as some practical experience and yes I can cultivate mushrooms from a tissue sample. See some of my other mushroom stories here.

So I got out my kit today, prepared my agar plates and let them cool. Then I took samples from my fresh oyster mushrooms.

Now I wait. I hope I achieved a suitable level of sterility so no foreign matter contaminates my dishes. I'll let you know when I get to the next stage.


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