Sunday, 21 November 2010

First Pick Your Mushrooms

Woke up to a beautiful mist today, the grass all crunchy underfoot. Yellow birch leaves are still falling slowly, one by one. They survived the gales, and are falling at their own pace, thank you very much. The pyracantha is holding on to its last brilliant berries, they have given a magnificent show, but not long now. You've done very well, I thought. I wasn't sure before, but you've earned your place here.... Yes, you shall cook for Michel....!
The last few field mushrooms are struggling on despite the frost, but I've left them for the slugs and the little mice that nibble at them. It has been a wonderful year for mushrooms.This autumn, along with the pink skies and the gentle mists, my back garden turned into my own secret woodland glade. Every morning I tiptoed through the dew see how the mushrooms were coming along. And there were hundreds. From teeny tiny ones to bright red Agarics, my lawn has been carpeted with them. It didn't take long to identify the clusters of white caps coming up - our very own Field Mushrooms. Brushed and chopped, fried in hot butter till a little crisp, served on sourdough toast, salt and parlsey, it seriously was the most delicious morsel I have ever tasted. Ever. Even Michel would approve. TV's Michel Roux, by the way, is the standard I now set for everything - even my poor shrubs!

This most bountiful of autumns has inspired me. Preserving. It started innocently enough with some quince jelly, and has turned into a compulsion, and I now have a whole selection of brightly-filled jars.
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My absolute best thing, though, was a full day making Pontack Sauce. Described by the River Cottage Cookbook as "pure alchemy" it is, exactly as they say, pungent, fruity and spicy. I bought 3 kg freshly picked elderberries from the Farmers Market - my fave new shopping experience - don't bother looking for them at Tesco. Almost black once you've gently baked them at a low heat with cider vinegar for 6 hours, the whole lot then crushed through a sieve. Ohh, the smell of it! Then add shallotts, cloves, allspice, mace, black peppercorns, fresh ginger, boil up for half and hour, sieve, re-boil for 5 minutes and bottle. And intriguingly, a "best after" date of 2017.
For a single 350ml bottle (folly!) here are the quantities: 
500g elderberries
500ml cider vinegar
200g shallots, peeled and sliced
6 cloves,4 allspice, 1 blade mace, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 15g bruised fresh root ginger

Last night I used a very generous glug in my Venison Casserole, and here it is:
4 onions fried in beef dripping.  Add a good handful of spelt flour, the venison chunks and fry to brown.  Then 2 bay leaves, juniper berries, some mixed herbs, tomato concentrate, pontack and some red wine. Just cover with boiling water and very slow cook for 6 hours. We had it with Delia's braised red cabbage with apples and dauphinoise potatoes.

Yes, I would cook that for Michel.

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring! I want to start preserving - you make your London urban life seem quite bucolic!