Wild foods have never been so much in vogue, they are all over restaurant menus and we love it…..
Foraging has virtually become a national sport, young and old are scurrying about in woodlands and along the hedgerows in search of nuts, berries and wild mushrooms. It’s been a fantastic year for fungi, we got baskets and baskets of wild mushrooms, not just field mushrooms, but porcini, yellow legs, chanterelles and even a huge cauliflower mushroom proudly delivered by a particularly knowledgeable local forager. I’d never cooked one before so that was super exciting.
We used field mushrooms in every conceivable way, mushroom soup, mushrooms on toast, mushroom a la crème, mushroom risotto and we made mushroom ketchup for the first time in over a decade. Our farm around the Cookery School has been managed organically for over 20 years now and this year Mother Nature rewarded us with a bounty of field mushrooms. We couldn’t collect them fast enough, several of the fields were literally white with mushrooms. we had such fun showing our grandchildren how to recognise and gather field mushrooms. For the first time in almost a decade the conditions were perfect – warm moist weather and chemical free fields.
There’s also a bumper crop of blackberries, not sure I’ve ever seen so many eager foragers scrabbling around in the brambles. Local children have been collecting the plump berries and we’re thrilled to buy them both for the Cookery School and the restaurant. There are a million delicious ways to use them. We all know that blackberry and Bramley apple is a winning combination on their own but add a few leaves of rose geranium and you have something sublime.
Earlier this year, 15 year old Simon Meehan from Ballincollig was declared Young Scientist of the Year for his discovery that blackberries contain a non-toxic, organic, original antibiotic which is effective in killing Staphylococcus aureus, a bug that infects humans and is increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment especially when it comes in the form of the common hospital acquired infection MRSA. So gorge yourself on blackberries while they last, they also contain loads of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, magnesium and calcium.
My youngest grandchild Jago, (2 years old), can’t get enough of them, he’s like a kid in a candy shop gobbling them up like smarties off the blackberry bushes, ignoring the prickles in an effort to reach every last one.
Maria Walsh’s Blackberry Tincture
Blackberries are a rich source of antioxidants. Tinctures are easy and convenient to use.
recycle an old jam jar – 290ml
Three quarter fill the jar with wild blackberries, picked on a dry day.
Cover the berries with alcohol – vodka or brandy. For a non-alcoholic version use apple cider vinegar or kombucha vinegar.
Place the tincture in a dark cupboard. Shake the jar once a day and leave for 6-8 weeks.
When ready, one could take a teaspoon every day or add to water, jazz up cocktails or add to water kefir.
Wild Mushroom a la Crème on toast
Mushroom à la crème is a fantastic all-purpose recipe, and if you’ve got a surplus of wild mushrooms, use those instead of cultivated ones. You can even use dried mushrooms. Mushroom à la crème keeps well in the fridge for 4–5 days and freezes perfectly.
50g (2oz) butter
175g (6oz) onion, finely chopped
450g (1lb) wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, ceps, false chanterelles or the common field mushroom), sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
good squeeze of lemon juice
225ml (8fl oz) cream
freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)
Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 5–10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured; remove the onions to a bowl.
Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in the remaining butter, in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a
tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add the chopped herbs.
Toast or pan-grill the bread and pile the hot creamy mushroom mixture on top.
Grandpoppy’s Mushroom Ketchup
It only makes sense to make mushroom ketchup on the rare years when there’s a glut of wild mushrooms in the fields. This is becoming less and less common because of the level of pesticides used in conventional farming. Occasionally, though, when the weather at the end of the summer is warm and humid as it was this year, we get a flush of mushrooms, and we can’t bear to waste any of them. make a supply of mushroom ketchup, which keeps for years. You can dash it into game, beef, lamb and chicken stews and casseroles, shepherd’s pie, or just use it as you would soy sauce.
as many wild field mushrooms as you can gather
For each 1.2 litres (2 pints) of ketchup, use:
10g (1⁄2oz) whole peppercorns
7g (1⁄2oz) whole ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon mace
50ml (2fl oz) whiskey or, if you prefer, omit the whiskey and add 1 tablespoon of best brandy to each bottle before sealing
Put the mushrooms into a large basin. Sprinkle salt between each layer to extract juice. Steep for 24 hours, occasionally stirring and breaking the mushrooms. Allow to stand for a further 12 hours to settle the sediment.
Pour into another vessel, leaving behind the sediment. Measure, strain and to every 1.2 litres (2 pints) of ketchup add the above ingredients. Bottle and seal.
Mushroom ketchup keeps for years: I have some that is over 5 years old and is still perfect. The steeped mushrooms themselves can be composted or fed to the hens.
Wild Mushroom and Thyme Leaf Tart
A really flavoursome tart, one of the few that tastes super warm or cold. Use cream! Both the flavour and texture are quite different if you substitute milk. Flat cultivated mushrooms also work well when field mushrooms are not available
Rich Shortcrust Pastry
110g (4oz) plain white flour
50-75g (2-3oz) butter
water to bind or a mixture of water and beaten egg
225g (8oz) wild mushrooms, flats if possible
15g (½ oz) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
225ml (8fl oz) cream
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, free range if possible
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese or preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a good pinch of cayenne
1 x 7 inch (18cm) flan ring or tin with pop up base (low sided)
Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way.
Sieve the flour, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult -to-handle pastry will give a crispier shorter crust.
Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.
Allow to rest, line the flan ring and bake blind for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile chop the mushrooms finely, melt the butter, add the oil and fry the mushrooms on a very high heat. Add thyme leaves and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until all the juice has evaporated and then allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.
Whisk the cream in a bowl with the eggs and the extra egg yolk, stir in the cool mushrooms and the Parmesan cheese. Taste, add the pinch of cayenne and more seasoning if necessary. Pour into the pre-baked pastry case.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the filling is set and the top delicately brown.
Serve with a good green salad
Note: Tiny mushroom quiches may be served straight from the oven as appetisers before dinner or for a drinks party.
Apple, Sloe and Sweet Geranium Jelly
This apple jelly recipe is the most brilliant mother recipe to add all sorts of flavours. If you have lots of sloes increase the quantity to half apples and sloes. Serve on scones, with game, pork, duck or guinea fowl.
Makes 6-7 pots
2.2kg crab apples or Bramley Seedlings
2.7 litres water
6-8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)
plus extra as needed.
2 lemons, unwaxed organic
Wash the apples and cut into quarters, no need to peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples in a large saucepan with the sloes and geranium leaves, the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until the apples and sloes dissolve into a ‘mush’, approx. 2 hours.
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan, allow 450g sugar to each 600ml of juice. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven 180C/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan, add a few more geranium leaves if the flavour is still very mild. Bring to the boil and add the sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the geranium leaves. Skim, test and then pour the jelly into sterilized jars, put a sweet geranium leaf in each jar. Cover and seal immediately.
Blackberry and Lime Scones
For lime scones, just roll out the dough to 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp or cut into scones and dip the egg – washed tops in lime sugar.
Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (71/2 cm) cutter
2lb (900g) plain white flour
6oz (175g) butter
pinch of salt
2oz (50g) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
3 free-range eggs
15fl oz (450ml/) approx. full cream milk to mix (not low fat milk)
2oz (50g) granulated or Demerara sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon lime zest for the top of scones
150g (5oz) butter
250g (9oz) pale brown sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
Preheat the oven 250ºC/475ºF/Gas Mark 9.
First make the Lime Butter.
Cream the butter, sugar and lime zest together and beat until light and fluffy.
Sieve the flour into a large wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, the baking powder and castor sugar. Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.
Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre. With the fingers of your ‘best
hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl. This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Turn out the dough onto the floured board. Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point. Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a rectangle about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick.
Spread the soft lime butter over the surface. Roll up lengthwise and cut into pieces about 2 inches (5cm) thick.
Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in lime sugar. Put onto a baking sheet fairly close together.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Whisk one egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk. This is brushed over the scones to help them brown in the oven.