Saturday, 28 September 2013

I'm a fungi really!

Today I found our first ceps (Penny Buns) of the season. A reason for great celebration. Not quite the 2Kg found by my friend Baptiste or the table full of chanterelles found by Fugue, but we’re happy with them as this marks the beginning of the mushroom scramble that takes over the region in mid-autumn. I therefore thought I’d blog about mushroom hunting.
Finding, cooking and eating wild mushrooms is one of life’s great pleasures however I feel it’s time for a DISCLAIMER. This is NOT a set of instructions on how to hunt for wild mushrooms. All the mushrooms mentioned here have “look-a-likes” with side effects ranging from a bad belly to death and a nasty one at that, as you first suffer from sickness and bad guts, recover then die a week later as your liver and kidneys shut down! If you want to go, get several books and book yourself onto a course. Don’t read this then go out picking, you have been warned.
We’ve been dining on parasol mushrooms for about a fortnight now. They are a great mushroom, easy to find (pasture and roadsides), fairly distinctive and taste good. We dried some last year and often add a couple to soups and stews. Fresh, good with butter and garlic, dipped in batter and fried or in a soup.

Three stages of the parasol. They are particularly good in their infancy (Bottom left)

Last year we got lucky finding several ceps and another edible bolete, Bay Bolete. The ceps are the most prized of all the wild mushrooms fetching a hefty price both dried (porcini) and fresh (If you’re lucky enough to have a market who stocks them.) You might fool the likes of you and I with a Bay Bolete but a grizzled old French paysan will not be tricked.  Superficially they look the same but there is much more contrast between stem and cap of a cep. That’s not to belittle the humble Bay Bolete which is just as tasty but when you know exactly where to find ceps and have been eating them for years you can afford to be picky!

The little basket is also this weeks top tip recovery!

I tried Hen of the Wood for the first time this year as well. A very impressive bracket style mushroom found on old oak trees and stumps. Texture like chicken as the name suggests but with a strong mushroomy flavour. We’ve also found shaggy and/or common inkcaps. However as the common one causes problems if you drink alcohol (including within the last 36hrs) and I can’t tell them apart I’ve not tried them! I also found morels but never got round to eating them as they were looking past their best, but at least I know where to find them next year.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Bountiful Week

This week has been a fruitful one here at Chez Powell. First up the veg patch which has seen a sudden boom in productivity. The weather here has not been good for the last fortnight. An awful lot of rain and not a lot else. However in the last two days the sun has come out and everything outside has gone nuts. As you can see below swedes and fennel have swollen up nicely and we hav a mountain of pumpkins and marrows to  ripen off.

In the polytunnel things have not fared as well. On Monday everything was looking good lots of red toms everywhere and twice as much again green. Unfortunately looked in on Wednesday and almost the whole crop was covered in blight and mildew. This prompted an emergency harvest and the first part of this week will have to spent chutney making. Fortunately I think we have enough marrow to do so!

Also, further to my earlier blog, this week has been a great week at the tip. I've picked up three pairs of shoes that need a bit of a clean and some dubbing, some big plates, a bowl and a berry picker.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The best things in life are free.

It’s been really busy here this summer. Lots of visitors, work and running the smallholding have meant that there’s been no time for blogging. Some new animals thrown into the mix as well adding goats and geese to the zoo! Both are very friendly and as of yet haven't lived up to their naughty reputations. The pigs on the other hand, 5 escape attempts mostly coinciding with either a full moon or  coming into season. However, they always come running when you shake a bucket of food at them! 
Finally got some time to sit down so I thought I wax lyrical about our freecyling efforts thus far. It also highlights the generosity of the people here but also the lunacy of what gets thrown away at the tip. We are aiming to do as much as we can in the house and garden this way. Obviously there are some things we can't really do this with but we try. What follows are some pics of things we’ve got for nothing this summer either from the tip or direct from others which I've labelled as gift. All the pallets are tip recue. I know I've done the pallet table before but hey ho and I might even write a whole one on pallets later.
Book case-Gift


Chair-Gift, Table-Pallet, Rug-Gift

Terracotta pots-Tip rescue

Goose bed-Pallets

Plastic pots-Tip rescue


Climbing frame-Added extra! Child-No idea where he came from!

Water butt.Old sink gift/tip rescue

Goats and fencing-Gift

Toy-Tip rescue, Child-?

Everything in pic-Tip rescue

Rug-Tip rescue!

Throw and cushions-Gift

Table-Tip rescue


Lamp shade-Tip rescue

Lampshade 2-Tip rescue

Jars, charcuterie hanger, earthenwear jar, tiles and kilner jars-All rescues/gifts

Hopefully now that autumn is here I'll have more time again to blog more often when I'm not cep hunting or pig processing.