Well, I have had the loveliest day! What better way to warm the cockles of your heart than to spend the day foraging for fungi and other edibles with a group of like minded people trudging through paddocks and over hills in West Gippsland? Following the hunt, we returned to S&S HQ and shared the most wonderful dishes created from our finds. Thank you so much Michelle and Dave at String & Salt, and to chef Trevor Perkins for making this event so enjoyable.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love mushrooming, or more importantly that I love making the most of using anything that is freely available! I can remember when, as a child we would be driving along the road and dad would pull the car up, grab his bucket and boots out (Niblicks boots of course, they were always in the car ready to don in these moments) and we would head out across paddocks in search of the perfect ‘shroom. I can also remember mum sitting in the car rolling her eyes and sternly saying “Stanley, one day you will get shot for trespassing!”. Well he never got shot, and I have happy memories of him teaching me all about what makes a good mushroom. I think this is also where I learned to appreciate cow dung and not to worry about handling it. Back in those days, field mushrooms or canned mushrooms (Edgell ?) in sauce were the only mushies on our menus. Little did we know what culinary delights of the fungi world were being kept from us, yet another example of how being multi-cultural has helped us grow and expand our pallet.
String & salt offered this day as part of their 2016 cooking series and once again they have delivered the goods!
We began the day with a nice cuppa and greeting at the shop in Warragul and were then bussed around to a few different locations of West Gippsland close to Warragul. Today also helped me to remember that we need to celebrate and appreciate our local area, I hadn’t looked at it through ‘visitor’ eyes for ages and it was a nice reminder of how beautiful this area is. The day was drizzly but not cold or windy. Beautiful!
Our first stop was to collect some walnuts, at first glance it didn’t appear there were to be many for the taking, but somehow you eventually start to actually focus on what you need to see. At this point it was quite wet which didn’t make it easy. The walnuts looked a bit bedraggled when collecting, but that was not the case once we cracked them open later. Gold!Not a bad a walnut harvest here!Next, there were a couple of stops to hunt for an assortment of fungi including saffron milk caps and slippery jack mushrooms, as well as some education on what to look for, how to err on the side of caution and to be aware of the potential toxicity of many varieties. Trevor explained a few techniques for testing and again re-iterated not to eat unless really sure of what you have. Don’t go here! Sometimes you need to look carefully to find these treasures. We also collected some wild greens that went into a salad later.It was amusing watching everyone and seeing their focussed attention on the hunt. Everyone celebrated each others success when a discovery was made with a whoop of delight. Our walk back to the top of the hill was met with Dave serving the most wonderful chai. This chai is a blend they have at String and Salt and it went down so well after our hike in the wet. Dave demonstrated his adeptness in cooling and frothing the chai in the traditional manner! There were also “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”…………no jack frost nipping at our toes though!Next we were off for another search,then back to S&S HQ, we did stop along the way to collect some wild apples from the roadside. These apples were similar in appearance to a golden delicious, taste was not too tarty nor too sweet and it held up well in the galette that Michelle made later.Once back at S&S HQ, Trevor, Dave & Michelle along with some very damp assistants prepared the bounty while sipping on some wine and enjoying a beautiful dukkah. These are a few of our discoveries. The orange ones are saffron milk caps and on the left are field mushies, there are some slippery jacks mingled within along with some brittle gills.Some of our other finds, apples, wild fennel and greens.Never having been brave enough to eat anything other than field mushrooms or the shiitake I grow, it was great getting to experience the different varieties. They are so meaty and didn’t break down when cooked. We thoroughly enjoyed the mushroom risotto, wild greens salad and apple galette (forgot to take a pic of that) that we shared. The galette was served with vanilla cream and was delicious.Thankyou to everyone involved for such a great day!
Other catch ups.
Sourdough bread this week was an experimental bun bake. I used my basic sweet sourdough and made fresh pomegranate, walnut, cinnamon and sultana buns. Topped with a caramel glaze they were a great success. These are the buns before proofing,This is the final result. Baked in the oven at work, they went down extremely well.Finally, our bench tops are under construction. How beautiful is this timber? I am so pleased we decided to re-incorprate some of the almost 100 year old timber we removed during demolition into the new exteno. Getting very excited that I will soon have a ‘real’ kitchen!Happy mothers day to all the mums out there, hope you had a day as lovely as I have had.