Foraging fun in West Gippsland.

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.

String & Salt sharing the harvestAnyone 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!
West GippslandOur 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!Collecting walnuts, foragingNot a bad a walnut harvest here!WalnutsNext, 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.IMG_0055 Don’t go here!IMG_0050 Sometimes you need to look carefully to find these treasures. We also collected some wild greens that went into a salad later.MushroomIt was amusing watching everyone and seeing their focussed attention on the hunt. ForagingEveryone 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! ChaiThere were also “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”…………no jack frost nipping at our toes though!Roasting chestnutsNext we were  off for another search,IMG_0054then 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.IMG_0070Once 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.IMG_0092Some of our other finds, apples, wild fennel and greens.IMG_0095Never 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.Muchroom risottoThankyou 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,Bun dough rolledThis is  the final result. Baked in the oven at work, they went down extremely well.Buns cookedFinally, 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!bench tops from reclaimed timberHappy mothers day to all the mums out there, hope you had a day as lovely as I have had.

 

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18 Responses to Foraging fun in West Gippsland.

  1. Glenda says:

    Hi Maree, I love foraging for food so I would have loved the day. I think it is wonderful that you take time to rediscover wonders close at hand. For some reason we tend to think the best on offer is in some far flung place but there is often lots on offer much closer.

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  2. This looks like such a good day out despite the rain and I love your photos! I can pick a field mushroom but I wouldn’t have a clue about anything else. That bench top looks gorgeous too.

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  3. EllaDee says:

    You participated in one of my dreams, to forage and eat local windfall foods. I too have childhood memories of mushroom hunting, on my grandparents farm. No mistaking them for me, I’m confident of what I’m picking. We stop and pick roadside blackberries when we can find thrm, and I plan to expand my repertoire but I shall do an organised event one day. Your dinner looked delicious.
    I’m so looking forward to seeing your kitchen. Love the boards.

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  4. Francesca says:

    Your day foraging brought back childhood memories of mushroom hunting around the paddocks in the northern suburbs, spots which are now all full of housing estates. And also the annual mushroom hunt at Mt T’s family home in Lardner- the paddocks were like gold. Only since moving to St Andrews have I discovered other mushrooms- the saffron milk caps which grow near pine trees especially. And other crazy blue ones, from our youth- one bonus about growing up.
    Love that bench top, it will look absolutely gorgeous. What will you use to coat/protect it?

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  5. Jan says:

    What a lovely, interesting and very tasty day – I’m envious of your weather. My day started with the 8km walk in Brisbane for Breast Cancer Research – it was quite hot and we got very sweaty but the atmosphere was fun. Your kitchen bench timber is very beautiful – it’s lovely to see the journey of your renovations. Your buns look very yum – lovely combination in the filling.

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  6. foodnstuff says:

    What a great day that was! I’m finding a few mushies on our property at the moment, too. Just Agaricus species, but much better flavour than the supermarket ones. Love the benchtop; it’s going to look great when it’s in. Oh, those buns….I’m going to have to stop looking at your food pics…the hunger pain is too much to bear.

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  7. Bek says:

    I did a mushroom foraging workshop last year and loved it! We were in west vic but same species as you, mainly saffron milk caps and slippery jacks but also a few wood blewits. There is something so rewarding about going for a nice walk with a basket and coming home with a meal!
    I second foodnstuff’s hunger pangs on the scrolls, they look amazing.
    I haven’t yet gotten around to reanimating (?resurrecting) the Phoenicia starter you sent (time, time where are you?) but am hoping to do so in the next few weeks. Then the bread adventures will begin 🙂

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  8. Elizabeth says:

    Oh what an amazing day! I do so miss mushrooming in the blue mountains when I lived in Sydney! I think I might have to add it to my list of things to do in Victoria 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing! Do you have your recipe for the sweet sourdough buns???
    Liz xx

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    • fergie51 says:

      Hi Liz, I just used basic dough that I’d added some milk into then rolled it out and sprinkled with cinnamon, brown sugar and walnuts. The icing was meant to be normal icing but I accidentally picked up brown sugar so turned it into caramel. Mushroom at was brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderful post. We have lots of mushrooms on our property on the coast each fall season but I am way too nervous to pick and eat them. I keep meaning to take a foraging class.

    Your counters are going to be beautiful!

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