Saturday, June 30, 2012

Identifying pine rings and wild mushroom risotto

Yesterday I went to learn more about mushrooms with a group of families and a fungus fundi. It was a wonderful learning time. I have been collecting pine ring mushrooms in the forest for a few years now and enjoying them in various ways.

The first time I served some 4 years ago Superman was not at all impressed! It was drummed into him as a kid that your do not eat wild mushrooms so when the dish was placed before him a rather unpleasant reflex action took place. He has gotten used to me eating them, and as he too loves mushies, this year he decided to try again.
Pine rings collected yesterday.

One of the problems that we have as foragers is identifying whether a pine ring is fresh enough to eat...let me share with you how to do this first. You will find them in dense pine leaf litter. Look carefully, they are sometimes just a little mound and if you move the needles off you will see the mushroom. The best months are May and June. They pop through about 2 days after rain.

Fresh pinering - notice the concentric circles like a tree trunk and the pale orange color.

Older pinering with the greeny color. I don't eat them when they get to this stage.

Stem of fresh pinerine - notice the little holes in the stem.

Old pinering stem - greening and no holes

This I learnt yesterday - the color test. Cut through the stem just above ground level and print it on your hand. 
 If the mushroom is indeed a pine ring then it will bleed orange. The fresher it is the clearer the circle on your hand.

Another rule about foraging mushrooms, they are best eaten the day they are picked and do not keep long. The tendency of people, when something is "free" is to take as much as they can find. This is really not necessary, take only what you can eat in one day. It is a treat, something special, not something to feast on. You need 1 palm sized (or the equivalent of) per person to add something special to the meal.

Fungi play a huge part in the forest by breaking down leaf litter, tree trunks and more. When you find a mushroom that is not edible, no need to kick it over and break it up, leave it to do it's work.

Last point about pine rings, your urine the next day is an orangey-brown color...not a are fine :-)

This is Jamie Oliver's recipe for wild mushroom risotto from his Jamie At Home cookbook.

Brown 2 stalks of celery and one onion in some olive oil and butter

Add 400g of risotto rice and stire to cover. Add 1 cup of white wine. Stir until absorbed. Then add, ladle by ladle, 1.5l chicken stock. Add a teaspoon of salt and 1 punnet mixed wild mushrooms (woolies has a special at the moment on Shitake/Oyster mushies.) Sit well with each addition.

Meanwhile dry fry your foraged mushrooms until soft

When cooked squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon, and add picked leaves of handful of parsely and thyme. Mix.

Finish the risotto with 25g cubed butter and 250ml grated parmesan. Mix in and allow to sit for 5minutes

Serve the risotto placing a heaped spoon of wild mushrooms on top.

This risotto is so moreish, comforting and indulgent. Thank goodnes we can only forage pine rings for a few months every year.

PS Superman had no negative reactions this time and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Next time I hope he will come foraging with us.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Foraging for fungi with friends.

Today a few families got together to go foraging for fungi with a Fungi Specialist from SANBI - Dr N Allsopp. She was a treasure trove of information and clearly her passion for the forest and its diversity rubbed off on us. I have foraged for about 4 years in the forest for Pine Rings but have always wanted to know more about what else grows here and if there is anything else we can eat.

Permanent inhabitants to welcome us

Off we go

Nope, not baboon dropping, rather a fungus that lives on the roots of the Eucalyptus Tree

Gorgeous shelf fungi

This one is used for dying wool and material

This one when open smells like rotten meat

Edible, I tried, but very peppery and unpleasant

A luminous bead like fungi on a tree

Crossing the Princess Kasteel River to my hunting ground

The treasure I came for - Pine Rings

A nice number of Pine Rings to go with dinner tonight.
Tomorrow I will show you how to determine that it is a Pine Ring and fresh enough to eat with the delicious recipe we used tonight. It was so good to be out in the cold winter air with some special friends enjoying this time of learning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Funky Chickens ~ A business venture for my son

Jonathan, our 15 year old son, has become a distributor for certified free range pasture fed chicken and eggs.
These chickens are from the Garden Route area and are fed a completely natural diet, housed only at night. They spend their days, as chickens should, pecking and scratching in pastures eating bugs and greens. Any additional feed given to them is certified natural with no additives like bone or fishmeal, no soy and no GMO maize, no growth hormones or antibiotics.

These chickens are 14 days older than most chickens you buy in the store making them more tasty, meaty and with less fat. Besides for the taste, and the humane way in which the chickens live, you are reaping the benefits by eating chicken that will not compromise your long term health.
Funky Chickens can sell you whole birds for R48/kg! The birds that Jonathan supplies are on average 1.6 - 1.8kgs. There are other products on his website for you to look at too!
Our first stock arrives next Wednesday so if you Capetonians would like to order please email Jonathan at for more information.
Looking forward to hearing from you

Wendy and Jonathan

PS Please feel free let your friends and family know, thank you!

Monday, June 25, 2012

In the garden today

Despite the damp and cold we spent a little while in the garden today...come take a look around...

Radishes are so huge, time to use them up

First peas turning up

My favourite flower around the pond
Onions..and leaves.

Loads of spinach for dinner

Oh, my other favourite flower making a show.

Purple broccoli
Argh..weeds, must have come through the manure we added in Autumn

Beautiful beets for supper.
Tomorrow has a wet wild stormy forecast, glad we managed some time in the garden today.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My kitchen ~ My Factory

As each season passes my kitchen is transformed into a different kind of factory. Sometimes it is a canning factory specializing in jams or chilli preserves, other times its a soap factory. It is however a permanent food factory the name of which changes with the day of the week. Here are some of my factory photos of the past few weeks...
Various types and stages of citrus cleaner

Cream cheese

20 litres of milk waiting to be turned into yoghurt and mozarella

20kgs of black mission olives in brine

Loaves of bread for hungry tummies
Chicken and beef stock made today

Indulging in pasta this week freshly made in my factory
I know other woman who also have mini factories running in their kitchens...what did you make in yours this week?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Creative Friday - babysteps in knitting

Sometimes I look at the other projects that people submit over at Creative Friday and get a little impatient with my knitting skill, but it gave me such joy this week to see my girls wear their slouch berets on a walk at the local common. Here they are...all three of my beautiful girls, one wearing her own design :)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Soup A Day...

I have never been a big soup person until a couple of winters ago when I realized that it is a nutritious way to feed my family quickly and easily.  I think the biggest change was when I learnt to make my own stock and this just elevated soup making and the taste to another level.

Now we make soup for every weekday lunch as it is easy to put on at about 10.30 when we have a break in the morning routine and then I just need to add some small finishing touches at 12.30 when we have lunch.
So here are our last week’s soups.

Sweet potato and fresh ginger soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 peeled raw sweet potatoes, cut chunks
1 large onion diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 pinch sugar
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 liter cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Brown the onion and garlic and sweet potato in the butter. Add the spices and stock and simmer for about 20 minutes. (I leave it on 1 here while we finish schooling). Use your hand blender to make the soup smooth while adding the milk.

Adjust flavour with salt and pepper and then ladle into bowls. It’s a thick soup. Topped with fresh coriander ad served with your choice of bread, cheese scones or rolls.

Chicken, mushroom and bacon soup
1 punnet mushrooms, sliced
1 packet bacon, sliced
2 – 4 deboned chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, diced.
Fresh sage
Fresh garlic
1 litre chicken stock

Brown the onion, garlic and bacon in the butter. Add the chicken and brown. Then add the mushrooms and stir a bit. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and stir in. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Allow to cook until all is done. Add salt and pepper and some Tabasco if you like a bit of heat. Serve with fresh butter rolls.

Butternut soup
1 large butternut
2 sweet potatoes
1 onion
1 heaped teaspoon of each cumin and coriander
250ml Cream or 2 rounds of Feta
1 litre chicken stock

Brown onion and garlic in butter. Add peeled diced  butternut and sweet potatoes. Pour over chicken stock and add spices. Bring to the boil then reduce heat. Allow to simmer until all veggies are soft. Use the stick blender to make smooth. Add the cream or feta and blend again.

Sometimes I add some orange zest and cinamon to this aswell. Delicious citrus flavour.

Lamb and barley soup
1 litre lamb stock
1 cup of barley
1 onion
2 cups shredded cabbage
4 tomatoes
Whatever fresh herbs you like, I used rosemary and majoram.
Olive oil
Brown the onion, add the veggies and stock. When boiling add barley. Allow to cook until it is soft. S

Beef vegetable soup
1 onion
4 pieces beef shin
2 litres of beef stock
Any vegetables you have like tomatoes, turnips, carrots, soup celery….
Herbs like thyme, rosemary.
Olive oil

Brown the onion and then the meat. Add your veggies then the stock and herbs. Allow to cook for about 2 hours. Remove the meat and bones and use the stock blender to smooth. Add the beef back to the soup and serve. 

Vegetable, Bacon and Barley
2 red onions
4 carrots
5 tomatoes
1 butternut
100g Green beans or courgettes
1 packet bacon (we use Happy Hog free range)
2 litres chicken stock
1/2 Cup barley
Sage and majoram

Chop all veggies into small pieces, brown in olive oil and butter. Add herbs and salt and pepper. Add int chicken stock, bring to the boil. Add barley and allow to simmer until everything is soft. Adjust seasoning and serve.

While Superman and I are still low carb, my kids love some sort of bread to go with these soups. The butter rolls are linked above, but yesterday we made some cheese spirals.

Cheese Spirals
1 packet puff pastry
100g grated cheese

Lay out the pastry and spot with both mustard and marmite (lightly). Sprinkle cheese over, then roll up like a swiss roll. Cut into 2cm slices. Lay on greased baking tray and cook until golden.

These warm our tummies and keep us going through the afternoons schooling and sports.
Sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday