Saturday, 24 October 2015

Drying Mushrooms!

It's autumn, and what do you get fresh from the fields after the rain?  Yes of course you do... Mushrooms!  OK... well in spite of having loads of field mushroom lookalikes on our finca we have bought our mushrooms from the supermarket.  This is a precaution.  Firstly.... I have been mushrooming for field mushrooms in the UK since I was a child.  I am very happy spotting a field mushroom and very confident about eating them.  But here.... I looked at all the mushrooms popping up and although at first my heart leapt and I thought... yippeee... very soon after I had a nagging doubt.

The mushrooms appear to be your common old field mushroom but this is rural Spain.  Lots of very strange mushrooms pop up on our finca and I am filled with doubts.  So... not to worry... I'm not an expert and I am happy to admit it... I don't want to poison myself or my family... so its off to the supermarket where the season is reflected in the prices.

A couple of packs of Setas - Wild Mushrooms - a couple of euros and I have peace of mind as well as yummy food.

The mushrooms are ripped apart into roughly similar sizes and then I hang them up in net bags (rescued from onions at some point in the past) on the veranda to dry.

At night they are brought into the kitchen and then put out again in the morning.  Its rained a bit these last few days so they may take as much as a week to dry.  Once they are very very dry - like cardboard,  I will put them into a jar and keep them for use in stews and soups over winter.  They can be reconstituted by adding hot water and leaving them to soak for a little while and then they can be used almost like fresh mushrooms, except you might notice that the mushroom flavour becomes stronger after drying.  They can even be blitzed into a powder which is a wonderfully flavourful addition to a meal, without using a lot of mushrooms to achieve it.

Now, we have a very dry atmosphere here in South West Spain, its only really during January or February that it is too wet to air dry stuff.  If you live somewhere wetter then you might want to dry them in the airing cupboard, on the aga, above a radiator or even in a very low oven for several hours.  It all works.  Just make sure they are totally dry before storing or they will go mouldy.

Sunday, 18 October 2015


Last year when I went to the market before Christmas expecting to find chestnuts I was disappointed.  Not a one... nada... nowhere, not at the market and not in the supermarket either.  Well you don't find things like tinned chestnuts here in Extremadura... at least not often.  So... this year as soon as I spied them in the shops I bought them...

Enough for stuffing the turkey anyway.  I would have liked to be roasting them in our new bbq or bread oven but alas that is not to be ... not yet anyway so I prepared them as follows:

Score each chestnut with a cross or a slit all the way around.  Even using a very sharp knife this isn't a fun job.  The nuts wont hold still.  The shells are really tough and my fingers were quite sore by the end of it... I kept myself going by thinking of the turkey stuffing.

Spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer then put them in a preheated oven 180C for about half an hour.  How to tell that they are done?  Blimey, I don't know, after half an hour I took them out and sniffed - they smelled cooked.

I wrapped them in a tea towel to keep the skins moist and let them cool for a few minutes.  But only a few minutes mind.  Its best to peel them while they are still slightly warm as the skins harden up even more once they go cold.  It hurts the fingers a bit but you could always wear gloves I guess.

A few of them are not quite cooked enough but not many... just one or two.  So next time I might go for 35 or 40 minutes in the oven.  It won't hurt, I don't think you can overcook them at least not until they go totally black and burned.

Then into a freezer bag and in the freezer.  One less thing to worry about for the festive season.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Mexican Style Breakfast

I cannot claim to have made this one up as the whole idea came from Jaime Oliver and if you would prefer to see his version then do click here.  As always with me I have a habit of not following recipes exactly.  When I do they turn out just as they are supposed to but if I don't have all the ingredients to hand but enough of them and with suitable substitutions I will go ahead anyway.  I am seldom disappointed with the results.

And so it was with my Mexican style breakfast....

I haven't seen any tins or jars of black beans here - it's Spain, there should be such things but perhaps the supermarket where I shop is not a very good one?? who knows... but you can buy the dried beans so I began my version the day before when I soaked the beans for several hours and then cooked them in my pressure cooker.  The pressure cooker really takes the hassle and time out of cooking dried beans and I definitely would recommend it.

So in the morning I whizzed up a couple of avocado's and added some lemon juice and fresh home grown chopped chillies.  As it turned out the chillies were not really very hot... I can't bring myself to try them before putting them into food so its always a bit of a guessing game with me.

I fried the beans.  This time I actually heated my pan first before adding the olive oil and then the beans... it worked very well.. much better than how I usually do it.  I think I always thought it would ruin the pan... !  Once the beans were a little frazzled on the edges I cooked the omelette with a little cheese inside.  Much thinner omelettes than I usually do... and they rolled up really well.

I served the omelette and beans and avocado with some chopped tomatoes (at room temperature, this is soooo important) garnished only with a little salt.  Really really good.