Once again, I vanish without saying anything and I’m sorry I keep doing this folks. I took the first week of November off because it was my birthday and between heading down to see the folks and generally running around, I’m afraid I didn’t get much kitchen time. I did, however, get a cake:
The other reason for my recent absence is a whole of stress in my personal life, more commonly known as Drama. Those familiar with this condition know that it causes headaches, depression and a strong desire for a little peace and quiet to get your collective act together again, which is what I’ve been focusing on lately. However, even stressed people need to eat and so I decided to try out a recipe that usually puts a smile on my face – West Country Stroganoff. I got the recipe from one of my books, rather than online, so I can’t really link it to you. It’s found in this book, which forms a series created by the River Cottage guys. For those unfamiliar with the show, it places a strong emphasis on foraging for different foods and a countryside approach to cooking:
The show’s definitely worth watching as it’s rather nice to see cooking being done without a whole bunch of rare and exotic spices. However, given that I live in London and am therefore unfamiliar with the concept of “trees” and “green spaces”, I had to forage my ingredients at the local supermarket:
Mushrooms tend to be one of those things that folks either love or hate. In their defence, I can see why folks don’t like them. Usually, they always tend to be cep mushrooms, which while a fine addition to any fry up, are very lacking in flavour and texture. As a result, most folks think all mushrooms are much like that. There’s an enormous variety of mushrooms out there – some have rich nutty flavours, like porcini mushrooms (I use dried ones quite a lot when I’m making stews and so on), portabellos can make the basis of a good mushroom burger, especially when topped with fresh spinach and feta cheese. There’s a lot more to mushrooms than the bog standard ceps.
The ones we’re using today are oyster mushrooms. These come in quite an amazing array of colours – I even managed to get some bright pink ones a while back. Oysters tend to have a much more subtle flavour to them and have a more delicate feel to them.
With any mushrooms, especially field picked ones, it’s very important to make sure they’re carefully washed and prepared. I’m no expert on picking mushrooms (see above re: living in city devoid of life) and I really, *really* wouldn’t advise going out and picking your own ones without an expert. While mushrooms do come in a delicious variety of flavours, some of them are not conductive to your long term health. Examples include the Fly Amanita, with its bright red cap and nasty collection of poisons, the Magic mushroom, which causes extremely severe hallucinogenic reactions, all the way up to the False Morel, which, when ingested, causes monomethyl-hydrazine to form in your stomach, more commonly found in the fuel systems of the Space Shuttle. So yes, picking mushrooms without having a clue = bad idea.
Fortunately, the ones I sourced from the supermarket were unlikely to send me into outer space, either figuratively or literally, so I chopped them up and added them to the pan. I made a mistake here, as what I should have done was added the onion first. Onions take longer to soften up in a pan – at least 10-15 minutes depending on temperature. As a result, the mushrooms were slightly overdone at the end. Nothing disastrous, but some of the texture was lost as a result. Speaking of onions:
Interestingly, I did discover why human eyes are more reactive to freshly sliced onion – its because one of the chemicals given off by a sliced onion reacts with the natural moisture around your eyes to form sulphuric acid. A very diluted version but enough to cause irritation. A little more chopping later and the onion followed the mushrooms in to the pan. I also added some of my “Very Lazy Garlic”. This stuff is really wonderful. Essentially, it’s pre-diced garlic in a jar, preserved with white wine vinegar. Saves time but more importantly, it’s easy to measure out the quantity you need without any going to waste:
As the Koala points out, this recipe is called West Country Stroganoff and it gets its name from one of its final ingredients:
In what is referred to as the West Country in the UK (that’s Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and so on for those living in the UK, or the thin dangly bit underneath Wales for those outside), cider brewing is considered something of an art form. The very, very best apple ciders come from there and their dryness makes an excellent substitute for the usual white wines that go into stroganoffs. Unfortunately, while my local supermarket was excellently stocked on mushrooms, it was severely lacking in decent ciders, hence why I had to make do with an Irish cider instead.
Rather vexingly, the final photo of the finished stroganoff didn’t save on my camera properly. After the cider was added, a small amount of cream and dried parsley followed into the pan and was left to simmer on a low heat while the rice quickly cooked. The end result was okay – it didn’t turn out as well as previous attempts because the mushrooms were slightly overdone and the onion underdone. I think I also went a little overboard with the cream as well.
I’m still de-stressing myself at the moment, so I’m not going to make any promises about a recipe for next week but I’ll try. Thank you for putting up with my inconsistency so far. *koalahugs*