Nut quest

September 9, 2007

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting at the kitchen table. An operatic soprano is warbling through the window from somewhere nearby. Maths Chick is going through her old school notes, selecting some to throw away in an attempt to reclaim a few more square centimetres of space in our tiny 1-bed box. We’re always fighting a battle with an encroaching tide of stuff in this place, sometimes I feel we’re the King and Mrs Canute of Muswell Hill.

Anyway, HFW’s latest ‘wild food’ article in the Gruniad has inspired me to go off in search of green hazelnuts today. I don’t really know what I’m looking for, so I’ve ripped out a photo of the wee critters and am off to Hampstead Heath to see what the deal is. They look like tiny sweet corn in the mug shot. I’ll let you know if I find any…

[Monday morning…]


Well, that was one of our less fruitful foraging expeditions. As you can see we came back with a measly half-dozen green hazelnuts, half of which turned out to be maggoty or empty on closer inspection. We found plenty of copices of hazel trees, all of which were already stripped bare of their fruit. Which I guess goes to show that you can’t beat a cockney squirrel to his nuts.


Two go ‘shrooming

October 7, 2006

Wild mushrooms

Maths chick and I have just got back from an afternoon foraging expedition. According to the Sunday glossies, foraging is the new gardening, which was the new cooking, which was the new sex (they obviously don’t know yet that receiving veg boxes is the new foraging, which was the new gardening, which was etc etc).

Now, I’m no expert mycologist. I normally stick to the few wild mushrooms I’ve picked, eaten and survived – parasols, ceps, shaggy ink caps and the common field ‘shroom. But today, armed with a sharp kitchen knife and Collins’ ‘How to Identify Edible Mushrooms’, we were feeling funghally adventurous.

Despite the recent rain our funghal friends were surprisingly thin on the ground. Perhaps the Islington fashionista had been out early in their Birkenstocks, scouring Hampstead Heath for a breakfast of Chanterelles and Penny Buns. More likely the prime ‘shroom season has been delayed by the unusually dry summer.

We searched the glades, open grassland, and rotting stumps of the Heath and Highgate Wood in search of our elusive treasures. Eventually, we got lucky and brought home a fine Beefsteak Fungus, a few small brackets of Chicken of the Wood, and two Wood Mushrooms. At least, that’s what we think they are. Or were – because I’ve just chopped ’em up, fried ’em in oil, garlic and loads of pepper and, nervously, eaten them.

The Beefsteak was tasteless and exuded a disturbing blood-like liquid. Before cooking, it looked and felt like a fat, slimey cow’s tongue. The Chicken of the Wood tasted like… er… chicken. Nice, if a little dry and stringy. I decided not to eat the Wood Mushrooms in the end, as apparently they are all too easily confused with the deadly poisonous Death Cap. Fortunately, this little sweetie is not as potent as it used to be – apparently these days eating one of these is only fatal in 20% of cases. In other words, only slightly more dangerous than playing Russian Roulette.

I realise now I’m too cowardly and paranoid to be a dedicated forager. My heart started racing, my cheeks started tingling, even before I’d tried the first mouthful of our little funghal feast. I am now utterly convinced I’m going to die at some stage this evening. Hopefully there’s still time for a last game of Scrabble.

Oh, and by the way, we made a couple of 1/4lb burgers out of the beef mince that came with the meat box the other day. And all I can say is those Well Hung Meat boys really know their business. Two superlative slabs of beefy meatiness. Even Maths chick was lost for words in the face of such burgal perfection. And that’s a first.

Now I’m starting to feel a bit odd. If this turns out to be the last post of this blog, you’ll know why, and I’d just like to say it’s been a pleasure knowing y’all.

Bacon butties in Glen Elg

September 1, 2006

What a holiday we’ve had. An absolute classic. Full of bizarre encounters and cheerful coincidences.

Highlights… a Geordie woman with an encyclopeadic knowledge of the price of campsite showers (‘the showers in Ullapool are 30p, like’)… wearing kilt with all the trimmings as best man for my Edinburgh mate, David… bagging my first Munro in Skye’s forbidding Cuillin Hills… an impromptu bagpipe jam one evening in a pub in Glen Shiel… ‘dancing’ the Gay Gordon with maths chick… eagles, buzzards, seals, angelic wild deer, devilish mountain goats…

And who would have thought a humble camping trip to the Highlands would provide such culinary highlights as…

1. An absurdly rich bowl of Cullen Skink in the Kintail Lodge. Smoked haddock, cream, potato and onion soup. Perfect post-munro-bagging fodder. Consume with a side order of trad Scottish folk played on one of those cute wee under-the-arm bagpipes…

2. A wild salmon fresh caught in the Tweed by Squadron Leader Baldwin (bizarrely, the Queen’s ex-pilot) and poached whole by his posh-assertive wife. Just don’t bring up the rights and wrongs of fox-hunting at the dinner table if you want second helpings…

3. A beautiful, genuine Boletus Edulus (Cep, or Porcini, to those not versed in funghal Latin). Stumbled upon while seeking relief in a pine forest. Fried with garlic and oil on a camping stove on the side of the road. Elegant slumming or what?

4. All 3 courses of the wedding feast after I’d just finished my best man’s speech. The relief was so strong this tasted like the first meal of the rest of my life…

And now the anticipation is building for tomorrow’s Riverford delivery. The first for almost a month. Top banana.