Week three of my live local challenge is now complete. I have now hobbled over the half way mark of my Octobergatory and am limping into the finishing stretch. You can learn more about this foolhardy endeavour by reading my post from week one.
Last week was filled with tales of citrus substitutes and sourdough success. This week has been a story of spinach and misery. I long for nothing more than a bottle of wine and a box set of Poirot (the middle-class equivalent of a wild night). Only my pride is keeping me from abandoning this self-inflicted crusade.
‘All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong…The only crime is pride.’
Too true Sophocles, you are a wiser man than I.
I have picked a plethora of different mushrooms none of which have made it to my plate. The problem with foraging for fungi is that all of the varieties look the same and none of them look like the pictures in my book.
Case in point: I was excited to peg a smattering of promising ‘shrooms on port meadow and decided to pick some up on my way home from work. I also picked up some strange looks on the bus with my lap full of fungus and face glowing in eager anticipation. When I got in to the kitchen I cracked out an identification guide, looked up my mushrooms and was confronted by the following:
Horse mushroom: White hemispherical cap, flattening with maturity, and white gills. Stem grows up to 15cm. Pleasant in soup.
Destroying angel: White hemispherical cap, flattening with maturity, and white gills. Stem grows up to 15cm. As the name suggests, not so pleasant in soup.
Faced with this fry vs. die dilemma I reluctantly decided it was best to bin the lot. I’m not ready to embrace the afterlife just yet. Wait until week four.
Last Sunday I gatecrashed a heritage wheat milling operation where I joined with a collection of food enthusiasts, agricultural experts and a man with a small mill to transform three bags of raw grain into a deliciously nutty wholewheat flour. This challenge has plunged me deep undercover into the recesses of the eco-food community. The wheat prep process involved:
- Threshing: loosening the grain from the husks by beating it in a pillowcase with a rolling-pin (high-tech)
- Winnowing: separating the wheat from the chaff by wafting it with the lid of a plastic box (also high-tech)
- Milling: grinding the grain with a small hand-mill
- Baking: Transforming the flour into a range of wheaty treats, notably flatbreads and pastry.
I can attest to the quality of the freshly ground flour. I have used it to produce a number of gloriously earthy sourdough loaves, with Boris’ assistance of course!
ORC Wakelyns Population wheat handpicked by the wonderfully generous Katie. Credit also to Chris, the man with the mill
I chose to run my live local challenge in October largely to coincide with the nut season. Most native UK nut species are ready to harvest at this time of year, walnuts, chestnuts, acorns and cobnuts to name just a few. Unfortunately it is rare to find ripe specimens of these in the wild due to the ravages of Sciurus carolinensis, the grey squirrel.
I have never liked these furry menaces of the hedgerow but recently my mild antipathy has developed into abject loathing, directed at one squirrel in particular. I call him Karl and he is my nemesis. He stalks about the sweet chestnut trees of south park taunting me with his jauntily swishing tail. Not content to collect his own stash of Nature’s spoils, he has now started stealing mine; on Tuesday he ambushed me as I stooped to unlock my bike and snatched a chestnut straight out of my bag. I will not stand for these guerrilla tactics!
Thankfully I did manage to salvage enough nuts from Karl’s wily clutches to produce a jar of roast chestnut butter, which I flavoured with honey, bay and sage. It makes an acceptable spread for toast and an interesting addition to a stew but is no patch on pecan butter or classic PB.
Sweet chestnuts from south park. Herbs from Hogacre Common.
This week’s biggest challenge
I really want some coffee.