The field behind our land has an amazing abundance of field mushrooms at this time of year. We hoped that the recent rain would bring them out, so Doug walked out last weekend with his basket and wasn't disappointed! There are a few different kinds of mushrooms that grow in fields, these are much smaller and milder in flavour than our favourites which we pick from a friend's field a little later in the year. They have cows and horses enriching the fields, and the mushrooms that grow there are often the size of a dinner plate with moist black gills, thick white-grey flesh and a strong, rich flavour. They tend to colour anything they are cooked with black, but do not be deterred by this as, although your omelette may be grey, it is also intensely delicious! They are best cooked fresh, so plan to eat them the same day. Rather than washing them in water, use a clean dry paint brush to brush away any soil (or dung!) and wipe with a damp cloth if necessary. They work so well with eggs that I find it hard to resist putting them in an omelette, but you can also make great use of them in a simple risotto with thyme, or push the boat out and make a strogonoff and smother them in cream! Larger mushrooms can of course be stuffed, and a filling of greens with cream and cheese is my favourite option. The following recipe can be made with spinach, chard or other seasonal greens.
Good King Henry Stuffed Mushrooms
350g Good King Henry leaves
8 large flat mushrooms
2 large onions
3 cloves crushed garlic
800ml single cream
80g grated gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper
Peel and finely chop the onions. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and fry for 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the crushed garlic and fry for another minute.
Rinse the Good King Henry leaves, but don’t dry them. Transfer them to a large saucepan, put on the lid and place over a low heat for 2 or 3 minutes until the leaves have wilted. Add the leaves to the onions and stir in. Add the cream and half the gruyere, return the pan to a medium heat and bring to almost boiling, stirring continuously. Turn off the heat before the mixture boils.
Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stalks. Lay the mushrooms upside down on a baking tray and spoon the mixture evenly between them. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each stuffed mushroom and finish with a twist of black pepper.
It is wonderful to be able to stroll out with a basket and come home with such treats as these.
Our favourite from the garden at the moment is the perfect green orb of the Gem Squash. It is a true squash with succulent flesh, not starchy, and the fruits are around the size of a cricket ball. Inside they have a thick layer of edible flesh with a cluster of seeds in the centre. We love them simply boiled whole for 15 minutes, then cut in half, seeds removed and filled with a knob of butter and a twist of black pepper. They are also great roasted; cut in half, seeds removed then brushed with a little oil and baked in a hot oven for about 25 minutes. They are delicate but flavoursome, very sweet and juicy and the cooked flesh can be easily scraped from the skin with a fork on your plate, although if picked young and eaten fresh the skins are perfectly edible. Squashes tend to be more prolific in our climate than pumpkins and gourds, putting out a succession of fruits over a period of several weeks from mid summer to mid autumn. They like a rich soil with plenty of muck or compost and as long a season as possible - they work very well in polytunnels and greenhouses in colder areas. These squashes, like many others will not store like pumpkins and do need to be eaten fresh.
Robin is very much enjoying the garden produce - the only thing we have discovered so far that he won't eat is avocado....we suspect he objects to the food miles! Anyway, all the food he is eating seems to be fuelling him well....