Friday, 24 January 2014

Sirloin steak with Porcini crust

  Using a rub is a great way to spice up a steak and give it a crunchy, charred crust.  Blitzed fresh herbs, salt and pepper works well, but I've gone for something slightly more luxurious; a lightly spiced Porcini rub.  The combination is a no-brainer really - steak and Porcini, it was always going to be good.

For details on how to make the Porcini rub, see my last blog post: Click here

Drizzle oil on the rub, pat down, and season

Fry on a high heat

Generously pour Porcini rub over both sides of the steak and pat down with your hands.  Drizzle olive oil over the rub and further pat down, making sure there is no loose Porcini rub. Season with salt and pepper.  You want your pan to be smoking hot when the steak goes in so that it cooks as quickly as possible, staying tender and red in the middle.

The chips were made by parboiling the cut potato for 5 minutes, seasoning with a herb salt mixture and roasting until golden.  The green leaf is some Smooth Sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) I foraged, this was boiled for about 20 seconds in with the carrots before draining.  Smooth Sow-thistle has a slightly bitter taste when raw, but this disappears when cooked and it turns in to a very tasty veg.

Although you can't single out the pungent Porcini flavour in the crust once the steak has been fried, it adds a lovely crunch with a spiced, charred undertone - a great way to elevate a steak to the next level.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

How to make Porcini rub

  Super quick and easy this one, all you need is a blender, dried Porcini (Boletus edulis) mushrooms, spices, and salt / pepper.  This can be used in a host of different ways, from rubbing in to meat, seasoning roast veg, adding to risottos, or just wherever a bit of extra Porcini goodness might be required.

Dried Porcini


- 30g dried Porcini
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp of chilli flakes
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper

There is no one way of making this rub - you can add herbs instead of spices if you're using it to coat roast veg, perhaps a bit more sugar if you want more of a glazed crust, just get creative and tailor the rub to its application.

I'm going to using my Porcini powder to rub on to steak and pan fry (next blog post), so went for a lightly spiced powder.  Simply chuck all the ingredients in to a blender, blitz until a smooth powder and there you have it, super easy, but super tasty.

The quantities listed above will be enough for 5/6 medium-sized steaks.

Lightly spiced Porcini powder


Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Jazzy January salad

  Despite the unrelenting rain, cold wind and lack of sunshine we've experienced over the past month or so, there are still a whole host of species of salad plants out there that are good for the plate.  The plants, fungi and lichen in this salad were picked entirely from the school field behind my house, in only 15 minutes.  Foraging need not be an activity for countryfolk with vast expanses of woodland and fields to roam - there is a surprising abundance of wild food in urban areas too, you just have to know where to look and what to look for.  Some of the species in this salad are ones that I would have thought everyone would recognise, such as the Common Daisy, Dandelion leaves and Cleavers (i.e. the 'sticky weed' that clings to clothes when thrown at people).

Here are the plant / lichen species used;

Plant / lichen species used - vernacular and latin names shown

Pick only young specimens of Dandelion, Ribwort Plantain and Cleavers - Dandelion and Ribwort Plantain get very bitter with age and Cleavers turn in to 'sticky weed' - not something you'd want to eat!

Oakmoss is a lichen found growing primarily on Oak, but can also be found on other tree species.  It is widely used in perfumery as a fixative and provides the base fragrance for many perfumes.  It provides an interesting colour to the salad, if not a particularly interesting taste - don't eat too much raw, as it can apparently disagree with some people.

Now for the funghi.  The mushroom used in this salad is the Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes).  I have picked these at an early stage of their fruiting cycle - when older, the stems become tough and blacken and the orange cap colour intensifies in the centre of the cap (still delicious to eat, I must add). The 'velvet' part of the name originates from the texture of the cap - with a little rain the cap becomes slimy and feels, you guessed it, 'velvety.'

Interestingly enough, many of you will have eaten this mushroom without knowing it - Japanese Enoki mushrooms (the long white ones with tiny caps) are the cultivated form of this exact mushroom, Flammulina velutipes.  The only difference is that they are grown in complete darkness, hence the elongated white appearance.  It therefore makes perfect sense to use these small Velvet Shanks raw in a salad, my very own Enoki!

I have always hated eating raw mushrooms, the mealy texture and the superiority of the taste once fried with a knob of butter and garlic being the reasons why.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised upon trying these - no mealy texture and they really do taste quite delicious - part mushroom, part toffee.

Velvet Shank grow on dead stumps or logs, notably on Elm. These are growing on a dead Horse Chestnut, however.

Poisonous lookalikes to be aware of are the Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) and the Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata) - both nasty pieces of work, particularly the latter! Also be aware of the Common Rustgill (Gymnopilus penetrans) - it is inedible and may well be poisonous.  Despite these three nasties, if care is taken reading your guidebooks and in identifying these, the Velvet Shank is a pretty safe mushroom to pick and eat.

BEWARE! - the four mushrooms to the left are not Velvet Shank, but some kind of inkcap - don't get complacent
when picking - ID every mushroom, as different species can live in harmony side by side

Really simple to put this salad together, simply mix all the leaves together, put your mushrooms, Oakmoss and Daisy flowers on top and dress.  I used a homemade hedgerow dressing - the fruitiness went really well with some of the more bitter tasting salad leaves.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sticky sweet'n'sour Oyster Mushrooms

  I had never grilled mushrooms before. I don't really know why, it had just never crossed my mind as the frying pan had always been my weapon of choice, however, I'm going to have to start experimenting, as they turned out very nicely indeed!  These would make a great starter or they could even be the star of the show in an Asian-inspired veggie stir-fry or vermicelli noodle salad - I shall be doing them again for sure.

I found these Oyster Mushrooms at my trusty 'spot', where I have been finding Oyster Mushrooms consistently throughout the last two years.  My 'spot' is a large Beech branch that has come a cropper from high winds and is now being slowly digested by Oyster Mushroom mycelium, and I'm very thankful for it too!  Beech is the best place to look for Oysters, be it a dying tree or a dead piece of branch, this is not to say they won't grow on other trees, but they are most commonly found on Beech.

As you may be able to tell from the pictures, it was absolutely tipping it down when out on the walk and we got soaked to the bone, but finding these Oysters along with some Trumpet Chanterelles made it well worth it.

Spectacular looking Oysters, though these were too big to be eaten as they become
tough with age - youngest specimens only for the plate

It was raining pretty hard...


- Oyster Mushrooms 
- Orange juice
- Honey
- Red wine vinegar
- Lemon
- Salt and pepper

First of all get the grill on full whack and cut your Oyster Mushrooms in to bite-sized chunks.  I don't have any exact measurements for the ingredients, just try the sauce and adjust to taste - you're trying to get a sweet and sour sauce, so the sweet obviously comes from the honey and orange juice and the sour from the red wine vinegar and lemon juice. You don't need much sauce - just enough to coat the mushrooms as you want them to go crispy and sticky under the grill. As the Oysters were wet when picked, they gave off some liquid after about five minutes under the grill - drain this off in order for them to crisp up.  Check regularly, turn if needed, take out when starting to turn crispy, voilĂ ! 


Season well

Seriously tasty

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Sorrel soup

  Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is one of my favourite wild plants, its lemony-zing adds a punch to salads or is great just eaten on the go when out on a walk.  It grows abundantly along hedgerows and in fields all year round, so is a handy plant to have in your wild food arsenal.  Other types of wild sorrel to look out for in the UK are Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and various species of Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.).  The latter will take longer to pick in profusion, but has the same lemony taste.


- Sorrel contains oxalic acid and calcium oxalate - these are quite poisonous if eaten in profusion and can cause a host of nasty side effects such as vomiting, muscular twitchings, convulsions, and there has even been a recorded case of 'death by Sorrel'.  Despite this, so long as you are reasonably healthy and don't gorge yourself on Sorrel too often, it is perfectly safe to eat - as Sorrel soup contains a reasonable amount of Sorrel, do not have it regularly and have only a moderate portion when you do!

- It could possibly be mistaken for the poisonous plant Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), but once you know the identification features that tell the two apart, you should have no issue - see below.

This is not Sorrel, but the poisonous Lords and Ladies:

Young Lords and Ladies plant - poisonous

Curled pencil-like appearance of young Lords and Ladies leaves - Sorrel will never
look like this - it grows in rosettes from a central root system 

Lords and Ladies leaf structure - rounded backward-pointing lobes

How to tell Sorrel apart from Lords and Ladies:

1. Sorrel has pointy backward-pointing lobes, whereas Lords and Ladies has rounded
2. Sorrel has thicker, more succulent leaves, whereas Lords and Ladies has thinner, more limp leaves

One edible, one poisonous.  Edible Sorrel on the left and poisonous Lords and Ladies on the right

Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa):

Pointed lobes, not rounded - identification feature of Common Sorrel

Sorrel amongst the grass in a field

When cooked for too long, Sorrel has the unfortunate trait of turning brown and slimy, so the trick with this soup is to add the Sorrel leaves right at the end so that they don't overcook, maintaining that vibrant green colour.


- ½ a carrier bag of Sorrel
- 1 Red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 or 4 medium potatoes
- ½ veg stock cube
- Single/double cream
- 1 egg
- Salt and Pepper

Sweat off the onion and garlic in a pan for 3 or 4 minutes.  Cut potato in to small chunks and add to the pan (if you prefer a thicker soup, add more potato).  Add boiling water (quantity will depend on how much soup you are making) and the stock cube to the pan and boil for 15 minutes until the potato is soft, take off heat.  Add the egg, a glug of cream, the Sorrel leaves and then blitz. Taste and season well.  Serve with a swirl of cream, chopped fresh Sorrel leaves and black pepper.  

This tangy, summery soup makes a great starter - I prefer it thin, gives it a more delicate feeling.