A misty day
Sometimes when you go out into a woodland or forest, you feel something special in the air – a sort of peace – and suddenly everything seems that little bit less stressful and no matter how tired you may be, you feel content. This is what I love the most about going out foraging – that connection with the forest around me and the tranquility I feel when in its arms. This weekend was just such a time. Work has been getting more and more busy and when the weekend came along, I almost couldn’t be bothered to go out. But I am as ever, so glad that I did. The woodlands were full of a soft cloak of mist that made them look even more magical.
Both Saturday and Sunday’s walks proved to be very productive and we found a wonderful variety of fungi from beefsteak fungus to oysters. The best part of the walks however was the people. I think it is a certain kind of people who come along to my walks. Kindred spirits in a way who with time, fall as in love with the forest as I.
On Wednesday I went out with a friend who I met on one of my walks and her two adorable children. She had tipped me off that a local woodland was full of ceps so I went to see what I could find on Tuesday. But only having an hour or so to spare and a huge woodland to cover, came away with only a few mushrooms to show for it. I had also done a circuit I would normally cover in 3 or 4 hours in just over one and a half.
Foraging is something that is best done slowly. Antonio Carluccio in his book “The Complete Mushroom Book” describes foraging as “The Silent Hunt” and I couldn’t agree more. You stealthily creep through the forest, leaving as little trace of yourself behind as possible while trying to spot the prey lurking amongst the leaf litter. It is crafty prey however, that camouflages itself in the hues of the forest floor or hides high up in the trees above. After a while, you get your eye in and begin to see what nobody else seems to – the flashes of orange on the ground are deceivers, that glipse of orange through the trees isn’t a ray of light dancing on boughs but a chicken of the woods.And suddenly, the world just isn’t the same anymore.
Sharing this awakening of something inside is why I teach foraging. On the walk on Sunday we found lots of waxcaps growing in some fields and the best part of it was when everyone realised that those bright green parrot waxcap mushrooms were edible. And the pride on the face of the lucky man who had found the most enormous meadow waxcap I have ever seen. And then of course there is that final step – eating what we have picked. On Saturday I made sorrel scrambled eggs, sauteed herby mushrooms and elderberry pancakes to go with the deceiver fritatta I had brought along with me. On sunday we all went back to someone’s house and cooked up our find with herbs picked freshly from their garden.
I thought I would share with you a recipe for my second favourite omlette of all time . My favourite omlette is the one I had as a child at the Mount Kenya Safari Club– a hotelmy family used to go to when I was a child. They introduced me to the concept of melty cheese centres in omlettes and contained everything from little pieces of beef to capsicums. I ate 3 omlettes that morning and will forever be in the Chef’s debt.
Sorrel and Gruyere omlette
Sorrel contains a lot of oxalic acid so should only be eaten in moderation. Incidentally, someone told me on the walk on Sunday that an American ethnobotanist had told her that combining cheese with sorrel makes both ingredients easier to digest and helps negate the negative effects of the oxalic acid. So this recipe is great not just in the flavour stakes!
10 sorrel leaves (the more you add, the more lemony your omlette will taste)
a dash of milk
Grated gruyere or cheddar cheese(For my breakfast on sunday I used Queso blanco – a spanish mild white cheese mixed with cheddar)
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk up the eggs with the milk and seasoning. Heat up your frying pan and add a small knob of butter. Swirl the butter round the pan and pour in your egg mixture. When the top of the egg has nearly set, scatter your sorrel leaves on top. Turn the omlette over to set the egg on the top then turn it over again so you have the sorrel back on top. Cover half of the omlette with the grated cheese then fold in half. Cook, turning every so often until the cheese has melted. Serve with buttered toast.
A huge thank you has to go to Gil for the wonderful photos!