Another Revelation - Puffballs

My good friend, , found a couple of these in the paddock at the back of his house:

Puffball

Now, normally I wouldn't be seen dead eating any type of fungi that hadn't been checked over by an expert. Umm... ...thinking about it, should that be: "I would be seen dead...!" Anyway, you get the gist. However, there's apparently very little else that a puffball this size can be mistaken for; as long as the flesh is white, it's safe to eat. Very small ones are a different matter; the immature form of some of the deadliest fungi can be mistaken for those.

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Horse or Field?

My very good neighbour was kind enough to bring me some mushrooms. He got them on the airfield where keeps his glider. For those who know me, it's fairly apparent that my mushrooming experience is somewhat limited - it predates my becoming a paraplegic in 1975! As such, I'm always grateful when anyone brings me things like mushrooms.

We were discussing this at the pub the other night (the nurse allowed me out for an hour) and none of us actually knew the difference between a 'horse' and a 'field' mushroom. Hopefully, someone will enlighten us.

Pauline got a bit 'artistic' when she photographed these! She's 'sort of' replanted them:

Mushrooms

The mushrooms were fantastic - massive but obviously very young, presumably due to the wet weather that we've been having.

I've read online about making spore prints of mushrooms. It's a way to verify that a mushroom that you are confident is safe is what you think it is.

Mushroom

What I could never believe is that a mushroom with light brown gills could produce a spore that's nearly black:

Mushroom spores

But, as you can see, it's true - It's amazing!

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Tomato Soup a.k.a. Ghost's Blood!

Well that's crept up on me without me noticing! It's Halloween on Monday: that special day when little kids can 'mug' old people with impunity!

At this point, 'proper' bloggers would roll out a recipe for a cake with spiders, slugs, ghouls or goolies (evening vicar!). Well, my kids are grown up and if I want a cake, I'll make a cake, but I can't be fussed with all that nonsense. Perhaps I can pretend that the pear in the pear sponge cake, that Pauline made a couple of days ago, is ectoplasm or some other such nonsense!

Anyway, here's my recipe for ghost's blood, something special for Halloween (or for that matter any other time that has tons of spare tomatoes!).

This is simplicity itself. I half filled a medium sized saucepan saucepan (about 18cm diameter - the middle sized one that comes in a standard set of three) with cherry tomatoes and added a medium sized onion and stick of celery, both chopped up. Cover with water or stock (I used water), season with salt and pepper, and simmer it for about about 20 minutes before liquidising. Sieve the mixture through a fine sieve, taste and adjust seasoning. It may need a little sugar if the tomatoes were a bit acidic, or some tomato puree adding to the mix if they're a bit flavourless (never an issue with Bob's!). I like to add a tablespoon or two of double cream just before serving. (omit the cream for a vegan version)

Tomato soup

I would point out that this is the very basic recipe and method: the way to make if time is short. Whilst it's fine, greater effort will give an even better result. A couple of options are roasting the tomatoes or sweating the vegetables until cooked in butter before making the soup. You can add herbs/garlic/spices whilst cooking it or chopped soft herbs such as parsley, chervil or basil, after it has been sieved. The one thing I never add to tomato soup is anything for thickening; I think that you don't get the full flavour of the tomatoes if you do.

...and the pear sponge? Well, Pauline made it following a suggestion of mine. It was great but would have been even better had we used whole pear halves rather than chopping them smaller - my fault, as Pauline had asked me what she should do.

Pear Cake

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Good Friends

I'm a lucky man with generous friends and neighbours. In the last week alone has brought me a variety of veg, Marion some tomatoes, and Glenda some apples. But the peaches from are the crowning glory:

A picture ofPeaches

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Bramley Apple Tart

Apple tart

This recipe shows that Bramley apples don't have to turn to 'mush' when cooked. The apples stay in well defined pieces. It makes a nice change from apple pie and is elegant enough for that 'more refined' occasion! That is, for those of you who have 'more refined' occasions! We had one once; I think it was in 1976!

For the pastry
8 oz plain flour
5 oz butter (or ½ butter, ½ lard)
1 oz - 4 oz sugar (I used 1 oz)
a pinch of salt
1 egg
milk (if needed)

For the Pastry Cream
½ pint milk
½ vanilla pod
2 oz sugar
1 oz plain flour
1 egg
pinch of custard powder (optional)

For the filling
2½ lb Bramley apples
2 oz sugar

To finish
1 Tbsp apricot jam
2 teasp water

Prepare the oven: put the oven on to heat at 190°C and put a heavy baking sheet in it to warm.

Make the pastry: rub the fat into the flour, add the sugar and salt, and then mix in the egg and a little milk (if required) to make a smooth pastry. You can do this easily in a food processor.

Make the Pastry cream: Heat the milk and vanilla pod to just below boiling point. In a bowl, mix the egg, flour, custard powder and sugar together. Pour half the hot liquid into the egg mixture whisking it as you do so. Return this to the pan and gently heat it back up stirring/whisking as you do so to avoid it sticking to the pan as it thickens. When it boils remove it from the heat and pour it into a clean bowl. Whisk to remove any lumps (sieve if necessary) and cover the surface of the cream with a butter paper or cling-film. Place on a rack to cool. It needs air circulation around and under it otherwise it will sour.

Line a pastry case: grease an 8 inch loose bottomed flan tin and line it with pastry. (There will be quite a bit left over for making tarts etc). Prick the bottom all over with a fork.

Prepare the apples: peel and core the apples, halve or quarter and cut into thin slices - if you can't do this quickly, put the sliced pieces into water to which you've added a squeeze of lemon juice.

Assemble the flan: spread about ¾ of the pastry cream into the flan case, mounding it in the middle. Drain and dry the apples and arrange them in overlapping circles on the pastry cream working from the outside, sprinkling the sugar between the layers. Reduce the size of each layer to make a 'pyramid' working towards the middle.

Cook: Put on to the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven and cook for 30 - 40 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and a skewer will go through the apple easily. Remove and place on a baking rack to cool.

Glaze: heat the jam and water and mix together. Brush over the partially cooled tart to glaze and allow to cool fully.

Apple tart