Saturday, 20 December 2014

Roast Goose with Red Cabbage

Not much gardening is happening in the Willis household at present, but things have to be very serious indeed for the cooking to stop. I'm feeling very "under the weather" still (probably at least exacerbated by the cumulative fatigue of repeated journeys up to London), and yesterday all I was able to do was take some photos of the lovely meal that Jane made. It was Roast Goose with Red Cabbage, Potato and Celeriac mash, and Peas:

About this time every year we buy a couple of Goose crowns from Lidl. This is a supermarket that we are beginning to explore more. It is not the sort of place where we would normally go for our everyday grocery requirements, and they don't seem to worry much about presentation or stock-control, but when you look closely you see that they do have some very nice things - such as the Goose crowns (only available in Nov / Dec though), Reindeer steaks, Partridge etc. They also sell some excellent tinned soups that we often buy, and some very nice cold meats and smoked ham.

Cooking a crown takes a lot less time than cooking a whole bird. Jane cooked the Goose according to the instructions on the packaging, which involve searing it skin-side down in a frying-pan to brown the skin, before roasting it skin-side up in the oven for about 45 -50 minutes to cook it through. The whole cooking sequence takes about an hour - plus resting-time.

Anyway, one of those Goose crowns provides enough meat for 2 - 4 people, depending on how generous your portions are.

We normally use most of one between the two of us, with perhaps a third left over. As you can see in the photo above, Goose meat is dark - like the brown meat on a Turkey. It is not gamey either, as some people might think. In my opinion it is a bit like a drier version of Duck.

Cooking the Red Cabbage took much longer than cooking the Goose - long and slow in a low oven. Jane added lots of onions and apples and red wine vinegar to make it even more "unctuous". It comes out soft and both sweet and savoury at the same time.

The meal was balanced-out with the addition of some lovely fluffy Potato-and-Celeriac mash with a generous knob of butter stirred in and some frozen Peas. The latter was a last-minute addition, but a good one I think, because the Peas gave the dish more visual appeal as well as adding another sweet note. Oh, and let's not forget the gravy! Jane is the world's greatest expert on gravy-making. She used some of the cooking juices to produce a wonderful dark, glossy gravy which complemented the meat perfectly. I should add that the fat which came out of the joint was kept for another occasion - probably for when potatoes are to be roasted!

And for afterwards? Cheese and biscuits: a French cheese called Chaource (soft and creamy; spreadable), Somerset butter with Maldon salt crystals, and home-made Rosemary crackers. And a glass of Port! Does that sound OK?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Feeling a bit green

Today I don't have much of a post for you. To be honest, I am not feeling well and I can't muster much energy for blogging, so today I will just show you a couple of photos of stuff in my garden.

This year's Brussels Sprouts can certainly be considered a success. We have had a lot of meals from them already, but they are far from over. There are lots more sprouts to come - and the battle against the Whitefly appears to have ended in my favour! Look how clean these leaves are:

The Purple Sprouting Broccoli is looking healthy too, with lots of flower-shoots forming. I have high hopes for a good crop in the Spring.

The "Soleil d'Or" Narcissi (from the Isles of Scilly) are just forming their first buds. This pot is one destined to be slotted into another pot sunk into the ground by the front door. It's not ready to go there yet, because it is a very exposed site, but when the first signs of Spring appear I will move it into place.

Hopefully I will feel a bit more like blogging tomorrow, and I hope to "see" you then...

Thursday, 18 December 2014

"A rolling stone gathers no moss"

At this time of year there is precious little of interest in my garden about which to write, so I am unashamedly going to use more material from my walk along the Basingstoke Canal last weekend.
I have written already about the scenery and the plants and fungi, so how about mosses and lichens?

I came off the canal towpath at Stacey's Bridge: (built 1792; re-built 1975)

The bridge probably used to carry a road, but these days there is only a muddy footpath between the two crumbling walls of mellow brick:

The tops of the walls are covered in moss:

Close inspection of the wall reveals a multitude of different mosses, lichens and fungi:

After crossing the bridge and beginning to head homewards along the leafy lane which runs parallel to the canal, I noticed more and more mosses. In fact, almost every surface was covered in some sort of growth.

This stone has evidently not been doing much rolling.

Does this remind you of a font, in a church?

There were several big upright stones like this. I suppose they are ancient boundary-markers of some sort. I can't believe anyone would have put them there just for the fun of it. Each one must weigh at least a ton!

This is a close-up of the surface of one of those stones - deeply pitted. It looks rather like a piece of wood that had been repeatedly attacked by a Woodpecker!

This is a deep hollow in the "crook" of a tree. It collects rainwater and is therefore more or less permanently moist, so it supports its own patch of moss.

I peered inside this hole in the trunk of another big old tree.

There was a miniature lake inside...

This is a close-up of moss growing on a tree. It looks to me just like bushes on a rocky mountainside.

This moss is growing on a log in the car-park where I left my car. You can tell it was cold that day - there was still thick frost on the log at half-past three, despite the sunny afternoon.

Finally for today, I want to publish another photo of a fungus I saw last weekend, for which I now have a positive identification:

This is "Tremella Mesenterica" aka "Witches Butter" and "Yellow Brain Fungus". Thanks to @mouseinthewood on Twitter, for the ID. If you are interested in fungi or foraging in general, it's worth following him.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Canal-side fungi and plants

Yesterday I wrote about walking along the towpath of the Basingstoke canal. Today I want to show you photos of some of the plants and fungi I saw.

Seeing as how it's December and nearly Christmas, I think photos of Holly and Ivy are probably obligatory, so let's do those first...

Nestled in amongst the Ivy growing on an old dead tree I saw this fungus:

There are two different types of Ivy in this next photo - the traditional Hedera Helix and the Glechoma Hederacea or Ground Ivy, sometimes known as Alehoof because of its former role in flavouring ale. Thanks to my current interest in foraging, I have recently learned that it is edible as either a herb or a salad ingredient.

In fact the towpath area was rich in edible plants - though I would be hesitant about eating any of them in view of the number of dogs using the path! This is Dandelion:

This is Stinging Nettle.

This one looks a bit like Parsley, or Carrot, but I know that there are lots of similar-looking plants, many of which are poisonous (e.g. Hemlock), so I would be very cautious about eating it.

This, for instance, is Cow-Parsley, which whilst not poisonous as such would definitely not be pleasant to eat:

My main interest on this occasion was in the fungi. I know it is a bit late in the year for fungi, but the weather so far has been uncommonly mild and I found plenty of species still going strong. You know that I'm not expert at identifying them, but I can still gain pleasure from photographing them.

Here are a few...

Clitocybe Nebularis aka Clouded Agaric

Tremella Mesenterica aka"Witches Butter"

Do you see what I mean? There were loads of fungi to be seen, as long as you looked hard enough!

I'll end with what is probably my favourite photo of the batch:

I just love those delicate fluted gills. They remind me of Fan Vaulting, like that in the ceiling of a cathedral!