A different view of things

20 01 2013

So – just got back from a business trip to Salt Lake City. Interesting place.

I’d never been in ski season before, so it was a bit chilly and a lot busier than I was used to. Very dry cold though – my poor delicate skin was all flaked off by the time I got home. (Poor baby, eh?! ūüôā ).

Now THAT's an icicle!

Now THAT’s an icicle!

I had a very interesting conversation with a Mormon colleague down there about what was and was not “allowed”. I knew alcohol and coffee was off limits in their faith, but was interested to learn how extensive the list was and what the rationale was. Caffeine (there’s my favourite i-before-e rule breaker) was my assumed reason for coffee which was confirmed, but then why did so many people drink Coke? A matter of long debate, it seems!

It was noticeable that software developers in the office there drank lots of pop, and although a few did indeed drink the more typical (for the profession) coffee, by far the most were sugared, rather than caffeinated as they hammered their keyboards. So – after much discussion, I learnt that the rationale is around stimulants and things generally that may affect one’s ability to make reasoned decisions about right and wrong. So – alcohol, “recreational” drugs, caffeinated drinks (+/- Coke). these I could get. Even chocolate seemed half-reasonable (I’ve seen the effect good European chocolate can have on a woman’s knicker elastic!). It didn’t explain all the Red Bull I saw being consumed though. Plainly a city of contradictions just like any other.

Another observation I made was that the local beers were VERY strong. Like 8%+ strong. Forgive the bad BlackBerry photo, but here’s a picture of a limited edition bottled beer I was given in a welcome package. (The trophy in the background was my “prize” for somehow coming last in the go-karting event).)

Imperial Red Ale

Imperial Red Ale

So the EPIC brewing company of Salt Lake City (there’s a different one in Aukland, New Zealand) produce these limited edition ales. This one was of 1,800 bottles only, and you can learn more here. Not selling beer to under-age people I can understand (after all, there’s more for the rest of us – makes total sense! ūüôā ), but this web site won’t even let you LOOK unless you’re of age! It seems that the non-Mormons take it upon themselves to tempt their neighbours by offering well beyond the usual strength beers in SLC. This one was 8.3%! My all-time favourite beer, Tetleys (of Leeds) is a mere 3.8%, by¬†comparison. These beers were up in the Belgian “triple-brew” category.

Anyway, work done, I had one last breakfast in the hotel and got ready to leave. Being Saturday, the skiers had arrived in force, and there was little left on offer to eat. As I sat enjoying a cup of tea, the kitchens delivered a new tray of bacon, and I decided to have a good old bacon butty for breakfast. As I rose, I was beaten to the tray by a lady. No problem, and I waited patiently behind her with my expectant plate. After a few moments though, I realised she was meticulously picking up each and every rasher in turn, examining it and replacing it to the tray. As this continued, I was getting impatient, and attempted humour by asking whether she “was looking for the prize”? I was rewarded with a very hard stare and informed that she and her family only ate very crispy bacon. Bearing in mind this is a chain hotel offering free breakfast, this seemed like a bit too picky of a position to be holding, but I guess my face spoke for me, and I was left to fill my plate with whatever random rashers happened to be caught in the tongs.

So, the flight North was over some spectacular scenery. No idea where these photos were taken. Except to say “from 38,000ft”. Again, on a poxy BlackBerry, so apologies for the quality.

By the time I got home I was peckish again, and was excited to see my little mushroom project had been busy in my absence. I harvested a large plate of succulent Oyster mushrooms, and set to work. I began by slicing them coarsely, more to make them quicker to cook than for any other reason, and set them to sauté in some olive oil infused with truffles Рa souvenir from my Brazil trip. A twist or two of coarse black pepper and sea salt for no other reason than Jamie Oliver always does it and the women seem to approve!

The warming scent was amazing. Once they were reducing nicely, I was struck with inspiration (or madness – you pick) and remembered a recent photo I saw of a salmon steak with a slice of blue cheese. Such an interesting pairing of flavours. I usually enjoy my Oyster mushrooms with just the oil they’re cooked in, but decided this time I’d add just a couple of thin slices of blue cheese (which fortuitously happened to be in the fridge). Of course it melted immediately, and being a soft cheese anyway mixed beautifully into the slight oil base the mushrooms were cooking in. Not at all stringy, the cheese simply coated the mushrooms as they touched, and became part of the light sauce that was forming by pure experiment. On a bit of a roll now, I discovered a solitary egg in the fridge too, and cracked that with gusto into the pan. I was quick to spread it out, so that it didn’t form a fried egg in the middle, but more filaments of light egginess interspersed through the mushrooms. Somehow, this seemed just right, and after a couple more minutes in the pan, I tipped the results out onto a couple of slices of crispy toast and devoured lunch with absolute delight.

Here’s a before and after shot. Unless you’ve downloaded Google’s latest smell-o-vision app, I’m afraid you’re only getting a faint version of the experience. The scent of truffles and blue cheese were definitely part of the¬†experience, yet I’d somehow managed not to use too much to over-power the whole.





You look good enough to eat

25 11 2012

So I will!

Today was the day. After weeks of patiently watching fungus grow in my garage… I ate it. It tasted wonderful. I have never eaten oyster mushrooms before, so wanted to eat them tout seul to savour the taste. Having said that, I ended up frying them in a little bacon fat, but when all is said and done – I’m a bloke! The alternative would have involved an extra 5 minutes and some washing up liquid.¬†Unconscionable! I went all out and put a sprig of fresh basil as garnish from my kitchen windowsill stash.

Feast your eyes…





The fun(gi) goes on and on

11 11 2012

Despite the almost certain failure of the coffee grinds experiment, the oyster mushrooms in straw seems to be marching on towards the inevitable fry-up!

The leading fruitings are now a good inch or so across and consist of many little pinheads¬†which¬†I guess will each become a mushroom. I’ve moved the bundle nearer the window as I gather that UV is an important part of their fruiting development. The mushrooms “sweat” a clear liquid which is interesting too.

The larger growths are now about an inch or so across

A clear liquid is “sweating” from the fruit bodies





Down in the fungals of Java

11 10 2012

So this evening when I put the car away in the garage, I remembered to check on my mushroom projects, safely hidden in there where Mrs Elephant won’t find them and freak out about fungus in her house.

Oyster mushrooms in straw? Nothing obvious happening. ūüė¶

Wine caps in wood chips? Ditto. ūüė¶

OK… not to worry… they’re not actually scheduled to be obviously¬†spreading¬†their mycelium for around 4 weeks, and it’s been less than one.

Wha’?

I’m a bloke!¬†Impatience is my middle name. Well, it would be if my parents weren’t too stingy to have given me one.

Oh well, hardly any point looking at the coffee grinds then… whoa! What’s THIS?!

Now, Scott the mushroom man had warned us that growing Oyster Mushrooms on coffee grinds was a bit hit and miss, and not guaranteed to work. He also explained that they were the most likely to get “infected” by other fungi or molds. He’d explained about potentially having to spoon off any blue/green mold than might get established, so it wouldn’t out-compete the Oyster mushrooms. Or slime, or generally anything that shouldn’t be there. My heart fell. This looked like a very serious bout of white furry mold, like you get on old jam left at the back of a cupboard.

Sighing, I took it out into the garden, ready to spoon great¬†gobbets¬†of it into the compost heap. But then I noticed it looked quite pretty really. Uniform and clean and not at all grubby (as OBVIOUSLY the bad stuff would look, right?! ūüôā¬†)

OK – no, I really noticed that one of the original millet grains we’d used to inoculate the grinds with had somehow been trapped in the lip of the plastic bucket… and had exactly the same white fluff. THIS must be the mycelium! It was working!!

So – 5 days in, and I’m reasonably sure I have at least ONE of the mushroom projects under way.

Mushroom omelette anyone?

[OK, Edit: Buzzkill sheriji (who has much experience with moldy coffee filters, it seems ūüėČ ) tells me it really is just mold. Bugger!]