Sandy's Kitchen

Lifestyle//

//Autumn leaves us warm. The shadow of summer has crept in. Dressed in her rust-coated leaves, that crunch beneath our feet. With her thin smile and frosted breath, she bites the daylight short and blushes out against her naked landscape, her beauty finally revealed.

Emulate Autumn with a strikingly stark arrangement of colour bursts – bare stalks with detailed bulbs create a dramatic and impressive spray of flowers.

Do.

I always say “food is 75% visual, if something looks beautiful it will taste amazing!

With its tones of burnt saffron, tortoiseshell browns, russet and sepia, Autumn offers a magical palette from which to work. 

deco 1
deco 2
decor 3

Layering is the key to a well-styled table, and with that in mind, it’s important to remember that height and depth create interest and keep the eye engaged and excited. By mixing up different textures and tones with an assortment of linens, tableware and accessories you can create a unique and striking colour palette for each individual event. A muted Autumn colour is the perfect backdrop on which to build your table setting  – I have chosen a buffed oatmeal table cloth, with a rough sketching of faded denim and flecks of burnt umber which will highlight the rustic colours of the tableware and accessories. From here, I have mixed and melted Autumn hues, tones and saturation, with the rusted antique candelabra, the raw earthy wooden bowls and under plates (subtly bringing to mind Autumn’s bare branches and exposed trees), which are punctuated by the black plates and urn. The feminine inclusion of tortoiseshell tumblers as wine glasses create a sense of juxtaposition, which the golden cutlery seems to further emphasise – bold, masculine, yet delicate

I love to throw in something slightly offbeat, almost out of balance to the setting. In this case, a bowl of mushrooms, a medicinal glass jar stuffed with fungi, which both accentuate the natural tones, create a feeling of home, a feeling of bringing handpicked nature to the table.

*Black plates, gold cutlery, and tortoiseshell tumblers are all available from Firehouse, JHB, Tel: +27 (0)11 325 2225

I believe the natural aesthetic floral art can add to a setting is both essential and infinite – we are luckily spoilt for choice with the variety of plant life in South Africa – and I don’t use the term ‘plant life’ glibly here, we can literally pluck an amazing arrangement from our back garden, from; fynbos, ferns, flowers, to pincushion proteas, bunches of fresh cut herbs and the good old fashion rose. 

For our Autumn arrangement, I have drawn from the age-old practice of Ikebana  – “the Japanese art of flower arranging” blossoms, branches, leaves, or stems into a new life form of art, it’s emphasis is to focus on simplicity and to bring out the inner qualities of flowers, stems, leaves etc and create a study of sculptured emotion. Although not strictly Ikebana, the arrangement is dramatic none-the-less and the combination of almost bare stems embellished with single buds of colour, and contrasting foliage work well to bring home the Autumn theme. Bear in mind, in order to create a similar arrangement, ensure that there is not just a contrast in your choice of ‘flowers’, but that they are opposing in vegetation, colour and arrangement of buds (if any) Pick shades that epitomise Autumn, and then mix it up completely. Keep it simple, almost naked, above all, a noteworthy talking point in your decoration

Eat.

I’ve chosen mushrooms as my go-to-eat this week, as not only are they the perfect Autumn hue; with their lurid lights, and fertile browns – but, with their buttery creamy texture, homely flavour makes them my perfect choice for an Autumn lunch, brunch or warming fireside dinner.

mushroom forage 1
mushroom forage 2

Mushrooms are one of the most versatile sides, fillers, mains and toppers – Whether a sauce for pasta, or as a sublime dollop of creamy mushroom sauce atop a charred grilled fillet medallion, served with a side of chunky salted chips – you simply cannot go wrong with mushrooms.

Some of my favourite mushroom midweek quickies; a fry up of a medley of garlicky mushrooms on a slice of crusty ciabatta. Or a healthy helping of sautéed mushrooms, peppers and spinach, and who can beat a good old fashioned baked potato, split open and stuffed with a creamy goat’s milk and mushroom topping with a teaspoon of pesto – all simple, all delicious.

“Be creative with your ingredients, be open, and adapt to your taste and linking, mix things up and don’t be afraid to be bold !!

Easy mushroom carpaccio

Ingredients:

1 tbs thyme leaves, roughly chopped

Juice of ½ a lemon

60ml of olive oil

250g firm mushrooms (we used king brown and portobello), thinly sliced

3 artichokes (tinned), cut into quarters

½  a fennel bulb thinly sliced

Roll of goat’s cheese

¼ cup micro herbs or wild rocket

Maldon salt and cracked black pepper

Method:

  • Let’s begin with your easy dressing. Combine the thyme, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Season and set aside. (A great tip is to add all your dressing ingredients into a old jam  jar. Simply shake and pop into the fridge and use when required)
  • Loosely arrange mushrooms on your platter.
  • Interlace the mushrooms with artichokes and the fennel. Top off with pieces of goat’s cheese and a sprinkle of micro herbs.
  • Spoon over the dressing, season with salt and pepper.

Tagliatelle, wild mushrooms and sherry cream

Ingredients:

For the creamy sherry sauce:

40g shallots, diced (onions would also work)

5 sprigs of thyme

50g button mushrooms, sliced

100ml dry sherry

100ml chicken stock – I love the Nobu one

100ml cream

For the pasta:

30g butter

10g shallots, diced

300g wild mushrooms, chopped (whatever is available – I often use the Woolies exotic punnet)

½ a lemon

300ml sherry cream sauce (the one you have already prepared)

4 nests of tagliatelle

Olive oil

Maldon salt and cracked black pepper

Fresh chives, chopped (always cut with scissors so as not to break the internal tube)

Sprigs of fresh chervil (you can substitute this as it’s not easy to find, with either Italian parsley or tarragon or a little of both)

Freshly grated Parmesan

Method:

Start with the creamy sherry sauce:

  • Use 50g butter and sweat the shallots with the thyme. Make sure you do not colour the shallots.
  • Add the mushrooms and sweat until slippery in texture.
  • Add the sherry and cook gently for a few minutes.
  • Add your chicken stock and cream and reduce by half.
  • Whisk the remaining 50g butter into the sauce.
  • Season.
  • Pass through your sieve.
  • Set your delicious creamy sauce aside.
  • Melt the butter for the pasta sauce in a heavy-based pan.
  • Take your chopped shallots with a pinch of salt and add to the pan.
  • Cook gently for three minutes without colouring.
  • Add the mushrooms and a splash of lemon juice, stir, then put a lid on top for a few minutes.
  • Now add half the sherry sauce and bring to a simmer. Season, then remove from the heat, put the lid back on and leave to stand.
  • Once these two steps are out of the way, you are ready to cook the pasta.
  • Bring your pot of water to a rolling boil and add a little olive oil and then your pasta.
  • Give it a quick stir to avoid sticking and cook according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Drain your pasta, then put the pot back on the stove and add the rest of the sherry sauce to it.
  • Using tongs, transfer the pasta to plates or platter.
  • Add the chives to the mushrooms and spoon the mushrooms and sherry sauce evenly over the top. Finish with sprigs of chervil and grated Parmesan.
  • Voila, a cosy winter meal ready for you and your family.

Serves: Four

Mushroom spinach and cherry tomato pan fry

This easy and nutritious mushroom and spinach combination is the perfect side to your protein, from breakfast eggs to a tender steak. The choice is yours.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon butter or ghee (ghee lets you get a lovely high heat)

2 tablespoons olive oil

250g button mushrooms, sliced (you can use your mushroom of choice)

½ red or brown onion, sliced

10 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves (exotic tomatoes add a splash of colour)

½ teaspoons of diced lemon rind or grated lemon zest

1 garlic clove, finely diced

250g baby spinach leaves

½ teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of ground black pepper

Pinch of nutmeg (optional, but nice)

Drizzle of lemon juice, right at the end

Method:

  • Heat butter or ghee and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms and onions. Sauté until lightly browned and cooked through. This should take 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, lemon rind and garlic, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Cook for a further 2 minutes and lightly smash the tomatoes with your spatula.
  • Finally, add the spinach and stir through. Cook until the spinach is just wilted.
  • Drizzle with some lemon juice, check season and enjoy.

Serves: Two

Wild mushroom omelette

Start your mornings with an earthy wild mushroom omelette. This recipe is perfect for those on the go, it is easy and quick to make.

Ingredients:

Olive oil

3 large free-range or organic eggs

¼ cup of milk or water

200g mixed or wild mushrooms, wiped clean

1 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped, the other halved

1 dried red chilli, crumbled

2 T chopped Italian parsley

3 T of crumbled feta

2 tablespoons butter

1 squeeze lemon juice

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 240°C, or get your grill nice and hot.
  • Heat an non stick frying pan.
  • Add a good swirl of olive oil.
  • Depending on the size of your mushrooms, leave any small ones whole but tear, break or slice the larger ones up.
  • Add them all to the pan and give it a shake to toss the mushrooms in the oil.
  • Add the chopped garlic and Italian parley and shake the pan again.
  • Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the crumbled chilli and leave to fry gently for a few minutes. If the mixture becomes dry, pour in a little more oil.
  • Once the mushrooms have got some colour, after about 3 to 4 minutes, add the butter and a squeeze of lemon juice to give a nice twang. Be careful to go overboard here, you don’t need much.
  • Toss the mushrooms again and when everything’s lightly golden and crisp, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
  • Break your eggs into a bowl, add your milk or water and season with a little salt and pepper
  • Whisk well.
  • Heat a medium size frying pan and add a tablespoon of butter.
  • When butter is foaming add your egg mixture.
  • Allow your mixture to set a little and then add your mushrooms and crumbled feta.
  • Place the whole pan in the preheated oven or under the grill until the omelette is golden brown on top and just cooked through in the middle.
  • Remove, fold over and serve.

Serves: One

See.

There is something magical about an early morning forest walk – especially in Autumn when the floor is carpeted in a golden haze of burnt out pine needles, and rotting logs –  there’s a quietness that makes even your thoughts feel intrusive. 

The mushroom foraging morning, however, was extraordinary – venturing into Cecelia Forest (Constantia, Cape Town) still under a guise of darkness, partially brightened by a day old full moon that snuck shyly behind some watery clouds, alongside Gary Goldman, renowned Mushroom expert and fundi was how it all began. Heading out on our mushroom forage, accompanied by his two dogs, Jack and Russel, an aerated woven basket, penknife and a sense of bubbling excitement, it wasn’t long before we unearthed clusters of mushrooms. From the; sought after Penny Buns, to Poplar Bolete, Euro cow Bolete, and some Blushers (a beautiful blushing mushroom). Digging out Pink Bottoms, Saffron Milk Caps and Cape Russula – while eying from a distance, the Timebomb Toadstool and Poison Amanita. This was a real-time fairy garden, festooned with the wonderful teeming world of mushrooms. 

Gary offers daily early morning forages, from his two highly guarded locations in Cape Town – you’ll find him most early mornings foraging for fungus – a passion which started some 15 years ago, and now a fully fledged love affair and fulltime occupation. With a soon-to-be-released mushroom (& other fungi) of Southern Africa field guide, he is both extremely knowledgable and, equally passionate about sharing his mushroom mastery. 

Gary Goldman / www.mushroomfundi.co.za

Subscribe now

and stay up-to-date with recipes, decor and foodie must-haves from Sandy’s Kitchen.