Saturday, 12 November 2011

Field Mushroom and sliced potato bake (with lots of Garlic)

As the sun innocently rose yesterday morning into the early pale liquid blue of the Provence sky, you wouldn’t have suspected a thing had happened. No apologies, no explanation for the past week’s behaviour, not a puff of wind or a drop of rain; absolute still and early winter serenity.

But we know better, so it can wipe that smirk off its face. I mentioned in my last blog that the flood gates in La Mole had been opened after a week of continuous rain which had us scurrying up the hill for dry land. The next day we bravely (stupidly) made our way back down the hill to the boat for work, via many a detour and around various closed roads. What had previously been vineyards and small burbling streams were now large lakes and gushing rivers. I’m not sure how exactly but a smattering of perfectly spoken Franglaise and we were past the Gendarmes and army barricades and successfully found ourselves back down at the boat.

Photos don't come with noise but the wind screamed through the masts

Not for long however, news came through that the flood levels were still rising as they continued to release water from the reservoirs in La Mole.  Ooops-a-daisy.

So back into George’s Landrover we hopped in the hope of heading back up the hill. Now if you’re in a Landrover, you feel incredibly safe, a bit smug and high off the ground, adequately equipped to cope with a little bit of flood water. Surely the French police would wave us through the barricades with a knowing nod and little French grunt of four-wheel-drive approval?

To cut a long story short, they did no such thing and it took us 4 hours to get home.

4 hours. It normally takes us half an hour.

But what an adventure it was! I shall resist the temptation to bore you with details but I will say that we ended up taking the ‘off-road’ route to get home to avoid hours of motorways – of course we did; we were in a Landy.

Our way home was scuppered at every turn. There were flooded roads we couldn’t cross even in the Landy. There were copious waterfalls as water dropped in torrents from the hill tops and sections of road had simply been washed away but most importantly - there were mushrooms.

We couldn’t help ourselves even in the pouring rain. We were under some kind of forest spell, like children in a sweet shop. So despite the rain and the length of our journey home, we went mushrooming. They were everywhere.

Field mushrooms are easy picking. They don’t hide, stick out like sore thumbs and they taste great. We have a lovely lady who lives in our village who is a mushroom expert. We made a quick stop at hers (when we finally arrived in La Garde Freinet) so she could examine our pickings to be on the safe side, always the way forward with fungi. After a cheerful nod of approval and a farewell gesture of ‘bon appetite!’, dinner was almost home. Thank God; we were starving.

I hope the photos at the bottom of the blog tell the story. In the mean time here is the recipe for a baked dish of Field mushroom and sliced potatoes. A most delicious and satisfying way to serve a harvest of damp, large field mushrooms.

To serve 5-6 people you will need;

A good harvest of field mushrooms or selection of woodland mushrooms thickly sliced.
6 medium to large potatoes, washed but not peeled
2 medium brown onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves and tender stalks (not woody) finely chopped.
A good vegetable stock cube.


  • Heat the oven to gas mark 6, 200ºC, 400ºF.  In a frying pan gently sauté the sliced onions in a little olive or sunflower oil until soft and starting to colour, about 8-10 minutes. When they have softened add half a tsp of sugar and season with some salt. Let them cook for a few more minutes then pour into the bottom of a large baking dish.

  • Meanwhile, slice the potatoes, not too thin and put in a large pan. Cover with water and crumble in the stock cube. Bring to the boil and let the potatoes cook for about 5 minutes until starting to soften. When they are par-boiled, drain saving the cooking water, the stock from the pan. Now you can begin to layer the potatoes and mushrooms over the onions.

  • Begin with a layer of potatoes over the onions, be careful as they will still be quite hot. Roughly layer the potatoes then cover with a good layer of the sliced mushrooms. They will reduce in size dramatically when cooked so really stuff them in. Then sprinkle over the mushrooms a good splodge of the chopped garlic and parsley stalks and leaves. Season. Then continue layering like this until you have reached the top of the dish lightly seasoning between each layer.

  • Pour over 1-2 ladlefuls of the potato stock (the mushrooms will release a lot of water), dot the top with little knobs of butter and give a little drizzle of olive oil. A good grinding of black pepper and then cover with a lid or some tin foil and pop into the hot oven. Turn the immediately down to gas mark 3, 150ºC, 325ºF.

  • After an hour or so remove from the oven and remove the lid or tin foil and put back into the oven to brown the top a little. About 20 minutes.

And that should do it. Serve with lots of brown, warm crusty bread to mop up all the delicious mushroomy, garlicky juices and a large glass of good red wine. You probably deserve it if you’ve been out mushroom picking.

I’ll leave you there with a load of photos of the adventure. It seems like it was a million years ago now as I sit here admiring the valley bathed in sunshine, the birds singing and the trees standing as they should – upright. I wonder how long it will last.

Thanks for reading.

Our 'short cut' didn't quite turn out as we'd hoped

Flo took it upon himself to test the depth..

Much to the amusment of the rest of us
We'd already decided that it was too deep to drive the Landy across...