Monday, 31 March 2008

Off tomorrow and the wave off.

How excited are we? Well, out of the whole Foodiemumontheroad, we've had the Mum (me), we've had a bit of the road (Ruby and her exploits), and now we are going to have the food(ie)! Tomorrow is our first day of the Foodiemumontheroad tour and we are heading from leafy Buckinghamshire to rural Sussex; the Ashdown forest to be precise ( The home of Pooh bear...and while we won't be hunting heffalumps, we should be able to hunt down a few good foodie pit stops. Number one on my list is Harvest Supplies which, according to a reliable source (my friend Katie who lives in the aforementioned Forest) is:

"A shack in the Woods. Literally. No sign, you come across it looming out of the trees like an African Trading Post. Fruit and Veg delivery and the best groceries (Gluten-free bread and cake to sushi nori via home-brewed cider)."

With a description like that who can refuse a visit. Thanks Katie!

Tomorrow we are going to be waved off by Oskar's preschool friends. They've all been very enthusiastic about our trip. Mums and Dads have been enquiring about our preparations and taking us to one side to tell us that their secret hobby is collecting anything to do with VW campers: money boxes, keyrings, mugs.... The children are going to have a Foodiemumontheroad corner in the preschool where they will follow our trip. I'm going armed with maps and tiny Ruby cut outs for them and as I've finally managed to get the bunks up I'm hoping they will be crawling all over them and the van with the glee that only 3 year-olds can have. Waved off by 12 gorgeous toddlers, how can our foodiemumontheroad trip be anything but full of the same honest open eyed enjoyment and exploration. I know I'm going to try and make it so.

Thanks have to go out to our wonderful neighbours: Tina and Mike-again; Debs and Tom; Amy, Taya the wonderdog and Richard (of fame) who all jumped into the 'looking after the cats and chickens' breach after the original arrangement fell through.
Thanks also to Jon and Jon (ha ha) from the Carphone Warehouse Chesham who spent hours working out how to connect a reluctant computer to a reluctant mobile phone to the semi-reluctant Internet.

Day 1 tomorrow. See you on the other side.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

First day of summer

Ooo I'm so tired. I've had a fabulous first day of summer working on Ruby all day. So many stories and wonderful tales to tell, but for now some photos of today will have to suffice. 1 day to go!

Friday, 28 March 2008

My puny arms and will we be able to leave on Tuesday?

My arms feel so puny. I've been locked in Ruby putting up the spare bunk beds. I borrowed a cordless drill from some neighbours (thank you Mike and Tina) and used the last few threads of twilight to drill away into our crimson and cream pride and joy. The trick seems to be to tap on her metallic Vdub skeleton until you find a patch that sounds hollow and then to drill away until it lunges forward. I then lurch back and try to regain some sense of womanly decorum about the whole matter. Seems to be working though...I've nearly got one bunk up.
We've regained Rube from the Auto electrics and as it’s now a matter of urgency drove her straight to the garage for the full works. Service, replacement door panels and seals, Oh my. There she stayed for a night and a day until we thought we'd chase them up and see how it was all going. It wasn't. Jack the super VW camper expert has been taken ill and nothing at all is going to happen until this Monday. We LEAVE on Tuesday. We WILL leave on Tuesday.WE WILL, WE WILL, WE WILL!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

No longer a hostage and disapointing pine nuts

Well, I went round to the Auto electrics today with the heavy’s (Jason) to demand Old Ruby back. Initially I was concerned, there was a big brute of a German Sheppard making himself known. After the overzealous hard working furry brute had been silenced with a hard look from the owner, I questioned why Ruby had been held hostage over the weekend and why hadn't I received the call they promised me? Wasn't I surprised when they were helpful and considerate and said they would have the job done by 2pm tomorrow. They were repentant that they hadn’t rung me but there had been a personal emergency. I toed the floor a bit and asked some, what I thought were knowledgeable electrical questions, then left, feeling like there had been a bit of an anticlimax to this whole hostage situation. I was expecting inept sparkies with feeble excuses and a bit of a battle and I got an auto electrician with a damned decent excuse and very professional manner.

Then with a view to getting Ruby sorted out once and for all we headed over to the garage where we were met by a large grey and white dog with a dubious curly haircut. Who runs these establishments? People or extraordinarily large woofers? Anyway they are taking Ruby in after the Auto electrics have finished with her tomorrow and will fit new panels to the rusty bottom of her side doors, replace the door seals and give her a service. I think Ruby is a little like a glamorous old lady who visits the doctor and health spa for regular health checks and pampering and isn't above having a little 'work' done.

I found a pine tree; I checked the pine nuts were probably edible on ( I heated the pinecone to release the nuts and found them to be....minuscule. They tasted mildly of burnt paper. Bit of a letdown to be honest. I think I'll look for more substantial pine cones in the future...or eat some burnt paper!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Stingers and the old gal (Ruby)

It's now a bit of a wild food cliché, but have you noticed those tender young nettles lurking under the hedgerows? The leaves are so small and green, hopeful and babyfied. Use them cooked any where you would use greens. Baby veg from the supermarket isn't sold at a premium for any old reason: baby vegetables (and that includes nettles) are sweet and succulent and baby nettles have a beautiful fresh green ferrous taste. They may be a bit scary and stingy but just pop those babies into a steamer or boiling water for 5-10 minutes and you won't regret it.

Many of you have asked for more pictures of Ruby. I've managed to take a few snap shots by sneaking into the auto electrics yard. We hope she is going to be released from the camper van hostage takers on Tuesday but who knows? They haven't contacted us....Easter egg eating, camper van auto sparkies! Ooo I'm so huffy they've not contacted us. If you look at the blog slideshow you'll see a few of those snap shots, but for now here's a handful of pictures so you can see what she was like when we bought her from a lovely old man in Dorset.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Comments please!

Hello everybody, you can now leave comments after each post. Start commenting and be part of foodiemumontheroad.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Egg no show and Ruby has been taken hostage.

I have concerns. No eggs today. The chickens have stopped laying and the Auto electrics are holding Ruby hostage. The poor old lady is still there and all the auto 'leci men have gone home to eat Easter eggs without informing us they were going to do so. I've left numerous messages and they have the keys. She's a beautiful girl I know, and I can see why they want to hold onto her, but she was meant to go to the garage for her service today.
Egg no show, Ruby hostage, dark times indeed.
Less than 2 weeks to go and Ruby still has no heating and her door seals leak. Hurm, are we going to do it in time?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Auto electrics and pine cones.

Poor ol' Rube is at the Auto Electrics. Forlorn in the car park. Practically abandoned to the whims of these 'leci philes. They were very helpful actually and promised to fit her in between jobs. She'll be back on Wednesday with her leisure battery in her engine all good campers should. The leisure battery is what we run the fridge and the like off when we can 't plug in to the camping mains. We're starting to get really excited about the trip and Oskar is telling everyone that he is going to sleep in a vw camper van. It's very cute when a 3 year old says it.
I've been reading the SAS survival handbook and have discovered that you can eat pine cone seeds. You heat the cone, the seeds drop out, then you munch them. Apparently you can eat the bark as well....I have to try this and report back to you. I'd like to try them in a warm, crumbly, goats cheese salad.
I've had pine needle tea, which is beautiful and fragrant and with a wonderfully fresh taste. Just infuse the pine needles in hot water for 5 minutes and drink. Nice to have a refreshing cuppa.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Theme music

I've currently got RUBY, RUBY, RUBY, RUUUBY...DA DAA DA Da DA DA DAAAA...( on the iPod. I'm imagining us zooming along country lanes singing at the top of our lungs to this; with me screeching "stop the Ruby" at the first yummy piece of wild food I see...I'm still on the look out for Morel mushrooms. I've not found one yet. The route seems to be planed. It involves English vineyards, Biodynamic farmers, Oysters, goose farms, Tudor cooks, the northern most producers of chillies ( and Holy Island

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Article published in Chesham Towntalk magazine (Autumn 2007)

Fungi Fun

By Jade Parsonage

It's been another bumper year for all things fungi. The brief spells of hot weather and the amazing down pours have created just the right environment for a multitude of mushroomy offerings scattered around the Chesham countryside..

In Chesham we are quite open to the idea of eating interesting foods. Probably because although we live in a country market town we are reasonably cosmopolitan with a wonderful array of cultures who don't think it's unusual to go foraging for wild mushrooms. Why not? They are there for the picking, free more diverse and fresher than anything you could get from the shops.
As a nation we used to be braver when it came to pick your own wild mushrooms but somehow we have become increasingly reliant on supermarkets to make this decision for us. The knowledge of which mushrooms are ok to eat is being lost to all but the enthusiastic few.

In France you can take your fungi finds to your local pharmacy to be identified. I can't see the lovely pharmacists in Garlicks, Boots or any of the Chesham chemists being quite so open to the idea but I would openly encourage it!

Other countries are much more excepting more unusual fungi than we are. In Munich you can buy over 300 separate species of fungi in the markets and in France 30 wild fungi species are sold commercially.

The U.K gets through 30,000 tons of cultivated mushrooms every year. Why cultivate them when you can gather them for free?

Before exploring anywhere you must make sure that you have the permission of the landowner and take a good mushroom reference guide with you. I prefer 'Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain' by Roger Phillips for its clear photographs and no nonsense approach.

Only harvest fungi that satisfy all the specifications for season, size, colour environment in your field guide. You'll find that your confidence identifying edible specimens will grow with practise and you will also find indentify the best places to find them.

The National trusts Ashridge estate runs fungi forays and apart from being great fun they are a remarkable way to learn the relevant features of each fungi group and boost your confidence.

Other countries are much more excepting of other fungus than we are. In Munich you can buy over 300 separate species of fungi in the markets and in France 30 wild fungi species are sold commercially.

It's worth pointing out that although mushrooms need to be treated with caution, out of the 3000 or so species of large bodied fungi found in the U.K only 20 or so of these are seriously poisonous.

You can find mushrooms in a wide range of habitats around Chesham. Scour your own garden, the Moor, Chesham bois woods, Lowndes Park and Nashleigh rec. Just start looking and trying to identify them. Soon you'll realise that they are all around you and sometimes in the oddest of places. On old park benches for example. Camera phones are also useful for preliminary identification. Make the most of this fabulous time of year and go mushroom hunting. Even better take the kids along.

Drying mushrooms.

Drying is one of the oldest and best methods of preserving mushrooms and useful in times of abundance. My shelves are absolutely burdened by an assortment of dried mushrooms. They reconstitute well when soaked in warm water or you can add them dried to soups, stews and casseroles. It's very easy to do.

Ensure your edible fungi are clean (and are edible!)

Arrange them on a baking tray

Small or thin mushrooms can be dried at 50 degrees c for a couple of hours and larger offerings can be dried at 70 degrees. Of course you can cut them up.

Alternatively, thread string through them and hang them up in your airing cupboard until dried. This can make the room smell a bit mushroomy though!

Jades' Wild mushroom relish

This is a hybrid recipe combining a recipe for 'Mushroom Catchup' by Kettilby who wrote down 300 odd recipes in the 18th Century and Mushroom pickle from 'Complete Home cookery' published by Fleetway house. It's a really meaty flavoursome relish that's a great warming snack on hot buttered toast after one of those wonderful chilly Autumnal walks. Even better, it keeps for at least a year, getting better as it matures and after you have eaten it all you can use the residual vinegar as an out of the world salad dressing. I've made it many times and it always works well. Use any edible mushrooms except ink caps as they seem to dissolve to nothing.

On a low heat put 200g of wild mushrooms in a saucepan with a small handful of salt. A lot of liquid will come out of the mushrooms. Cook them over a low heat until the liquid has evaporated. Add a 100g of chopped shallots, 2 cloves of garlic (or a large handful of chopped wild garlic), a teaspoon of crushed black pepper, a thumb sized nugget of fresh ginger, roughly chopped, a dozen cloves, a few blades of mace and a bay leaf. Cover the mixture with vinegar and bring the whole lot to the boil for a few minutes. Allow to cold slightly before pouring into jars.

Have fun foraging for your fungi and remember to 'identify, identify, identify.'

For more information Ashridges fungi forays phone: 01494 755557 or look at their website and for more mushroom recipe ideas look at

Box mountain and misbehaving carpets

Heeerm.... I think Jason might have something to say about the huge mountain of cardboard boxes that are currently spanning half of the living room. These are all of the those must have items from They're useful, THEY'RE USEFUL! Admittedly the big chrome vw badge for the front of Ruby isn't absolutely necessary but she wanted one. All the other cool campers have them.

I've been fitting Rubys new carpet . Why is it that I always attempt tricky jobs using the most ludicrous items? Rubys carpet has been cut to fit using a small kitchen knife and a tiny blunt craft knife. Parts of her interior have been painted using a large clumsy childrens poster paint brush. I think I should be more professional. I'm just not doing the old girl justice. It doesn't help that the carpet trys to pounce on me when I'm working on it. Is all carpet so unweildy?

She's going in to have a service tomorrow...I don't think the garage know what they've let themselves in for. At least justkampers have sent us a user manual now perhaps they can just follow that.

The chickens have been running around the garden today and are now sitting sulking under the climbing frame with big clods of mud attached to their big fluffy feathery pantaloons. I guess they didn't count on it raining while they were having a much deserved dust (mud) bath. Funny girls. Rosie the has laid pretty much everyday since we got her. She's tiny and white like a chicken ballerina and lays pure white beautifully rounded eggs. Tarantula is built like a chicken Lancaster bomber and is incredibly fluffy. She made our day recently when she started laying her long thin dark mahogany eggs again. Incase you are wondering. Oskar named the hens.

I'm off to scale cardboard box mountain...just over 2 weeks before we go!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

200 year old Cornish cookbook and spray paint.

Wow, good news a friend of a friend, has a friend who has a 200 year old cookbook. Apparently it’s a tome of a book and they are going to email over a few scanned pics of it. Definitely worth a visit to Cornwall me thinks to try 200 year old recipes in the comfort of old Ruby the van. What did they eat then? I wonder who wrote it? Can I find the ingredients locally? Exciting stuff.
Today I've been spray painting the fitted cupboards in old Ruby. I now wish that I hadn't started spray painting them after getting half way through and developing an assortment spray paint related blisters on my fingers...I thought I had it sussed by using my thumb instead but..well you can guess the rest.
I've started fitting the carpet (recycled from next door-thanks Adrian) but had to stop when realised I could no longer see the extra sharp pointy knife I was using. Still it looks good by the light of the orange street lamp outside. Albeit dark and orangey.
It's quite a lot of fun working in the van in a gale..I hope Ruby doesn't get blown over. I think that even with my new spray paint fumes induced strength I couldn't get her up again. Wish I'd used an eco friendly paint now:(
Ahhhh off to have a well earned yarrow tea. Nice to see the little fronds back in the garden.