During my mornings, I like to linger at my little table by the big window. I'll sip on tea, look out to the trees and street beyond and enjoy my breakfast. I feel energised by the comfort of just simply enjoying time and the moments that come before a full day of work. I look forward to this part of the day. Mostly, my morning meals are shared with Taj the dog and otherwise, the company of my own. I don't mind this. Being alone is my most honest time to myself. I re-energise that way. But every now and then and more recently of late, I have been enjoying the company of sharing a meal with others and the comfort that this too, brings.
I have loved that my travels have taken me around the country a couple of times over the past few months. The west coast, the desert, the lowlands, the highlands. Every time I think back to my travels, I think of the times that I got to stop and sit around a table with someone and enjoy a meal together. Impromptu friends and home made soup shared around the lounge room floor, long table dinners thoughtfully styled and themed, a beautifully prepared meal for four in an unfamiliar airbnb kitchen with strangely familiar company. And then back at home, a recent invitation to our neighbours to come over for a an autumn evening roast. To really enjoy the purpose of slowing down, lingering a little, appreciating company, sharing a home cooked meal and generous conversation, well, it's these moments that are most meaningful to me. All of this is reason to why I have been finding myself around so many dinner tables of late - far away, or at home, in the company of others or my mornings alone. I have found myself looking forward to these moments as some of the finest of my week. Sitting around a table of food is my happy place - and it's more than just the eating. It is a reflective time and a simple and warming space that binds people together, allows a slowing of moments and appreciation of company. A gathering, at its best. Something that I've found, that I am always very happy to welcome more of.
Another place that I've found myself frequenting more often are farms, forests and oceans - or anyplace where I can experience the original source of food in its most natural state. On a recent trip to Charleston, I found myself at a sea salt farm. I learnt about solar evaporation and about flakes and crystals. I learnt how the salt was harvested and - the best bit - how portions were bourbon barrel smoked (see below for more). Only a few weeks later, I found myself foraging in the woods around the same area for wild mushrooms for sensitive, seasonal black trumpets and bright, woody chanterelles. For the first time I considered the seasons that mushrooms grew, I was introduced to many types of inedible varieties and searched high and low for the edible ones. In the pacific north west, I ordered every dish I could that vehicled chanterelles, because for the first time, they were available to me and for the first time, I was in a part of the world where they grew - wild! I can honestly say that it is experiences like these that make me feel excitement flutters the way I did before ballet class as a child. Learning how salt was made and walking through the woods to forage for edible mushrooms was the most exciting food related experience that I have had, most probably, ever. Learning about, seeing and discovering food at it's most basic form, discovering where it comes from, how it grows and knowing it's seasonal routine - oh! This is such happiness for me. Real, honest happiness.
Three weeks back, during my time in Seattle, I attended a food photography workshop hosted by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle Et Vanille and taught by the one and only, Luisa Brimble. It was a time to reflect on the process of photographing food and a discovery of our own creative interests and style. It's no secret that this journal has seen me experiment with many ideas when it comes to food posts. However, I have found that my most consistent, resonating moments have been when there has been a gathering around a table or a farm sourced food involved. Even better, the moments where these two find a happy meeting place and a story from foraging to feasting can be told. Wild mushrooms that become an autumnal comfort food and are served up in a cosy corner of a room, smoked sea salt on the table fetched directly from a small batch farm, blackberries picked fresh and frozen into a long table summer dessert, a quiet, shared afternoon tea with regional pears and my love. It seems that these previously serendipitous moments may just indeed be my 'style'. This is the stuff that brings excitement flutters. And although not at all a reinvention of the wheel - it does happen to warm my whole being. It pulls me in. And I want to photograph that.
Now, onto the GIVEAWAY! Seeing as I was so excited to visit Bulls Bay Saltworks and learn the process of naturally making and then smoking sea salt, I thought that there was no better way to celebrate than to share a little of the experience with you. In food form. So, I have one jar of Bourbon Barrel Smoked Flake to give away to someone who would thoroughly enjoy the experience of naturally made and smoked sea salt. And I will be happy to send this little piece of Charleston, SC, off to anywhere in the world.
The recipe possibilities and uses are endless for this one - Teresa and Rustin suggest using it on veggie chips, steak or even in cocktails. I have been putting it on - well, everything - but lately I have been enjoying it with wild mushrooms, of course.
To enter the giveaway, make sure you are following along @leanandmeadow on instagram. Then, please leave a comment below telling me how you would use the smoked salt, along with your instagram username. I will choose the winner randomly (most likely pick a name out of a hat) but I would still love to know your salt cooking ideas anyway! I will draw and announce the winner both here on the journal and on instagram this Wednesday morning at 10am, eastern standard (USA) time.
Until then, I'll let you dream about the taste of the salt in this yummy chantarelle recipe below.
I was dreaming of spätzli (also known as spaetzle), Swiss-German style. So I wrote to my dear friend Sarah in Basel to give me her special spätzli recipe, to pair with our foraged chantarelles along with some sage from the garden, browned butter and of course, bourbon barrel sea salt. Sarah gave me many method options for making the little pasta dumplings. Some like to use a spätzli maker tool, some like to press the dough through a large holed colander - but I chose to use the possibly controversial, possibly most simple technique of cutting each spätzli piece by hand. Also, if you can't get your hands on any chanterelles, I can imagine that other wild mushroom varieties would work well here too - e.g. oyster, black trumpets, hen of the woods, porchini etc.
Here is the full recipe. I hope that you enjoy.
Chanterelle Spätzli with Smoked Salt, Browned Butter + Sage
prep time: 25 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
total time: 40 minutes
yields: enough for 4 small side servings or 2 generous servings
300g all purpose flour
2 free range eggs
1 tsp regular ground sea salt
400g chanterelle mushrooms, chopped into 4cm pieces.
150g unsalted butter
1- 1/12 tsp ground smoked salt (I used the bourbon barel flake)
approx 12 large sage leaves, torn or cut into small strips
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture. Whisk together the egg and water and pour into the well. Using your hands, gradually incorporate the flour and egg mixture together until a smooth dough has formed.
Bring a medium to large pot of salted water to a boil and reduce to medium heat.
While the water is heating, take small amounts of the dough and roll out to form lengths that are 1-2cm in width. Some spätzli varieties are long and lean, others are more short and plump. The size and shape is arguable and totally up to you. I chose something in between. Use a sharp, floured knife to cut thin, narrow strips being careful to avoid the strips sticking together. A light dusting of flour helps here. Drop small batches of the spätzli into the boiling water and leave to cook for approx 3-4 minutes or until the pieces float to the surface. Remove cooked spätzli using a slotted spoon and keep warm in a lightly buttered dish. Repeat with remainder of dough until all spätzli has cooked.
Melt 1 tbs of the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook them over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes or until they begin to release their water. Allow some of the water to boil away before stiring in 1 tsp of the smoked sea salt and a grind or two of fresh ground pepper. Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan and keep to the side. Reduce the heat of the pan to medium. Add the remainder of the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the sage leaves. Swirl the butter around the pan until it begins to turn a light, golden brown. Be careful not the burn the butter - it doesn't take long!
Add the mushrooms to the butter and stir to coat. Finally, add the spätzli and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning as needed - this is where you may like to add a little more of the smoked salt.
Remove from heat and serve warm.