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My first proper post to this board comes by way of a cautionary tale for those, like me, who are relative newbies in the world of the kitchen. I've been dabbling (with huge amounts of encouragement from the wife, eager as she is to relinquish some of the culinary duties of the household!) over the past six months or so, inspired in turn by a new kitchen to play with, watching too many episodes of Masterchef and the like, and lurking on this board for hints and tips.

In truth I'm enjoying learning all these new skills more and more, and seem to be doing OK (at least according to my captive audience of a wife, although I've not been let loose on friends yet!). It's all mainly following recipes, but trying those with different products and techniques really to see what I can and can't do.

Anyhow, with this in mind I thought I'd push the boat out last Saturday, and leafing through a cookbook found a recipe for Chicken Forestiere, described as 'not for the faint-hearted' - it wasn't clear whether this referred to it's richness (loads of cream and brandy in the sauce) or the techniques involved (bandying around words like 'flambe' and 'deglasse'), but I thought, s*d it, let's have a bash, if I pour enough claret down the wife she'll never notice if it's rubbish anyway :o)

So, off I pop Saturday morning to hunt down my ingredients. All easy stuff until I get down to the mushrooms. Now, I'm already used to certain recipes pushing this or that specific type of ingredient when in reality it doesn't make a huge amount of difference (at my level, anyhow), but this one seemed to be different. No ordinary mushrooms would do - had to be 'dried morel mushrooms'. Heart of the dish. Unique flavour. Traditional ingredient. Blah blah blah. Clearly a packet of Somerfield's finest pre-packed button mushrooms wasn't going to do the job, so I started off to the nearest deli in my quest.

The first deli didn't stock them, so that wasn't a good start. We live in an area with more than it's fair share of delicatessens, niche shops, and generally overpriced 'purveyors of fine produce', though, so I was undeterred and plodded off to the next. And then on to the next. And then, finally, on the fourth attempt (not counting Somerfield, obviously), I found them, perched on a high shelf in the sort of big plastic jar you used to find lemon bonbons being sold from when you were a kid.

Obviously relieved, I asked the chap behind the counter if I could have 'some of those morels', pointing up to the jar with a flourish, so as not to embarrass the poor lad with my superior ingredient knowledge when he didn't know where they were ;o). You could almost hear the hush descend around the shop as he climbed the ladder, came carefully back down with the jar and asked how many I wanted. Quick check of the recipe - 50 grams. Well, that's not very much, is it? Bit embarrrassing really, so I'll have to buy at least 100, then I can do it again anyway, thinks I.

He measures out 100 grams, then goes to tap the price into the scales but stops with a puzzled look, and goes off to check with his boss. 'No, that's really how much they cost' I hear. Lad comes back. Price comes up. I fall down. £22!!!!! Twenty two flaming quid for 100 grams of bl**dy mushrooms!!!!!!!!!!

'Are they as nice as everyone makes out?' asks the boss of me, walking back past. I coughed and spluttered a response of 'uhum, yeah, lovely' under my breath, and thought about getting the lad to put half of them back only to realise he was already back up the ladder replacing the jar, so I was in far too deep now. Stumped up my £22 and went home, tail between my legs......

So, lesson learnt I think. DYOR on mushrooms as much as anything else! It's only now I do a search on this board and find morels listed as part of the £15000 menu recently, I might have known!!!

Anyway, they were very nice, after all that, and the taste was sufficiently unique and strong enough to persuade me that the button mushrooms wouldn't have done. Dunno what recipe I'll try out this Saturday yet, though - obviously I still have 50 grams left. Ham and morel omelette, anyone?? ;o)

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