Tuesday, 20 July 2010

All Hail Sea Kale

Some people find it surprising that I love the taste on anything cabbagey. I know a lot of people shy away from brassicas and indeed any green vegetable but I really think they are missing out on a treat.

Covering the shingely shores of Cogden beach near us, succulent sea kale is in it's prime at the moment. I take the youngest leaves and sauté them in sesame oil and light soy sauce then sprinkle with sesame seeds.

It's a satisfying starter and if you add a few prawns , some noodles and a shake of sweet chilli sauce to the wok a gratifying meal is created.

Sea kale can be used in exactly the same way as cabbage. The leaves are thicker and it has a slightly salty taste but it's a interesting vegetable and worth experimenting with.

And I think a little nod should go out to Robin Harford a fellow forager who I spied gathering sea kale in the same location. Hurrah for fellow wild food foragers. Lovely to see you.

Moroccan style burgers

Moorish burgers with a twist.

4 cups bread crumbs
2 cups chickpea flour
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
1/2 cup rice flour
Ground cumin.
Ground Coriander
1 bulb garlic (squashed and finely chopped)
1 tablespoon parsley
1 handful fresh mint
4 eggs
500g Lamb mince

Mix the chickpea flour, onion, rice flour, cumin, coriander, garlic, parsley, and mint together with 100 ml cold water. Stir well and leave for five minutes.
Add to the raw 500g Lamb mince and mix. Add the breadcrumbs and mix. I like to use my hands for this. Beat up the 4 eggs and add them to the mixture making sure they are well mixed in. The beaten eggs bind the mixture together. Leave for 10 minutes then form into burgers using your hands and drop into a hot frying pan. Brown on both sides then turn the temperature down to half way (number 3 on my electric hob) and allow to cook through. Serve with yoghurt, warm pittas and a salad.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Candied Alexander stem

This is a recipe that I made up and tried in early April when the Alexander’s were shooting up their beautiful new stems. All the children I offered these 'homemade sweets' to loved them and I even used them in them in the same way to decorate cakes as you would use candied Angelica.It went especially well with lemon icing.

I neglected to share the recipe with you then so here it is.

Alexander’s have a fragrant taste not unlike myrtle and this candying process works really well with the younger stems. Try not to use the really new stems. They have to have a bit of 'substance' to them or they will disintegrate in the candying process.

How to make Candied Alexander stem.

Cut the stems into sections about 6 inches long then soak in cold water for about 8 hours.

Add the stems to boiling water with 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (per Gallon). The Bicarb helps the Alexanders retain its colour. Boil until the stems have softened. Cool in cold water and soak in syrup of 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water. Do this for 24 hours.

After 24 hours drain and heat the syrup to 110 degrees Celsius. It helps if you have a cooking thermometer for this.

Pour the Syrup over the Alexander stems and repeat the syrup process for the next 3 days. On the fourth day cook the syrup to 120 degrees Celsius and then pop the stems in. Boil and then lift the stems out and drain them on a cake rack.

When they are cooled eat! I found them a little sticky so rolled them in icing sugar then stored then in a kilner jar. I don't know how long they would last like this. Quite a long time I feel. I never got the chance to find out as Oskar and his school friend ate the lot. I was extremely popular :)

I ate a squirrel and I liked it......

So, Jason, my other half was driving along one of the many country lanes we have in beautiful West Dorset, when the car coming towards him knocked down a squirrel. He stopped and as the squirrel was most definitely dead and not at all squashed (technical term:) he brought it home to me where we enjoyed squirrel legs as a delightful nibble with a glass of dandelion wine. If I get a squirrel again I think spicy peanut satay is the way to go. ...
The squirrel was very fresh and I started skinning it as I would a rabbit. As I was doing so I realised that the back legs were where the meat was and as I was in a rush I concentrated on those.
I flash fried the back legs in olive oil and garlic, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Not adventurous I know, but I wanted to get an idea of the flavour of the meat. The legs tasted like fatty free range chicken. Not bad at all and if I get another opportunity in the near future I think squirrels a goer. It’s a bit fiddly for not much meat but if you like to explore new wild food and like a bit of meat then it’s worth it. Hey and frankly it good protein for free. Just make sure,that if you do acquire a squirrel then you know what enviroment it's been living in. A squirrel from an inner city park that had been feasting from the bins would proabbly taste revolting.
P.SI've heard rumours that certain Chefs in the New Forest have squirrel in their menu. And in deepest darkest suburban Surrey my in-laws have bought it from their local butchers for the princely sum of £5! Squirrel’s on the up!

Chocolate for breakfast?

Chocolate for breakfast? Why not?

Dorset Cereals have kindly sent me some packs of their Chocolate Granola. Well, frugal as I am, I can never say ' No!' to a freebie. Especially if it adds some luxury to the breakfast table. When I was first approached by Dorset Cereals I must admit that I was dubious about their chocolate granola cereal. Chocolate is for treats and gooey puddings I thought.

Thinking about it, it may not be as odd as I initially though. The French eat chocolate for breakfast in the form of lovely warm crumbly pain au chocolat or even dip warm croissants into bowls of hot chocolate. In the Philippines they eat a sticky rice porridge called champorado with lots of chocolate mixed in and crisp fried, sun-dried fish on the side. In Spain they eat chocolate con churros- hot chocolate with doughy fritters.

Chocolate makes you feel happy due to the alkaloids, theobromine and phenethylamine which are present in it. Wikipedia suggests lots of health benefits for chocolate. So what could be more ideal?

So what does the Dorset cereals chocolate granola taste like? Well, it's very pleasurable. Initially it's very sweet tasting, then you get the bitterness of the fair-trade dark chocolate and then coconut drifts over your palette. It's chewy but nicely so and doesn't go soggy. As it's made with Fair-trade dark chocolate, oats, sunflower seeds, coconut and barley flakes I bet it would make a really good flapjack. I have a very savoury palette but I have to admit it's very moreish. More often than not, I found myself tucking into it in the evenings when I was flagging and wanted something naughty to indulge in. The rest of the family like it as their 'special weekend breakfast'. Chocolate is usually rationed in our house as our 5 year old gets rather bouncy on chocolate but because this is good quality chocolate, to our surprise he doesn't get bouncy and we all heave a sigh of relief. In fact breakfast eating the Dorset Cereals Chocolate granola was very pleasurable. Much more so than our normal cereals.

We all felt like we were getting a treat and we left the breakfast table smiling after a great start to the day.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Wild food window box

Imagine just stepping outside your door and being able to conjure together a fresh wild food salad. Well, with this wild food salad window box you can do just that.

I took a group of Dorset toddlers on their very own wild food hunt to create their own wild food window box. We didn't even leave the garden. Armed with tiny trowels my little hunters marched up and down the garden in search of wild food yummies to dig up and plant. The mud went everywhere, much fun was to be had and at the end of the day each child enjoyed an omelette with a side helping of Dorset wild food garden salad! Perfect.

Here's how to make your wild food salad window box. Fill window box with good garden earth. Then use a decent reference book to hunt around the garden for wild food surprises. Look out for daisies, dandelions, jack by the hedge, sow thistle, yarrow, bitter cress, lambs leaf lettece,wintercress and chickweed. Carefully dig them up and plant them in the window box, water and wait for 2 weeks before picking the young leaves. That way the plants will have time to perk up a bit.

Etvoilà! You now have fresh salad to hand anytime you want it and without having to buy those expensive bags of salad from the supermarket.

Here's another very tasty way to use your salad leaves.

PUREED Dorset wild food salad and PEAS (OR POSH MUSHY PEAS)

1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves or a large handful of wild garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 large breakfast bowls of wild food garden salad, chopped
2 tablespoons water
200 g frozen peas, thawed
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, thyme, mint or parsley

Melt the butter then add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring until softened. Add the salad and water, and simmer, covered, until the salad wilts, about 3 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook until they are heated through. Coarsely puree with a blender, and transfer the mixture back to the pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring, until heated through and then stir in the salt, lemon juice and herbs.

The ultimate Nettle soup recipe

The ultimate nettle soup recipe.
When most people hear about your interest in wildfood what do they say?
“Oooh doyamean like nettles... I wouldn’t want to eat those. How do you stop them stinging you?
Well here’s the ultimate nettle soup recipe that will one, silence those with a dislike of the stinger and two become a regular favourite at the dinner table. After all ...(blah b;lah b;ah)
1 medium onion finely sliced
1 pint of bacon stock
1 large potatoe, diced and boiled
Black pepper
Crème fraise
1 large carrier bag of fresh nettle tops

Melt the butter slowly then add the onion. Cook over a gentle heat until softened and translucent. Add the bacon stock and heat until it gently simmers. Skim any scum off the surface. Add the nettles and simmer for about 5 minutes add the potatoe and keep cooking for about 5 more minutes. Take off the heat and season. Stir in a bog dolup of crème fraise and serve.
Sometimes if I have a handful of watercress I use that too as it gives a bit of extra pep. For even more pep add a splash of Tabasco.

A word of warning. After June nettles can have a laxative affect. I counteract this by growing my own nettles in my 'wild patch' and very regularly cutting them down to produce new nettle tips.

Food Friday

Food friday.

So this is my new concept. It's very simple. I think that everyone should have a 'Food Friday'. In short this means dedicating some of your time on a Friday to producting your own food for the table. This could be by fishing, rabbiting, gathering wild food,bartering your skills in exchange for food or taking care of the veggie patch. As long as it means that you are actually producting your own food and it costs you nothing (or as near to nothing as you can). You may even be able barter skills for food.

Think of different ways you could achieve Food Friday...Mow next doors lawn in exchange for being able to help yourself to that abandoned rubbard in the corner of their garden.

By having a Food Friday we can drastically cut the amount of food miles our food has to come, eat more healthily, save money, learn about food and actually appriciate the food we do produce more. Too many people don't think about the food they buy and waste tons of it. This is a great way to be more in touch with our food. If everyone had a Food Friday and spent just one day (or even just a hours or two producting their own food) think about how much less food we would have to import and more closer to home. Think how much money you could save....

Please comment if you like my Food Friday idea...and spread the news. Everyone should have a Food Friday.

This Food Friday (today) I'm attending to my cabbages and pickling the green imature elderflower berries to make something very similar to capers.

Happy Food Friday!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Economy warp drive

Recently, along with many other people we've been on a bit of an 'economy drive'. Thrifty is defiantly the word. I've been mining into our freezer and discovering all sorts of delights. Spicy polenta made for when we had guests but never used. Late summer blackberries stored when we had the idea we would accumulate enough of them to make wine....but never did. These forgotten treasures shouldn't be left in the freezer like monuments to a forgotten past. Abandoned in their cold museum. Let them free. Be inventive. My blackberries have become jam, my spicy polenta was transformed into a spicy sausage dish and the 25 sprats I practically dug up are to become tonight's supper. Sprat pate, served on warm soda bread and a salad from the garden. Actually rather than feeling that we are making doing or waste notting. I feel like I have again awakened that gluttonous side of me. The side that indulges itself. Using the leftovers and forgotten unlabeled boxes in the freezer hasn't made me feel downhearted. It's been inspiring.

Soda bread

Prep time:15 minutes

Cook time:30-40 minutes


Soda bread is quick and easy to make. This one seems to last longer than a 'normal' soda bread and I think this is because it contains oats which hold the moisture for longer. It's little crumbly and has a wonderful texture. It's a meal in itself when spread thickly with butter. It goes wonderfuly with a creamy cheese or home made pate and a green salad from the garden. This is adapted from an Irish Soda Bread recipe by Margaret Hickly

250g plain white flour
250g plain wholemeal flour (I used some from the excellent townmill.org.uk in Lyme Regis)
100g porridge oats (the rougher the better I say!)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
25g butter , cut in pieces
500ml buttermilk substitute for 'normal' or soya milk if you don't have any.

Directions:Preheat the oven to 200c or use the top oven of your Rayburn/Aga. Dust a oven tray with lots of flour and put to one side. This will stop the bread from sticking. Mix all the dry ingredients together then rub in the butter.Add the buttermilk and use your fingers or a butter knife until it forms a dough. You may not need to use all the buttermilk. Place on the oven tray and cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife to alow the dough to cook all the way through. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.
Smother in butter and eat!

Homemade, elderflowerade, lemonade, mintade-all using pretty much the same recipe!

This is a really easy peasy recipe that takes next to no time to make. It's elegent enough to serve to your most trying guests (with ice and a slice of course) but so easy peasy you don't mind if your 5 year old drinks litres of it. It's wonderfully refreshing and perfect for the summer

1 cup lemon juice (about 6 lemons if you use lemons).

Alternatively for Mintade use 1 good handful of fresh mint leaves.

For Elderflowerade use 2-4 sprigs of Elderflowers. Elderflowers are best gathered early in the season and in warm weather. The beginning of the season is early June and they are best gathered in warm weather as this is when they realease their wonderful pungent pollen.

1 cup sugar

1 cup boiling water

4 cups cold water

Mix the boiling water and sugar together until the suger is disolved. If it doesn't dissolve you may have to gently heat it on the hob.

Once the suger is dissolved add the lemon juice and the cold water and serve over ice. Yes it's that easy!

If you want to make elderflowerade cover 2-4 sprigs of elderflowers in 1 cup of sugar and leave overnight then use the sugar as above. Also add a squueeze or dash of lemon juice.

For Mintade cover a big handful of fresh mint in 1 cup of sugar and leave overnight then use the sugar as above. Add a sprig of mint to the mintade.

These also work well as make your own ice lollys .

How easy is that? Perfect refeshing summer drinks that cost next to nothing:)