Foraging

Summer Rose Syrup

IMG_0501.JPGSummer roses…

This recipe captures the scent, fragrance and wild essence from your garden rose into a syrup so gorgeous and simple you’ll want to keep making it over and over.

In the UK we’re blessed with many herbs and flowers that give food such an extra special unique taste. Elderflower season has come and gone, and this year’s cordial is now frozen into ice cubes for coolers dressings and cakes to be enjoyed well into the summer.

Over the years I’ve been fascinated by cooking with wild-plants that I find in the hedgerows and gardens near wherever I’m living. For some people it is a way of life and the ultimate expression of seasonality.

In America last year I was fortunate enough to meet a herbalist who made her own herbal vinegars, flower coolers, infusions and tinctures. When I tasted for the first time in my life a vinegar made of yellow dock that was so punchy fragrant and utterly indescribably bittersweet, it added such an unique flavour to our roasted vegetable dish, and added so many health benefits I vowed I would make it some day… but right now the roses are in bloom.

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This recipe is so utterly simple and delicious it will put the magic of summer into whatever piece of toast, pancake, yoghurt or waffle you drizzle it over. It makes a lovely icing for a cake.  Full of sugar, just like jam, this doesn’t pretend to be healthy. But as a vegan sweetener or jam equivalent, rose petal syrup can be used in moderation, made in small quantities and appreciated for what it is. I feel it’s a valuable and gorgeous addition to your cupboard.

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CHINESE ROSE

Recently when we were in China, travelling in the South in Yunnan, we came across a rose delicacy that blew me away and got me very interested in learning more about cooking with roses. It was a Moon Cake, a ceremonial and local delicacy, made with a flaking light pastry filled with chunky rose jam. Served warm and fresh out of a linen-lined basket by a crinkly faced apple-cheeked local. We stood there blissfully at the stall (despite it being close to a main road for passing trade) immersed in rose-heaven…a taste so blissful I want to go all the way back to China just to taste it again, it blew my mind!

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Rose sweeties…

Ever since Lee and I volunteered on an organic lavender and rose farm in Turkey in 2014, I became fascinated with the colossal copper vats where literally tons of freshly harvested rose petals would be made into essential oil. All around Turkey, roses featured highly in every market place in the form of soaps, tea, jams, sweets, and as rose-water, traditionally used by woman and men as a hand spray to lightly scent the skin after a meal.

rose sultan

“What is the scent of the Rose? The breath of reason and intelligence, a sweet guide on the way to the eternal kingdom.” Rumi

The Damask rose is as revered in Turkish society today as it was in the Ottoman times for it’s edible petals and delicious scent. Imagine a scene at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul in the Ottoman times where sultans sip rose sherbet in their thrones, Ottoman woman laze around in rose-scented baths applying oils and creams to their skins. Roses, known as ‘The flower of Heaven’ were a symbol of divine beauty and were used extensively in spiritual ceremonies. Medicines, syrups and sweets made from roses were and still are used every day. It’s all very romantic.

If it’s good enough for a sultan it’s good enough for us too, right?

This recipe was requested by a friend of the BHK, super Simon over at the Heart Kitchen.

Here’s the recipe!

Enjoy, Jane:)

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The bits

1 cup of caster sugar

Half a cup of water

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 cups of freshly picked rose petals

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Do it

Shake the rose petals well outside after picking to free the tiny insects. Warm the sugar, water and lemon juice on a low heat until it’s dissolved into a thick syrup. Add the rose petals and stir them in the sugar solution for about 5 minutes or so, then take off the heat and keep stirring for another ten, until the rose petals have gone see-through and the syrup has changed colour.

Strain the syrup through muslin into a jar.

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Serve

This is one of the world’s most delicious drizzles to be enjoyed with pancakes, toast, waffles, ice creams, cocktails, in tea and even in salad dressings!

Articles referenced in this post are here and here

Photograph of Sultan was originally taken by Nurhan Atasoy.
Categories: Desserts, Foraging, Infusions, Local food, photography, Recipes, Sauces, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Healing Power of Nettles

Nettle tea - 2015 vintage

Nettle tea – 2015 vintage

After a strong nettle tea this morning, I feel supercharged and inspire to share the wealth of our green and bountiful friend.  The nettle plant is much misunderstood, yes it stings a bit, but there is so much more to nettles than that.  It is one of the healthiest plants that grows in temperate areas and is something we could all benefit hugely from incorporating into our diets.   Nettles are one of natures multivitamins (and the rest)!!

We love drinking nettle tea, its a complete health tonic and ideal first thing in the morning. The way we start our days is so very important, what we choose to put into our bodies after many hours sleeping can have a huge effect on our day and health in general.  Nettle tea is the perfect start!  It’s just one of those infusions that you know is doing you the power of good. Then you read a little into it and you’re certain. Nettles are packed full of pure plant power.

Nettles have historically been regarded as a superbly healthy food in many different cultures.  Milarepa the famous Tibetan sage and saint ate them when meditating for ten years in a cave, eventually turning green and gaining the ability to fly (I love these legends).  Sometimes I think we feel like exotic foods, with cool names, are our only source of sparkling nutrition.  However, there are so, so many super foods on our doorsteps (or nearby).

Milarepa - Green after a few too many nettles

Milarepa – Green after a few too many nettles

The nettle picking season is just around the corner and we’re very excited. Hopefully a few will be ready before we head over to the States. North Wales is quite a tough place to grow things however nettles love it and we go on massive picking sessions each year, drying them in our dehydrator or in the boot of our estate car (on very warm days). We can then store the leaves for tea and adding to soups and stews throughout the year. You can even pan fry the leaves or use them fresh, just like spinach. Its a way of stocking up on essential minerals, vitamins and a whole host of sparkling nutritional properties, not to mention that the tea tastes wonderful. Its in the realm of green tea with a few added nuances. Some say its an acquired taste, but I think most are?! When the leaves are fresh, they have a lighter flavour. Free wonderfoods fresh from the hedgerow, now you’re talking!!

Nettles grow prolifically throughout the temperate areas of the world.  They actually thrive on the waste we produce and interestingly, large patches of nettles may be used as sign of previous settlements that are now long gone from our countryside.

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles Recipe

THE POWER OF NETTLES
One of Jane’s teachers, Susan Weed, is a firm advocate of all things nettle and writes about them extensively.  Nettles are also known as the devil’s leaf and even wild spinach, they are certainly equally delicious and even more nutritious.  There are literally hundreds of health properties attributed to this wonder plant, here are a few:

  • Nettles strengthen the kidneys.  Their Greek name is Urtica Dioica, ‘Uro’ meaning urine.
  • They are a powerful tonic, anti-anaemic, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-allergenic, decongestant, anti-arthritic, laxative, antiseptic, anti-rheumatic, anti-asthmatic, expectorant……..the list goes on and on.
  • Nettles are ideal for women, especially during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.  Nettles help with menstrual cramps, nausea and bloating.
  • A general relaxant that helps with hypertension.
  • Fresh nettle juice is antispetic and can be used as a kitchen spray, for washing skin.
  • Nettles infusions can be used to wash hair, leaving it shiny and thick.  They are also said to prevent hair loss.
  • Helps with gastrointestinal diseases, IBS and constipation.
  • Cures the common cold.
  • They can also help with hormonal, adrenal and energetic imbalances and the circulatory system.
  • They can be taken as an anti-histamine, which over a period of time, can cure ailments like hayfever.
  • Reduces gingivitis and prevents plaque when used as a mouthwash.
  • Nettles are known as a digestive restorer and consistent use of nettles strengthens lungs, intestines, arteries and kidneys.
  • Even the nettles sting has been shown to alleviate joint pain!
  • And many, many more……

It’s even been said; 

“The seed of nettle stirreth up lust……”

Gerarde-Johnson 1633

You can definitely say that nettles are an all-rounder!

It is worth mentioning that if you are taking certain pharmaceuticals, you should seek a doctors advice before taking nettles regularly.

NUTRIENTS

Nettles are especially high in calcium, vitamin C and iron.  They are also high in protein and fibre, a whole host of minerals and many more vitamins.

The whole plant is basically a powerful medicine, from roots to seeds.  It is especially good for ‘pale and pasty types’.  I like this little rhyme:

“If they would eat nettles in March and drink Mugwort in May, so many fine maidens would not go to the clay” (Funeral song of a Scottish mermaid)

We seem to have lost touch with so many of natures gifts that surround us throughout every season which are there to give us health and vitality.  I believe that in each environment we can find the nourishment we need to thrive, that is, if we have the knowledge and are inspired to seek them out.

Brewing nettles for tea

HARVESTING NETTLES

Nettles are easily identified by most, we’ve all had a little incident with them as children.  Like any plant, if you are not completely sure, don’t pick it.  There are many different types o nettles, this is especially true if you’re traveling to other countries.  Some have a very nasty sting.

We travel with marigolds and bags in nettle season and when we see a good patch, we harvest.  For eating fresh and drying, take the tender, young leaves from the top of the plant.  The first four is a good rule of thumb.  Like many plants, the growing energy is concentrated in the upper plant, this is what we after.  Nettles become more fibrous as the season goes on, so get in there during early spring although some young paler nettles will grow in shaded areas until late summer.  Always pick nettles, and any edible plants, away from man made signs of poisons and ground contamination.  This means away from roads, railway lines etc.  Many foragers also avoid plants near popular dog walking areas, or at least pick above leg cocking height!

COOKING NETTLES
Nettles are easily transformed into a delicious edible green leaf vegetable.  Simple blanch them in boiling water, this breaks down the formic acid which stings.  You can leave them to steep to make a lovely tea or use as you would any leafy green.  Try a Nettle Aloo or Nettle Soup.  We love them in smoothies and iced teas.  Nettles make for a great pesto and can be used in place of basil and we especially like nettle hummus an stirring the leaves into hot pasta.

NETTLE JUICE

Rinse young leaves and stalks in water, place in a mechanical juicer or place leaves in warm water and leave to steep for 30 minutes.  Place in muslin cloth and wring out the bright green juice.  The juice will keep in a fridge for one day.

RUTH’S NETTLE SOUP

Recipe here.

NETTLE TEA

Recipe here.

PAN FRIED NETTLES

Blanch the nettles leaves in just boiled water.  Save the water as a stock or drink it.  Strain the leaves well.  In a frying pan, add some oil and garlic followed by the leaves.  Fry for a minute and served topped with pine nuts or almonds.

TINCTURES

Jane also makes a wonderful nettle tincture, basically pop lots of leaves into a kilner jar and cover with vinegar (you can also use alcohol like vodka or gin).  You should use young leaves,  dried or fresh are both fine.  Leave for a month or more (the longer left, the stronger the tincture) and then strain with muslin cloth.  Place in small bottles and use the tincture for eczema, psoriasis, allergic rashes, rinse in hair to treat dandruff, taken internally it is known to treat hayfever.  Take 1 teas poon every morning as a preventative or three times a day to treat ailments.

Glorious nettles!

Dry the leaves without blanching them.  As I mentioned, you can do this in a warm car with a couple of windows slightly opened.  On a very sunny day, thinly lay out the nettle leaves on news paper.  Leave for a day and check that the leaves are nicely dry and crisp.  If you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator at home, dry as you would kale or other leaves.  It won’t take long.

The strong fibres of the nettle plant have been used to make paper, sails, bags, cloth (think a silky linen) and makes a very strong string or rope (fifty times stronger than cotton).  Nettles have been cultivated in Mexico for 8000 years for these purposes.  Nettles can also be made into a dye, the leaves for green and the stalks for yellow.

Nettles are a gardeners delight.  They are hugely nourishing to the soil and are amazing on compost heaps.  They can be brewed into a homemade plant fertiliser packed with nitrogen compounds (this stuff stinks by the way) and can be grown as a companion crop with tomatoes and aromatic herbs.

I still think that it’s incredible that nettles are not sold in greengrocers or markets.  It is a shame that more people are not benefiting from this stunning plant.  I’d say if you’re taking multivitamins, why not try nettles instead.  They’re perfectly natural and free!

Drinking nettle tea and eating fresh nettles in stir fries, soups etc will ease and energise the circulatory, immune, endocrine, nervous and urinary systems.  Like I said, an incredible overall tonic and they literally grow on trees (or in small bushes).  If we all used nettles wisely, pharmacies would go out of business!  Nettles are good for us in ways that we don’t really fully understand yet.  The nettles season is coming, don’t miss out!

If you are interested in foraging or taking courses in the UK, www.wildforage.co.uk is a good place to start.

Categories: Detox, Foraging, Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Inspiration, Local food, Nutrition, Recipes, Spring, Superfoods, Vegan | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Homemade Blackberry Vinegar – Free Food!

Blackberries.  You can't escape them in Autumn!

Blackberries. You can’t escape them in Autumn!

Its that time of year, when blackberries are everywhere and we need inspiration outside crumbles and cakes.  Jane and I try to pick as many as possible, although sometimes its a thankless task.  They are not the easiest fruits to harvest (especially wearing shorts!)  Braving all those thorns is well worth it though.  Blackberries are one of my favourite berries and so versatile.  Vinegar may not be the most obvious way to use them but turning fruit into vinegar is wonderfully simple and the best thing about it is, they last for an age. Perfect for preserving our seasonal berry gluts.  Fruit vinegar is also quite an expense in the shops so you’re saving a few pennies.

REASONS TO GO BLACKBERRY PICKING

  1. Once you’re out there, it’s actually loads of fun!
  2. Eating blackberries makes our brains work better and also make our skin look younger.
  3. They are FREE!
  4. You can use the leaves of the blackberry plant.  We dry them out and use them to make tea.  The most tender leaves work best.

FREE-STYLE FORAGER

Its a good idea to have some bags or punnets in your car, when you see a blackberry hot spot, you can leap out and share in the wealth.  You can also arrange a family/ group of friends collective forage.  This means you can prepare vinegar or blackberry jams or compotes together in big pans.  This works out more cost effective and there is something very rewarding about a jar of homemade, foraged jam in the heart of winter.  Full of good memories and nutritional vitality.

Blackberry vinegar can be used in salad dressing or drank with some hot water (think a hot cordial) for a vitamin boost on a cold autumn day. You may also like to try roasting beetroots with the vinegar, similar to when we use balsamic vinegar in roasting roots. The results are delicious and are all the more satisfying because you made it! For free! From the hedgerow!!

So get out there with your punnets (or buckets).  Free berries for all!  That’s (almost) free food!

Beach House Blackberries

Beach House Blackberries

The Bits – Makes roughly 300ml Vinegar

250g blackberries
125ml white wine vinegar
150g unrefined light brown sugar

Do It

Soak blackberries in vinegar for 5 day to 1 week. The longer you leave them, the more concentrated the flavour. We left ours for 10 days.

You can use a sieve to support the muslin if you choose to lightly press the blackberries.

You can use a sieve to support the muslin if you choose to lightly press the blackberries.

Strain using muslin. You can either leave hanging above a vessel for 12 hours or pass through the muslin. The blackberry pulp left over should be relatively dry.

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Add the vinegar and sugar to a saucepan and bring gently to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes stirring regularly. The sugar should be completely combined with the vinegar.

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Leave the vinegar to cool and the store in a clean bottle with a decent cork/lid.

Bottle it up and enjoy!

Bottle it up and enjoy!

Foodie Fact

Blackberries are high in vitamin C and the very dark colour of blackberries means lots of anti-oxidants.  One of the highest in fruit.  The high tannin content of blackberries helps with intestinal inflammation, it has a soothing effect.  The high vitamin K content in blackberries is said to regulate menstruation and aids in muscle relaxation.

Categories: Autumn, Foraging, Healthy Living, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan, Wild food | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble – Simple Autumn Classic

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble

Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble

So the leaves are all turning burnt gold, auburn, crimson and the morning are crisp with deep powder blue skies.  I love this time of year, wandering through dried leaves, staring into fires, wrapping up, rediscovering the delights of sloe gin and big, bombastic bakes!

Desserts or otherwise, its time to wake the oven up,  it tends to be underused in the summer months and dust off our oven dishes.  Autumn and winter mean we need warm hugs and serious sustenance in our bowls/ plates.  It’s something of a survival mechanism and certainly leads to oodles of well-being.  Cosy soul food!

Nothing says autumn more than the first crumble of the year.  Your body knows what’s coming, the dark and windy time when we crave large plates of stodgy happiness to warm our wintery bones.  We are enjoying a beautiful September up here on Tiger Mountain, but the  nights are getting a bit chilly and crumble is the perfect antidote.  Easing us into this time of year in the tastiest of ways.

Crumble’s beauty lie in their simplicity and the way they gobble up our autumn fruity abundance.  This recipe is beautifully basic and can be taken in so many directions with addition of other fruits (think blackberries, damsons, mulberries, dried fruits etc) or flavourings (like elderflower, orange blossom, I’ve even tried a tahini and apple crumble which was a treat).  Adding chocolate to a crumble has been tried and works like a dream.  This recipe is a lovely foundation to add to as you see fit.

ORCHARD DREAMS

We are setting out a little orchard in the garden.  The trees are young (bar our ancient looking plum tree and windswept crab apple) and normally offer scant fruit.  My Snowdonia Pear Tree, a juvenile, was unceremoniously beheaded by a storm recently.  Its tough going for saplings in these parts!  Our little Bardsey Apple tree however is a rugged super star, branches laden every year with tart and juicy, vivid green apples.  Not such great eaters (too much of a twang) but perfect when cooked.  These apples were actually all windfall, saved from the fate of an army of slugs that camp out and descend like slimy vultures on any fruit that hits the deck.

Windfall Bardsey apples in the garden

Windfall Bardsey Apples in the garden

APPLE ABUNDANCE

What to do with all those apples?  If your, family members, neighbours, avid scrumpers know of an apple tree, I’m sure you’re asking yourself the same thing.  Here are few little ideas for all those surplus apples:

  • Make a Tart Tatin (see below)
  • Cook into apple sauce and use on desserts and breakfast bowls.  Apple sauce is also wonderful in baking, it helps to bind cakes etc together.
  • Make your own Apple Cider Vinegar or Apple and Mint Vinegar
  • Make Apple Vodka, Whiskey or Gin by steeping the apples in alcohol.
  • Try a Apple and Ginger Smoothie or Apple and Kale Juice
  • Add slices to pancakes and bread (works brilliantly with rye or spelt flours)
  • They make a great Raita
  • Chop them up and mix them into your muesli/ granola/ sprouted grains etc for breakfast.
  • Make Apple and Plum Chutney
  • Make Beetroot and Apple Sauerkraut or add to your favourite Kimchi recipe (there’s a nice one in Peace and Parsnips
  • Add them to stews, salads or soups
  • Spread them out somewhere, preferably on cardboard and keep them for as long as possible.  Crunch and yum!
  • Make cider.
Discovery Apple and Apricot Tart Tatin

Discovery Apple and Apricot Tart Tatin

ALL APPLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

When cooking with apples its worth tasting one first.  They can be so varied and this is what I love about them.  They are surely one of the finest things we grow in the UK and our traditional varieties offer up a fascinating and varied palate of flavours and textures to play with in the kitchen; some are flowery in texture and sweet, some crisp and tangy, we just need to find them the right home.  I have to say that the best way to eat a good apple is to give it a little polish on our trousers or jumper (why do we do that?) and crunch into it.  I like to eat the core and seeds as well.

Making this pud into a pure plant-based pleasure is a cinch, you’re really just substituting the butter in the traditional crumble with oil and some flax seeds, which offer a lovely nutty flavour and help to give the crumble a little bite and oodles of nutrition.  I am also not great at using large scoops of sugar, I need gentle persuasion.  You can probably make this with other sweeteners, but for once in the BHK, we’re going (almost) traditional.

Crumble is oh so simple but surprisingly many are still not great.  Being too sweet or having a dry, floury crumble are two cardinal sins of crumble-hood.  I like a nutty, crisp crumble.  This is why crumble is always enjoyed best straight out of the oven.  The longer its left, the more time for the crumble to loose its magic crunch.  I like to add nuts and flax seeds to add even more flavour and bite.  To avoid just a mouthful of floury sweetness, I like oats bound with a little flour.  Simple pleasures are always the best!

So grab a fireplace, a large spoon and a nice crisp autumn night and enjoy this true British classic.

Recipe Notes

You can use buckwheat flour and gluten free oats to side step gluten here.  I love the flavour of buckwheat; its fuller and deeper than wholemeal.

The amount of sugar you will need depends on your apples.  Ours are very sharp, so we went for 90g.  Jane has a sweet tooth (see above) and was very pleased with the sweetness level with that amount.

Crumble is amazingly adaptable, make it well in advance or make a large batch of apple sauce and use for other purposes (see above).  Crumbles also freeze brilliantly.

I don’t like going ott with cinnamon, I just like it somewhere in the background.  Not a main player in a crumble.  Add more if your a spicy crumbler.

Enough frivolity, lets crumble!!!!!!

The Bits

Apples

950g apples

60-100g light brown sugar (unrefined)

3 tbs water

1/2 – 1 teas cinnamon

 

Crumble

100g oats

20g flax seeds (ground)

75g mixed nuts (roughly chopped)

30g light brown sugar (unrefined)

70ml rapeseed/ olive oil

1 teas cinnamon

20g buckwheat/ wholemeal flour

 

Do It

In a saucepan, add all of the ingredients for the apples.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 20 mins with a lid on or until the apples are tender and just falling apart.

Mix all of the crumble ingredients together in a bowl.  Preheat oven to 200oC.

In a baking dish (approx 10″ by 8″), spoon in the apple sauce and sprinkle over the crumble mix until there is a nice thick layer.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the crumble is a dark golden colour and the apple sauce is bubbling away.

Before.....

Beginning…..

Middle......

Middle……

End!

End!

The Prequel (?)  - Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble with lashings of custard

The Prequel (?) – Windfall Apple and Oat Crumble with lashings of custard

Serve

We had ours with custard.  Mainly because we don’t have any ice cream in the freezer.  If we had ice cream, I am sure there would have been a long debate about which way to go.  Which way do you go?  The timeless question.  I think it depends on how the stars are aligned (or something).  PS – It must be vanilla ice cream.  Of course.  Anything else would be utterly ridiculous.

Beach walking off all that crumble - Dinas Dinlle, near Anglesey

Beach walking off all that crumble – Dinas Dinlle, near Anglesey

Foodie Fact

Crumble is food of the Gods and makes you happy:)

Dinas Dinlle Beach

Dinas Dinlle Beach

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Happy Autumn to you all!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Categories: Desserts, Foraging, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Foragers Salad – Primrose, Sorrel and Dandelion Leaves

Foragers Salad - Primrose, Sorrel and Dandelion

Foragers Salad – Primrose, Sorrel and Dandelion

Here is something we found growing under our apple tree, with a few bits from the rockeries and surround.  Free food!  And highly nutritious leaves.  Like gifts from the ground, they come to grace our garden with edible happiness.

This may well be rabbit food to some, but these leaves are actually nutritional powerhouses.  They are full of calcium, protein and iron, minerals and also have bags of vitamins.  The only thing they really lack is carbs (but some people quite like the idea of that anyway).  Gorillas, elephants, buffaloes, the strongest creatures on the planet eat leaves.  Not just for rabbits!  Leaves (with a nice dressing) are meal in themselves.

FORAGING

Primroses are everywhere at the moment, and although they are not particularly nutritious, they make salads look amazing.  Primroses carpet our garden every spring, so when we found out we could eat them, it was a good moment.  I am thinking Primrose Tempura soon?

Dandelions are best in spring and early summer and the leaves should be picked preferably before there is a flower.  The leaves are really bitter when the flowers have bloomed.

Sorrel is a real trooper and thrives like a weed.  It has such a distinct flavour, like a very bitter apple, that is best used sparingly in a salad.  Just one leaf per mouthful will give you a really pleasing zing!  Sorrel grows everywhere and is easily harvested, the leaves are very distinct and even older leaves taste lovely.

Always forage in areas that are away from industrial agriculture, train lines….generally clean and natural spaces.  Nasty chemicals, pesticides etc can be present on plants close to these places. Remember that if industrial waste etc has been dumped in the ground, pollutants will be absorbed by the ground (and subsequently the plants).

THE BEACH HOUSE GARDEN

The weather has actually been quite nice recently, so we’ve been out in the garden getting our hands mucky.  The veg patches are ready for action and all of our seeds are in the planter of strooned around the house.  We are growing all sorts this year; a few varieties of beetroot, fennel, salad leaves, rocket, cauliflower, kale, chard, cabbage….radish.  We’ll see what pops up!  No potatoes this year as we had a bit of blight last year and think its best to leave this fallow for a while.

Our fruit trees seem to have had a good winter and our new rowan is hanging in their.  Raspberries have blossomed and we’re looking forward to them!  Also our wold strawberries are looking mighty fine.  The herb garden has taken a wallop and will need some tlc.  Rosemary is indestructible!  May is my birthday month, so we have a new tree lined up.  A Snowdon Pear Tree, the fruit has dark green skin with a light pink centre and a feint fennel taste.  Wow!

Weeding the veg patch, the seeds are in, we are going for many varieties this year.  Too ambitious?!

Weeding the veg patch, the seeds are in, we are going for many varieties this year. Too ambitious?!

Our friend Shira is the real inspiration for this salad.  She has been going through our foraging books and identifying all the local plants that we can munch on.  There are so many and its only April/ May.  We are looking forward to raiding the hedgrerows and fields this year and seeing what we can find.  Plenty of sloe gin, blackberry whiskey, rosehip cordial, elderberry jam, elderflower cordial etc.  Not to mention much fun and games with gooseberries.  We will hopefully sniff out some edible mushrooms this year, we’ve been tipped off about a special little place.  Maybe a cep or two for the pot?!

We love this time of year, nature is waking up and the earth is warm again.

The Bits – For 4 (as a side salad)

2 handfuls primrose flowers

3 handfuls sorrel

3 handfuls dandelion leaves

4 handfuls young spinach leaves

2 handfuls red cabbage (grated)

 

Apple and Mustard Dressing

5 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tbs dijon mustard

1 1/2 tbs apple juice concentrate

2 tbs apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic (crushed)

sea salt and pepper (to taste)

 

Do It

Wash and drain the leaves well (use a salad spinner for best results). Gently toss all the leaves together and arrange on a nice big plate.   Scatter the flowers over the salad  in a pleasing design.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Foragers Salad

Foragers Salad

Serve

With a small jug of dressing on the side, some fresh bread and maybe something like bean puree/ hummus would be nice.

Foodie Fact

Dandelion leaves are hugely nutritious, they are very high in calcium and iron.  In fact they have more calcium than kale and more protein than spinach.  They are also full of anti-oxidants, mainly vitamin C and A.  They are also great for supporting the liver, the ultimate detox green!

Little lambs - cute now, in a couple of months they'll be invading our garden!

Little lambs – cute now, but in a couple of months they’ll be invading our garden!

Categories: Detox, Dressings, Foraging, Garden, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, photography, Raw Food, Recipes, Salads, Vegan | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

 

Pan Roast Maple Parsnips and Young Nettles

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

An ideal, quick and easy side dish and we are quite partial to the odd parsnip at the moment!  Throw some grains into this recipe (like millet or buckwheat) and a couple oh handfuls of walnuts or hazelnuts and you’re looking at a fine lunch.

Don’t let the bristly stings put you off, nettles are one of natures greatest gifts to Brits, they come just after winter and are packed with brilliant nutrients (see the ‘Foodie Fact’ below) that will help us get over our long winter blues. You can make them into a soup, stew, smoothie, pan fry them as they are; in fact these prickly lovelies are good in most things.  Nettle cupcakes may be pushing it however!

Nettles have a lovely flavour, quite unique, a little like spinach but with a unmistakable nettle tingle to them.  Nettles really feel alive, they are certainly a feisty plant and grow everywhere when given the chance.  The worst  thing you can do with nettles is cut them and leave them on the ground.  More will grow!  This is a good thing for us but can wreak havoc on your Dahlias.

HARVESTING NETTLES

Harvesting nettles is so easy, just handle with care.  We have been walking loads at the moment, reacquainting ourselves with all the local flora and fauna.  We normally stash a plastic bags in our pockets and use it for nettle picking.  A rubber glove, like a marigold or garden glove, can also be very handy.  If you are walking on a path, where people walk dogs, pick high.  For obvious reasons!!!  Some people even pick the nettle bare handed, apparently if you grab them quickly, it doesn’t hurt.  We have obviously not mastered this technique. OUCH!

Jane feeding our neighbourly horses - mid Nettle pick

Jane feeding our neighbourly horses – mid Nettle pick

Nettle season is coming to an end, but it seems that there are still many tender young plants around the Beach House.  Just pick the first four leaves down, anything below will be a little tough and coarse.  As with most leaves, don’t eat nettles when they have started to flower.  Something happens chemically and they lose their nutrients and become tough on the belly.

Fill your boots.  Now is the time of year to get your last batch of nettles and dry them for later in the year.  You can use dried nettles in soups and stews, but its really best as a tea.  Nettle tea is packed with nutrients and tastes delicious.  Free food!  We’d be silly not to!!!!  You can also make a load of tea and then cool it, strain it and keep it in the fridge and drink throughout the summer as an awesome, chilled infusion and full-body tonic.  Trust us, nettles are magic and will keep you shining!

One of the easiest ways to dry herbs, if you don’t have a dehydrator (they are becoming cheaper and more popular), is to lay your leaves out in the boot (for estates) or seats of a car and roll the windows up.  On a hot summers day, your herbs will dry out in no time at all.  You can dry herbs in a warm oven, but this can be energy consuming and hit and miss.  Sometimes they can burn.  Ideally, you live in a hot and dry part of the world, where drying means putting things outside in the sun.  In Wales, we have to be a little more creative!

I like to add a little lemon juice at the end, just to lift a little of that intense sweetness.  It gives a bit of a sweet and sour finish to the dish.  If you love sweet things straight up, you don’t have to bother with the citrus.

The Bits – For 4 (little plates), 2 (big plates)

5 medium sized parsnips (lightly scrubbed, but not peeled.  Cut into 3 inch batons or as you like)

6-8 big handfuls young nettles

1 tbs rapeseed oil

2 tbs maple syrup

1/2 tbs lemon juice

Sea salt and pepper (to taste)

Do It

Pick all the stems, insects etc off your gorgeous nettles (use your gloves for this), give them a good rinse.  We just want the small, tender, fuzzy leaves.  Get a small saucepan of salted water boiling.  Add the nettles to the water and blanch them for 30 seconds or so, then plunge into some cold water (keeping them vividly green).  Drain well just before serving.  If you want them warm, just blanch them before you serve the parsnips and don’t bother with the ‘plunge’.

In a large, heavy frying pan, warm the oil on a medium high heat.  Add the parsnips, toss in the oil and fry for around 7 minutes, until they begin to go golden and caramelised.  Then add roughly 2 tbs of water and cover with a lid, lower the heat to medium and leave them for 7 more minutes.

Then whip off the lid and turn the heat back up.  Pour over the maple syrup, gently toss the parsnips in the syrup and cook until you are happy with the beautiful, dark, caramelised glaze, a few minutes will do, then squeeze in a little lemon juice.

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

Braised Maple Parsnips with Young Nettles

Serve

Stack the parsnips onto a nice plate, surround with a nettle ‘nest’ and tuck in.  You may fancy a little more salt and pepper.

Foodie Fact – Nettles

Nettles are actually more nutritious than Broccoli or spinach.  And they are free.  How cool is that!  I wonder how long until one of the big supermarkets starts to bag them up and sell them as a ‘niche’ product?

Eating nettles helps to keep our kidneys and adrenal glands up to speed.  Nettles are the perfect detox food, as they assist our bodies in expelling toxins.  These lovely leaves have also long been used as a diuretic and to treat joint pains.

Nettles are very high in Vitamin A (bones), K (blood clotting) and Calcium.  In fact, just 100g of nettles contains 1/2 your daily calcium requirement.  Calcium can help to alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, headaches, mood swings and bloating.

Nettles are also rich in minerals like Iron and Magnesium and are packed with dietary fibre.

Categories: Detox, Foraging, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, Recipes, Side Dish, Spring, Wild food | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney plus the Tale of Johnny Appleseed

 

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Its that time of year in the Beach House garden, when you step outside, you’ll probably find some form of fruit landing on your head.  Its raining fruit! Jane very sensibly converted a load of our plums and apples into small pots of gorgeous chutney, I have to say my favourite bit is the label, all hand designed.  Family and friends, may we introduce you to your Christmas pressie!  Chutney bubbling is such a British autumnal pursuit, it seems heavily engrained in our consciousness, we were born here; on this fare island to conserve and pickle at will, then spread it all on a seeded cracker…….with a brew (cuppa tea).

Mum bought me a Bardsey Apple tree for my birthday back in May.  We are preparing a rockery out the back for it to live, but it has thrived this summer after missing the storms and gales that robbed the blossom from our more established apple trees.   Bardsey apple trees are very special, all can be traced back to the ‘Mother’ tree on Bardsey Island, off the rocky tip of the Llyn Peninsula (the eyebrow of Wales when you look on the map).  The Llyn is like Devon or Cornwall 20 years ago, especially the North Coast and Jane and I love to camp over there on the beaches and do some seal watching (they’re massive and quite sociable).  The Llyn is a special place and all roads over there lead to the mythical Barsdesy Island.  I wrote an article on my other blog about it, Bardsey Island – Island of 20,000 Saints and there is plenty of info here about Ian Sturrock and his single handed resurrection of the Bardsey apple tree.  Ian discovered it growing beside an old house on the isolated outpost and ancient pilgrimage site.  After testing the tree, he realised that it was completely unique, nothing like it in the world.  Since then Ian has grafted and grown probably thousands of the trees and exports them as far a field as the U.S. and Japan.  It amazing to think that we are eating almost extinct apples!

The original Bardsey ‘Mother’ Tree

The Bardsey Apples themselves are succulent and golden and a very good ‘all rounder’.  They go great in a pie and a have a lovely sweet and sour twang to them, nice crunch too.  Our little tree has done a great job this year, its young branches heavy laden with apples for most of the summer, it has even survived the regular gales we get up here (even in summer!), Jane and I have had to pick it up a few times after finding it blown across the front garden!  Proper gales up here on Tiger Hill!!!!

Other than the apples, this year has seen a bumper crop for fruits of all varieties.  I have never seen or tasted blackberries like it, huge and super sweet and fragrant.  Our plum tree has gone made, its branches full of plums, reminding me of an abundant Mediterranean grape harvest, not a craggy, long suffering plum tree cowering behind a dry stone wall.  Add to that a huge raspberry harvest earlier in the year and from a fruity perspective, we’ve had a ball!!!!

I’m not sure how Jane dreamt this chutney up, we have been experimenting whenever we have gluts of things in Spain and Wales.  Whatever happened in the pan, it worked, this chutney is well balanced between sweet and sour and had gorgeous occasional chunky surprises like the soft raisins or a lump of plum.

Good organic apples are essential here as apples grown non-organically are normally treated with high levels of pesticides which you cannot get rid off, even after a good rub on your jumper.  Heres an article we wrote about the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic, not exactly a light read, but worthy information that we regularly incorporate into our fruit and veg foraging escapades.  Organic apples also have a habit of tasting loads better.  As usual, we are lucky sorts, having a bumper crop down at Trigonos has also meant that we can keep things local this year.  I absolutely love apples and Judy’s Discovery’s are up there with some of the tastiest, crunchiest apples I’ve ever scoffed.

I think its probably worth making this all organic actually, especially if your giving it to loved ones as a gift (that seems to be what we end up doing with chutneys and jams).  Our bodies love organic food and non-organic food puts serious pressure on our digestive systems, liver and kidneys, to try and deal with the poison. Its a strong word I know, but pesticide is undoubtedly a poison and when we eat non-organic, we have to deal with it somehow.  We fully appreciate that unless you are rather wealthy, very devoted or have an organic small holding/ farm, being 100% organic in life is a tall order.   We are mainly organic and there is something intangibly wonderful about starting the day with a 100% pure organic juice/ smoothie.  It probably all in the mind, but I am (almost) literally floating around the place after one of those beauts, charged with energy, it certainly cleans out your tubes.

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) - Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) – Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

If you live anywhere near a farm or even better, someone with an orchard, knock on their door with a hefty chocolate cake and get into some gentle chatter about how you enjoy apples and wondered if they liked cake.  Trade could happen and you may end up with bags filled with proper apples to make into things, eat whole or have a go at Apple Hooch (basically crush or juice the apples, leave in a clean bucket with a light covering and taste after a week, then everyday after that.  Eventually it will ferment and become alcoholic and you have just made the easiest and probably one of the healthiest forms of booze known to humankind.)

You can buy pickling spice from most shops, even the supermarkets have it.  If you are just making this as a one off, you can use roughly 1/2 teas of the following whole spices (namely, not ground): coriander, cloves, mustard, dried ginger, chillies, all spice and wrap them in a bit of muslin.   If you don’t have them all, add a little more of the others although I would go easy on the cloves and all spice unless you love ’em dearly.

If your planning on keeping this chutney for a while you will need very clean jars.  We keep a stash in the garage, a decent jar for us is a real gift!   Janes method of jar sterilising works every time and we regularly keep chutneys for months without any obvious microbial issues.

Big BHK Love to all happy chutney bubblersX

Gorgeous plum-age

Gorgeous plum-age

The Bits – 8 Medium Jars

750g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

500g apples (hopefully from a local tree – chopped into small chunks)

120g Onions (chopped)

400g plums (stones removed)

15g pickling spice (tied in a muslin bag)

15g mustard

10g salt

150ml apple cider vinegar

110g sultanas

130g light brown sugar (unrefined)

 

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Do It

Put tomatoes, onions and apple into a pan and stir, on medium heat, until they start to soften. Add a little water to stop it sticking if you need to.  Then wrap the pickling spice in a muslin bag and add to the mixture, stirring as it simmers.

Blend the mustard and salt with a little vinegar and stir it into the mixture. When the ingredients have softened add the sultanas, sugar and remaining vinegar.

Continue to simmer, stirring often until you have a thick smooth chutney.

Chutney bubbling

Chutney bubbling

While that is going on, sterilise your jars.  Give them all a good wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry.  Put your jars on a baking tray and place in an oven, turn on the heat to 180oC.  Leave for 10 minutes and then pop in the lids (make sure the’ye not plastic!) and leave to warm up for between 5-10 minutes.  Remove them and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

The jars will still be hot so use a kitchen cloth to handle them.  Pack the chutney into the hot jars, wiping away any spillages around the lip.  Screw the lid on tightly, pressing the ‘button’ down on top.  This should make an airtight seal as the chutney cools.   Store for 2 months or longer before opening.  If you can resist its fruity charms!

Serve

Chutneys go with almost anything, but we found that this went like a dream with home-made loaf toast, or a breakfast pan-bread. Try it on the side with salads, or generously lathered on crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes and salad leaves as a midday snack!  We have also paired this chutney, with great success, with a Goan style curry (one with tamarind/ lemon in to make it a little tarty).  Bascially, you’ll find any excuse to eat this type of chutney!

We Love it!

Sweet and sour, can be eaten at anytime of day on almost anything, we can find little to not like about chutney, especially when its falling from trees!   Money does not grow on trees, but chutney does and it tastes alot nicer than a fiver (that’s 5 British pounds).

Danger - Plums falling!

Danger – Plums falling!

Foodie Fact

“An apple (or two) a day……..”

Apples are part of the rose family, a surprisingly comprehensive family of fruits and nuts including almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and….roses.

We all know that apples are beautifully sweet, but this does not mean that the sugar is doing us harm.   Apple contain phyto-nutrients that actually regulate our blood sugar levels.  Apples have good levels of fibre, but due to the unique mix of chemicals within apples, this decent level of fibre is transformed into benefits that would normally be associated with foods containing vastly higher levels of fibre (long winded description, but cool non-the-less!)   Apples also allow us to absorb more goodness from our foods in the large intestines.    Apples do contain vitamin C, but not loads, they do however boast a load of polyphenols (which actually act as a sunscreen and are the main reason why apples brown so easily) and most of these chemicals acts as strong antioxidants.  Regular munching of apples will also lower bad cholesterol.

JOHNNY APPLESEED

The coolest story we know about apples is that of Johnny Appleseed (aka Johnny Chapman) who lived in the U.S. in the 1800’s.  He spent a large portion of his life wandering barefoot around the country, some say 100,000 sq kilometres, sowing apple seeds as he went which provided early settlers with food.  He was a generous and caring nurseryman who placed huge significance on the symbolism of the apple and conservation of nature.  Folk who plant many trees and conserve nature are surely worth remembering, in our eyes they are the real heroes.

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Simple Blackberry Compote and Tips on Berry Foraging

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

We decided to let our brambles run wild this year, the back of the garden has sprung into a thorny, berry heaven.  Brambles are so prolific and need no encouraging to take over the joint!  We’ve had a bumper crop with kilos of blackberries flying into the kitchen and looking for a home.  I like what the brambles have done to the nether regions of our garden, creating a home for all sorts of cool creepy crawlies and a decent amount of little mice, which are big friends to our developing garden.

On our green and good isle, Britain, we are enjoying a good start to September, the extra rays of sunlight are resulting in some massive, succulent blackberries, so we’ve been making chutneys, wine (this recipe will no doubt appear here soon) and compotes/ jams. We are nicely stocked for the upcoming Christmas/ birthday present-athon. What better gift than a spicy chutney?

Blackberries are such a bountiful autumnal bonus and along with elderberries, are two of my favourite fruity treats. This is such an abundant time of year, it seems like all the warm weather we’ve had this year has come to fruition. Its hanging from almost every bush! It makes all that messing around with soil and late night slug raids on the veg patch worth while. We can eat from the land and there are few things more satisfying than a fruit salad made from you’re own (British!) garden.

Berry foraging bonus - fresh lavender smells around the house

Berry foraging bonus – fresh lavender smells around the house

Blackberries are native to Northern Europe and they grow as far north as Siberia!  Our berries, like most, just run wild all over the place.  You can be more organised and precise and run them up trellises etc.  But thats proper gardeners territory and we’re not there yet.

When making this compote, it will rarely get easier when playing with pots and pans. Two ingredients and a little heat, a jar and a cool place.  All you need for a knockout compote.  We took this in what is known as a ‘sugar free’ direction as a friend was visiting who is avoiding the heinous white powder.  A sprinkle of dates sorts out all of our sweet tooth requirements and also brings a thicker texture to the party.  Taste the compote after 5 minutes bubbling on the hob and add more dates if not quite sweet enough.  We are not sure how long it will last in the fridge, this compote is not made as a ‘preserve’ but should be eaten soon after cooking.  We’ve had a huge pot in the fridge now for over three weeks and its fine.  I did think that the reduced sugar content would shorten its life, but its still soldiering on.

Good blackberries are essential for this type of embellishment free behaviour, raid you local hedgerow to find the finest blackberries.  You will probably have a nice time too, just avoid those vicious thorns and if picking on a road, avoid speeding buses!

TOP TIPS FOR BERRY FORAGING

–  Never pick anything edible around train tracks, they regularly spray chemicals around the tracks to stop weeds growing.  Never pick berries that are cocked dog leg height, for obvious reasons.

–  Be careful not to squash berries when picking them, if you do, we suggest popping them into your mouth.  Try to keep your hands clean when picking fruit, the occasional scoff is very hard to resist (and all part of the fun).

–  Only pick berries that are plump and soft, the ones that fall off in your hand.  If you have to tug it, it ain’t ready for munching.  Leave if for a few days and then go back for it (blackberries grow and ripen quickly).

–  Use the berries straight away, that day.  If they look dirty, or you don’t fancy wild berry munching, submerge berries in cold water when you get home, give them a swish around and then leave them to drain, laying them out on kitchen paper when ready.  Handle them very gently, until they are dry-ish.  Then pop in the fridge covered loosely.  This works for us.  But as mentioned, the sooner they disappear into happy bellies, the better.

–  When picking blackberries, look at the white bit (where the stem should be), this is where maggots reside.  If there are maggots hanging out, ditch the berry on the ground and continue undeterred.

–  Don’t wear your new white shirt or trousers.

The Bits – Makes 2 regular jam jars 

800g freshly picked blackberries

2 big handfuls of chopped dates (to taste)

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add the blackerries and dates, bring slowly to a boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the berries have broken down.  Stir regularly, do not allow the base or edges of the compote to catch and burn.

Very easy Blackberry Compote

Very easy Blackberry Compote with some Rye Bread

Serve

The resulting deep purple gorgeous-ness can be spread on warm toast with soya yoghurt or with chopped bananas and nut butter.  Very pleasant when spooned over your morning bowl of muesli or even frozen and made into a sorbet (we haven’t tried this yet).  You could also make a wonderful dressing with it, by adding balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil and seasoning.

Foodie Fact

Blackberries contain a low-calorie sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is low GI, meaning slow absorption into the blood stream.  Blackberries are high in fibre and are full, full, full of antioxidants like vitamin C and chemicals called phenolic flavanoids (good guys).

See below for the physical after effects of a days blackberry picking.

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Categories: Foraging, Recipes, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Apple Mint Herbal Vinegar – Health Tonic Extraordinaire!

delicious minty vinegar

delicious minty vinegar

It has been a luscious blossoming blooming year for gardeners across the land. Much sunlight and only occasional rain has kept most of the slug and snail critters at bay, hoorah! And over in Staffordshire, Mum and dad’s apple mint went wild again, and started springing up everywhere in places most unexpected. We were lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to harvest the lot, bring it back to the Beach House Kitchen and get creative.

When faced with huge armfuls of thick 3ft long mint stems, it is easy to find yourself wondering what on earth you’re going to do with the bounty of furry goodness there in front of you! But luckily there are many ways to preserve herbs – in oils, vinegars, dried in jars; and many uses for the finished product like salad dressings, flavouring for your cooking, teas and delightful herbal baths! Lets face it a whole shelf of different herbal vinegars is pure visual delight – and that’s before you’ve even eaten any!

yummy mint, fresh and dried

yummy mint, fresh and dried

The Bits

Glass or plastic jar with waxed paper and elastic band for lid if metal (vinegar disintegrates metal lids)

Apple cider vinegar with the mother culture (great for your digestive system)

Aromatic herbs, such as apple mint (or all the other kinds of mint too), chives and chive blossom, dandelion flowers and leaves, organic orange peel, lavender flowers, even nettles…. The list goes on…

Do it

Fill a jar with your freshly cut chopped herbs, making sure the jar is well filled but not packed too tightly either… (After a few goes you’ll get the idea, I don’t think I put enough in ours)!

Pour room-temperature apple cider vinegar into the jar until it is full.

Cover jar with wax paper held on with a rubber band and metal lid on top, or a plastic lid, or a cork.

Label the jar with the name of the herb and the date.

Put the jar in a kitchen cupboard not too hot and not too cold but out of direct sunlight and leave for 6 weeks.

Don’t forget it’s there!

Serve

Over salads or beans and grains at dinner, in salad dressings, or to season stir fries and soups.

You can even drink it in the morning in a glass of water as a health tonic, after all what could be more healthy than your own produce soaked in apple cider vinegar!

We love it

There’s a lovely aspect of this creative process too and it’s all about the love and appreciation of food that has come out of your own soil. The very act of stripping the leaves from the stem, drying them, and getting creative all feels like a very natural and heart-warming process; one which our ancestors would have done too, to preserve that nourishing goodness of Summer ready for darker Wintery times. And it is SO good for you! Daily use of preserved herbs gives you a little health boost with virtually no expense or effort.

Foodie fact

Herbs are magic because of the high level of nutrients they contain – mint for example contains a lot of Calcium.

Apple cider vinegar has been known as a health-giving agent for centuries. Hippocrates swore by it, along with honey. It is incredible at lowering cholesterol, improving skin tone, and even for arthritis. It is also very good at dissolving nutrients from plants which water is not so good at, meaning this vinegar is super-healthy and mineral rich.

Ever seen your granny splash some vinegar onto her greens before serving? Eaten with iron rich vegetables like spinach or broccoli, vinegar can increase the amount of calcium you get by a third. Pretty amazing stuff!

Vinegar is highly alkaline, I know that sounds strange, but when it is metabolised by the body, it goes through a serious change.  Alkaline foods are incredible for health and keep disease and other baddies at bay.

minty spiral

minty spiral

Categories: Foraging, Infusions, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Flower Power – Homemade Elderflower Cordial

 

IMG_0129

Elderflowers are all the rage in our village this June. we’ve had neighbours knocking on the door asking for recipes! What can we say, they are a beautiful thing and they grow on trees!  Some even call this drink the ‘nectar of the Gods’!

This is not technically raw, as it is simmered slightly, but we hope that it didn’t make it above 46oC as this stuff is lighting up our life right now!  Very easy to make and plentiful, something all Brits should have in the fridge door ready to be mixed with sparking water, gin or whatever takes your tipple fancy.  Did you hear that Brits, its a must!  In the States, I think it grows?  I know you can buy it dried over there and its just as good, if not more intense.

IMG_0030

FLOWER POWER

There are over 30 varities of Elderflowers and some may be slightly toxic, don’t let this put you off.  None of the flowers are toxic, only the leaves and stems, so if you are not sure, just leave out the greens.

You cannot mistake an elderflower tree (some younger plants look more like bushes), the unmistakable aroma will be the first  thing that hits you.  They have the coolest micro-flowers, white and yellow.

When picking Elderflowers, make sure you leave some for the tree!  We only take a small share from each tree and keep our eyes out when driving or walking around for new trees to pick from.  This is the great thing about foraging for your own ingredients, wherever you go, the plants follow!

We recommend making the cordial as soon as you pick the flowers, otherwise they will naturally deteriorate and lose some of their vitality and flavour.  You can of course dry them if you have a dehydrator or live in a particularly hot place (lucky you!)

The Elderflowers will also turn into gorgeous Elderberries later in the year and these are worth the wait.  It makes us feel much more connected to the seasons, watching the trees and plants changing as we move through summer towards the bounty of autumn.

You may also like to try this with orange or lime, anything citrus will do and mix things up a little.  We like flower petal ice cubes – rose and elderflower. Lemon is the classic though to be sipped on a steamy British summer’s day preferably with a knotted handkerchief on your head and some cucumber sandwiches to hand.  Croquet anyone!  Splendid.

IMG_0267

If you like this, you may like our Elderflower Champagne Recipe.

Makes 1.5 litres:

The Bits 

30 heads of Elderflower, 1.5kg sugar, 3 unwaxed organic lemons, 2 pints water, 75g citric acid (food grade) optional

Do It

Shake the Elderflowers and make sure there are no little crawly friends still present.  No need to wash them, they have been breathing the same air as we have!  If they are growing at ‘dog cocking leg height’, wash them well.  Place in a large heatproof bowl.

Put water into a pan and heat gently, add sugar and stir to form a syrup.  Leave to cool.

Now zest your lemons into the syrup and then slice them acrossways, add the slices also.  Pour the slightly cooled syrup onto the Elderflowers and stir in the citric acid.  Cover with a plate and leave to stand for a day.

After that, taste the cordial, then strain through muslin into sterilised bottles.  We use old wine bottles with corks.

Will keep in the fridge for at  least three weeks, but it won’t last that long anyway!

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Serve

We have ours with sparkling water and a little ice, maybe a squeeze more lemon.  We have also had it in cucumber juice, which was quite amazing.  Of course there is lots of boozy fun to be had here, add to sparkling wine or a gin and tonic for something quite special.

We Love It!

The essence of the British summer, concentrate and bottled.

Foodie Fact

Elderflower’s are one of natures power flowers.  They contain bio-flavanoids, many of the omega fatty acids, pectin and tanins.  They are also good for allergies, and I feel alot better hayfever-wise after a glass of this flower power.  It also helps colds, flu, fevers and arthritis.

It has been shown that Elderflower can help to remove toxins from the blood, it stabilises kidney function and even helps with intestinal problems.

Proper FLOWER POWER going on here!

Jane gathering Apple Mint

Jane gathering Apple Mint (with her slipper on)

Categories: Foraging, Healing foods, Infusions, Summer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Elderflower Champagne

Jane has been a hive of activity of late, rooting through hedgerows, plucking from trees, gathering vast quantities of wonder nettles and generally turning the Beach House Kitchen into a herbal/ potion dry/ infusing nirvana.  We have our very own herbal den on our hands and our new dehydrator is coming in very useful, we’re stocking up for the depths of winter with the sun on our backs.

We have been blessed with some good weather of late (although not when we climbed Snowdon the other day, see below) and all things green and multi-coloured are leaping from the ground and heading towards the sun.  Its a wonderful thing to witness and our courgettes and beetroot especially are loving these conditions.  Summer has hit, Im driving around with the car window open and have even been seen wearing a T-shirt outdoors on a nuber of occasions.

This recipe tastes like summer, the smell of the elder tree is something that evokes memories of me being a little nipper, running around fields and falling over alot.  Our fridge is full of the stuff in all forms of receptical,old gin bottles, wine bottles, large gherkin jars, we’re brimming over with herbal champagne and very chuffed indeed.

The has taken our focus back towards nature and the more we learn about the properties of the herbs and flowers that fills the hills and valleys of the area, the more we realise what we have been missing all along.  Jane has some incredible books and nature has provided so much richness and diversity that we were ignorant to until recently.  The flowers are good now, but leave a few until autumn and the wonderful elderberries will arrive, apparently these little beauts can beat the flu!  In old folklore the elderberries signified the end of summer and the preparations for autumn and winter.

If you have an elder flower tree locally, or see one when driving around, we strongly urge liberating a few heads for the pot.  Don’t forget to thank the tree!

The Bits

12 elderflower heads, 1 unwaxed lemon (juice and zest), 0.7kg sugar, 2 tbs white wine vinegar, 4 litres cold water.

Jane amongst piles of herbs and goodness

Jane amongst piles of herbs and goodness (and a cuppa)

Do It

Pop the sugar and water in a large pan, stir until dissolved, shake the elderflower heads (check there are no insects).  We didnt wash them as we live in the air we breath and we wanted to keep them dry and intact, they are quite fragile little guys.

Add lemon juice and zest and leave covered for 24 hours.

Thats it!

Strain through muslin and keep in sterilised bottles.  Wine or champagne bottles look very cool.  Can be kept in the fridge for two weeks.

We doubled this recipe and it worked a treat.

Serve

In champagne flutes, in the sun, feet up, without a care in the world…..

We Love It!

Its as good as champagne and free!  What a gift from nature!!!!

Foodie Fact

Elder flowers contain a whole host of natural flu beaters.

Categories: Foraging, Infusions, Recipes, Summer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Nettle & Wild Garlic Pistou

Jane and I have been visiting the local hedgrerows and forests recently and have regularly come back with a bumper crop of nettles and wild garlic.  It is such a wonderful time of year for these abundant herbs, they’re also easy to identify so there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be taking advantage of one of natures finest freebies!  The forests reek of fragrant garlic!!

This is a pistou (French/ Italian) not a pesto (Italian), mainly due to the lack of nuts.  If you add pine nuts, or another nut, you’d probably call it a pesto.  Otherwise both are potent blends and something rather special to have hanging around the fridge.

There are a vast amount of edible shoots, leaves and berries that we are not aware of (by we, I mean us at the BHK!)  We have books, we have TV programmes, but you cannot beat getting out there and having a look at whats growing for yourself.  For example, we have recently learnt that young hawthorn leaves are a rare sweet treat.  We’re taking it easy and adding a few new foraging delights to the menu each year.

Wild garlic and nettles have magical health properties.  Nettle tea is a staple at this time of year and this pesto blend makes the most of both.  It can be kept in the fridge for while and adds a unique flavour to anything it touches.  Dressings, soups, stews, bread, to name a few we’ve stuck it in.

Nettles were used extensively in ancient Tibet and the Buddhist saint Milarepa was said to live on them when on retreat, turning green and enlightened.  The kind of story that gets our imagination whirring.

Jane and I have gotten ourselves into a multitude of busy situations, gardening being but one.  There has been much rain recently and today we managed to get out into the garden and pop the potatoes into the earth.  We also have much beetroot, cavolo nero, spinach, rocket, rainbow chard, sunflowers and I can’t remember the rest.  Needless to say, we are excited about the prospects of the Beach House Garden this year and have our fingers well crossed for a mild, wind-free summer.  Very, very, very wishful thinking.

The Bits   

60g nettle leaves, 40g wild garlic leaves, 4 garlic cloves (crushed), 100ml evoo, 100g vegan parmesan (Violife do a good one), 1 pinch salt and 2 pinch pepper

Do It

Blanch nettle quickly (10 seconds) in boiling water, this will keep them nice and green and take the sting out of them!  Plunge (great word) into cold water.  Pat dry.

Place all in a blender, blitz together until paste formed.  Add a little more olive oil if you like in runny.

For old fashioned style, use a pestle and mortar.  Simple as this.

Serve

In a pistou stew, see below, or spread on toast!  It really comes to life tossed in warm pasta.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (or below them).  This is our type of gardening, wander around pick it, no digging or engaging the brain.  Go for a walk with a plastic bag and one rubber glove (those nettles take no prisoners) and you have a harvest on your hand.

Foodie Fact

Nettles contain bags of chlorophyll, calcium, iron, trace minerals, vitamins and proteins.  They can be made into paper, hair lotions, thread, soil enricher (great on tomatoes!), disinfectant for  stalls and stables, cups of tea…..It is a tonic, diuretic, astringent, anti-asthmatic, chi strengthener, anti-anaemic, laxative and a nettle brew can heal damage tissue.   It strengthens kidneys, lungs, intestines and arteries with regular use.

Pistou Stew - Recipe to follow

Pistou Stew – Recipe to follow

Categories: Foraging, Healing foods, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Wild Garlic (Ramson) and Walnut Pesto

Ruth’s hand mid forage

Another hedgerow classic via our Beach House brother, Dan. This recipe was originally taken from the great book, ‘Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me’ by the brilliant Dennis Cotter. I haven’t read it, but will hopefully be acquiring it soon.

This is a cracking little recipe, nice and quick to get together and you gain the infinite pleasure of cropping your own bunches of wild garlic (or ‘Ramson’ in some parts of the world), that are free and absolutely delicious.

The amazing thing about pesto, like most good things, it gets better with age (to a point!). An overnight stay in the fridge and POW, the flavours leap out at you.

We will be trying it tonight with almonds (we have a walnut shortage) and mixing it into some wholewheat penne. Yum!

Thanks and hugs to Dan and Ruth for their constant inspiration.

The Bits

100g wild garlic leaves, 50g shelled walnuts, 200ml olive oil, 40g Parmesan, salt, pepper

Do It

Add all ingredients to a blender and give it a good blitz.  A small food processor is best here, like the ones you would use to grind coffee.

Wild garlic and walnut pesto

Serve

We have pesto spread thinly on toasted oatbread, or mixed in with wholewheat pasta.

Foodie Fact

Interestingly China in the largest producer of garlic in the world, at 13 million tonnes of the stuff, followed closely by India (800,000 tonnes), then comes Egypt and South Korea.  France is not even in the top ten!

Dennis Cotter is an Irish veggie chef who owns the ‘Cafe Paradiso’ in Cork. His cookbooks and approach to all things veggie cooking are always fresh and very delicious.

Heres a link to a great little garlic producer in Scotland, the really garlicky company.

Categories: Dressings, Foraging, Friends of B.H.K, Local food, Recipes, Sauces, Snacks and Inbetweens, Wales, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Homemade Nettle Tea

Nettles

Nettles are here and we are loving them.  They are like a cross between mint and spinach and one of the first green leaves of the summer.  Some call them weeds, we call them feed!

Nettle leaves can be dried and enjoyed later in the year, or just thrown straight in a pan of boiling water.  They can also be stir fried to great effect as a spinach substitute.

Nettle tea can also be made for your garden, it makes great plant feed.  You just need a load of nettles in a large container covered with water.  Every day, stir them.  This will stink after a while, keep going for 4 weeks and you have some seriously good feed that can be used on tomatoes.  Great natural fertiliser.

You can even throw some nettles leaves in a bath of hot water, it apparently helps to relieve aches and pains.  We haven’t tried this one out, please check that the sting is long gone before diving in!

Brewing the nettles

For the drinking variety:

The Bits

Nettle leaves (1 cup of leaves makes 2 cups of tea), Water

Do It

Boil water in a pan, add leaves.

Homemade Nettle Tea

Serve

In your finest mug.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (well bushes).

Foodie Fact

Nettle is a natural elixir, invigorating the body in preparation for the busy summer time. It is a strong blood purifier and helps to dissolve kidney stones.  It is ant-inflammatory and can help with arthritis, high blood pressure and helps to clean out the digestive system.

Learn more about nettles and sustainable living on this great site, earth easy.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Budget, Detox, Foraging, Garden, Healthy Living, Infusions, Local food, Recipes, Tea, Vegan, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ruth’s Nettle Soup

More foraging antics here from good friends of the Beach House Kitchen, Dan and Ruth.  They have kindly sent across this recipe for their tasty nettle soup.

Eating nettles may sound strange, but they lose their sting when cooked and have been eaten in Britain throughout history.  Even Samuel Pepys sampled nettle porridge on February 25th, 1661.   The trend died out recently, I have no idea why.  Nettles contain significant amounts of iron and calcium, also giving you a big hit of vitamin A.

Dan and Ruth have been raiding the hedgerows of South London, looking for stinging nettles and wild garlic.  ‘Tis that time of year!  It is so good to be outside in the green.  I love the seasons, how they heighten our expectation and enjoyment of spring, when life returns and nature wakes up.

Ruth mid-forage

This is a recipe we will be trying very soon.  We are surrounded by bushes of nettles.  I love their flavour, like hedgerow spinach.  I wonder if there is a recipe that uses dock leaves.  That would be quite a thing!  I remember as a child being fascinated by nature, the fact that dock leaves always grew with nettles.  When I stung myself, the remedy was always at hand.

The Bits

2 glugs of olive oil

1 onion (chopped)

1 carrot (diced)

1 leek (sliced)

1 large potato (chopped)

725ml vegetable stock (good quality)

250g stinging nettles leaves [note: weight does not include stems] (washed)

75ml soya single cream

Do It

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (preferably one that fits one of those countless lids in your cupboard) over a medium heat and add onion, carrot, leek and potato. Fry for 10 minutes until soft and the onion starts to colour. Add the stock and cook for a further 15 minutes until the potato is soft.

Add the nettle leaves and simmer for 2 minutes until they have wilted. Once done, pour all into a blender and blitz away until nice and green. Return to the pan over a low heat and stir in a glug of olive oil and the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Nettle Soup

Serve

With thick crusty bread and smiles.

Foodie Fact 

Stinging nettles are best eaten before they flower (less bitter) in late May. Wear some gardening gloves and take a pair of scissors. The top part of the nettle often has the best leaves.

Categories: Budget, Foraging, Recipes, Soups | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homemade Goats Cheese with Wild Garlic

Goat's Cheese Recipe With Wild Garlic

I love Goats.  They are far superior to sheep.  More character, a little like their cheese.  I became aware of this love affair in Laos…..it’s a long story.

‘Eat Weeds’ (http://www.eatweeds.co.uk/) inspired me here.  It’s a great little website all about living from the land and getting out for the odd forage.  All you need to know about wild eating.  They regularly send me emails and this recipe reminded me of how easy this cheese is to knock-up.

The first time I made Goats Cheese was when I volunteered to help on a farm in Central Laos.  It proved to be very simple and deliciously creamy.  This method is almost as good, without the super fresh, still warm milk of the farm.

The Kids

We would milk, feed and clean the goats out before dawn, with the afternoons free to spend under the blazing sun, hacking down banana trees for feed. After around five hours hard graft, between three of us, we normally produced only four small blocks.  This experience really developed my appreciation of cheese!

The blocks were normally whisked off to the farm restaurant to be served to bus loads of tourists.  Sometimes we did manage to sneak a chunk ourselves and with a fresh baguette (which are amazing in Laos), it made all of the shovelling shit worth while!

With the lads on the farm

For this recipe, if you can get your hands on wild garlic, lucky you.  Otherwise use bulbs.  Goats milk is fairly easy to come by in the shops.

If you like eating weeds, subscribe and get the Classic Wild Food Collection.  It is free and packed with info on what to do with weeds and plants (and how you can eat them).

Bon Fromage!

The Bits

1 pint of raw goat’s milk, ½ lemon (juiced) or 2 caps of cider vinegar, 25g ramsons/wild garlic (finely chopped)***, sea salt

***An alternative to wild garlic would be one clove of minced garlic and a handful of roughly chopped parsley.

Do It

Pour goat’s milk into a pan and slowly bring to the boil. Remove from heat immediately.

Add lemon juice a little at a time until the curds separate from the whey.  Curdling.  It will begin to resemble very off milk.

Pour the pan of curds and whey through a fine muslin cloth, making sure that you collect the whey. Leave to drip for a few hours. You can refrigerate the whey for a couple of weeks, and use it in your sauerkraut recipes, in soups, stocks or as a refreshing drink. Whey is super full of minerals, and an excellent digestive.

Next tip cheese into a bowl and add the finely chopped ramsons and few pinches of sea salt, then stir until the ramsons and salt are thoroughly worked into the cheese. Taste saltiness and adjust accordingly.

Put the cheese back into the muslin and twist into a ball. Put on a slanted board with a big weight on top (always a bit of a balancing act), and leave for a couple of hours. The salt draws more moisture out of the cheese making it firmer.

If you can resist eating it, this cheese will age nicely.

Serve

Baguette! (warm)

Foodie Fact

Whey is a super-dooper food.  It’s packed full of protein, meaning that people who would like to be one big lump of muscle (mass) take it as a high cost supplement.  It’s free with this cheese.  The proteins in whey can be used easily by the body.

Whey is very low in calories and full of anti-oxidants that boost the immune system.

The end product

Categories: 'The Good Life', Foraging, photography, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Travel, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

River Cottage Fire – Poor Hugh!

Poor Hugh!

I first saw him many moons ago, with pots dangling off the back of a Land Rover, whizzing through the countryside singing ‘Baba Riley’ by the Who.  ‘…..I put my back into my livin’…….  He has always been about real food and livin’.  Not quite tame.  Most importantly he seems like a genuine person, who is fighting the good food fight and is always pleasant.

It’s a shame to hear there has been a fire at the cottage.  It’s like a second home to a large part of the nation, we’ve seen it grow into an institution.  A bastion of modern British-ness.  I’m a damn sight prouder of ‘the cottage’ than I am that palace.

Here is Hugh promoting doggie bags:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8240268.stm

Here is Hugh trying out a Vegetarian life for a summer, which was amusing:

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall

It was a minor blaze and no one was hurt.

Long live Hugh and the new age of foraging folk.

 

Categories: Foraging | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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