Posts Tagged With: foraging

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Jelly Tart

 

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Tart

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Tart

Following on from the ‘Simple Blackberry Compote‘, we take the next reasonably logical step, the ‘Quick Blackberry Tart’.  The Beach House is beginning to resemble mound of blackberries at the minute, our garden and the neighbouring horse fields are a sea of green with many purple patches.  Forgive us for our bramble based indulgence, but they’re so tasty.  It seems that horse muck is the ideal breeding ground for giant blackberries, although horse manure seems to benefit all plant life, our tomatoes definitely appreciate it.  Even though our neighbouring horses are a little wild and aloof, we thank them for producing their fertile goods.

As with the compote, cooking rarely gets easier than this.  Three ingredients and minimal fuss make this the perfect last minute/ lazy moment dessert.  It is of course, greater than the sum of its parts and is one of those recipes that punches well above its weight (not sure if that analogy is particularly Beach House-ified!)  I use frozen puff pastry for very obvious reasons, any brave soul who attempts to make their own puff pastry cannot be described as ‘lazy’ in anyway.  Its quite a labour intensive process involving advanced folding and rolling techniques.  I have made a type of parantha that is similar, but a parantha is a very forgiving format (like a fat flaky chappati).  Puff pastry is something we have in the freezer and use when our folsk visit, they all seem to love a bit of crumbly dough.  Dad is here at the minute and he approved of this tart, eating the leftovers for lunch which is not a bad sign.

The rowan jelly has been kicking around our fridge for a while and this tart is the perfect home for it.  We have plenty of rowan berries and elderberries loitering around the Beach House and we are planning on a mass harvest very soon.  Hopefully next year we’ll have homemade rowan berry jams to sample and probably whack in a cake/ tart.

There are so many differing ways that you can take this tart.  The astringent rowan here works well with the sweet blackberries, our berries were very sweet and you may like to add a little more sweet jam/ jelly if you have a batch of more tart fruits.  Once you’ve made the base, you choose the toppings.  Something like a pizza desert.  This recipe is simply what was to hand, seasonal and looking good. We’ve had it with apples and marmalade, strawberries and cashew cream, plums and star anise, pear and cinnamon, banana and custard……the list goes on.  All of them simple and very quick to get together.

The pastry base is best blind baked, depending on the tart filling, the pastry may seem ever so slightly soggy in the very middle.  It is cooked and is just a result of the liquid wetting the pastry and having something like a steaming effect.  Think a Chinese dumpling as opposed to a pasty (like a Jamaican Pattie).  The combination of soft middle and flaky outside only adds to the textural fun.

The Beach House Potato Patch (looking a little sorry for itself after a serious blight infestation, theres always next year!)

The Beach House Potato Patch (looking a little sorry for itself after a serious blight infestation, theres always next year!)

The Bits – For 4

250g block of puff pastry (frozen is much easier)

6 big handfuls of blackberries (or as needed)

4 tbs rowan jelly (or other fruit jam)

 

1-2 teas vegetable oil

 

Do It

On a lightly oiled surface, using a rolling pin, roll out your pastry in a roughly rectangular shape.  Flipping it over a few times, whilst rolling, giving the  pastry a good even thickness and light coating of oil.

Place on a baking parchment and give it another few rolls.  Score a 1 inch border around the edge of the pastry by running the tip of a knife around.  Cut roughly 1/2 way through the pastry with a sharp knife.  Poke the base (not the border) a few times with a fork, this will lessen the rising.

Preheat an oven to 180oC and when warm, pop in the tart base bake for 12 minutes.  Until lightly golden and well risen.   Press the base of the tart down, leaving the border slightly raised.  Spoon in and spread the jelly/ jam and scatter over a good layer of berries, packing them in tightly.  Place back in the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, until the border is dark and golden and the fruit is soft.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes and serve warm.  You know your oven, if its not a boss fan oven, then flip the tart around halfway through cooking to balance the bake.

The tart fresh out of the oven

The tart fresh out of the oven

Serve

Dad is here, we had custard!!!  There is hardly any difference between normal custard and vegan custard, try making custard with almond milk, its extra yum!

Jane and Dad getting stuck in!

Jane and Dad getting stuck in!

Foodie Fact

Rowan berries grow all over the UK and can be seen a mile off due to their vivid red colour.  These berries have long been regarded as fantastic for health; they boost the immune system, help the digestive system, prevent certain cancers and reduce bacteria infections.   They also make a very tasty jam.

These little red suckers are packed full of vitamin C and fibre and also contain a very powerful blend of antioxidants (aka disease fighters).

Do not eat rowan berries without cooking or freezing them for a decent period of time, they are quite toxic.  They contain what is called parasorbic acid, which is no good, but when heated or frozen this acid transforms into sorbic acid, which the body loves.  Rowan berries are technically a ‘superfood’ that lives on our doorstep.  They can also make for a potent and eye popping liqueur!  (Isn’t that what they call the best of both worlds!!!?)

Rowan berries are one of the many hedgrerow goodies that seem to be overlooked.  I don’t think it will be long until many more folk are out there at this time of year, harvesting the bounty of fruits and leaves that are springing out of our hedgrerows, many boasting fabulous health giving properties and a diversity of flavours and textures.

Categories: Baking, Desserts, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Flower Power – Homemade Elderflower Cordial

 

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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.

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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.

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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

Raw Earth Month – What’s it all about?

We are running late on Raw Earth Month, the big day is now tomorrow (for a variety of mundane reasons).  I know Jane has already told you a little about what we’re up to, but here’s my take on the whole shebang.  Lee

The Beach House is going full-on this June – July (24th – 24th), its:

!………………RAW EARTH MONTH……………….!

We are rather excited about the whole dreamt up project.  It came like a bolt from the blue, we wanted to do another raw food month (because it makes you feel great and raw food is seriously interesting for the taste buds and from a nutritional point of view) so we took it to the next level, a huge step towards a more natural, peaceful lifestyle.

Raw Earth Month means:

–  A raw/ vegan diet only

–  No caffeine/ alcohol

–  No consuming

(not buying anything other than staple food)

–  No detergents/ unnatural chemicals

(i.e. toothpaste, washing up liquid, clothes washing detergent, shampoo, soap etc)  

–  Minimal use of electricity

(other than recharging computers, dehydrating, juicing, blending)

–   Minimal car use

(other than going to work and shopping on the way back)

–  1 hour internet use per day

–  No electric lights

(candles are allowed!)

–  No washing machine

(we are hand washing clothes in the bath)

–  Waste water to be recycled

(in the garden on our veg patch)

–  Use as much organic produce as possible  

(has been difficult this year with the wet, wet conditions)

–  Forage as much as possible

(nettles, elderflower, hawthorn, wild herbs, red clover, dandelion)

–  Composting all our waste and only buying packed produce when absolutely unavoidable.

Yoga, walking, meditation, gardening, playing music and smiling; definitely allowed.

We have loads of cool books to read about sustainability, organic/ biodynamic gardening, raw food, etc and are taking this month as a huge learning curve.  Jane is really getting into herbal remedies and potion making, with wonderful results (elderflower champagne anyone!!!!!)  We have both been super busy with work recently and are looking forward to this little window of peace.

Jane and I are also going to be making some music and this may appear on the BHK soon.  We may sing about red clovers and rosemary, we may not!

We’d love to hear your experiences of a similar lifestyle/ project and any advice is very, very warmly appreciated.

All in all, we hope to live the life we want to live, free from the troublesome add-ons of the modern world and co-existing within it.

VIVA RAW EARTH!x 

For more info on our Raw Earth Month, see here.

PS – I’ve no idea what we’ll do next year, maybe move into a cave or become wandering mendicants?!

Categories: Healthy Living, Raw Food, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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

Monkey Puzzle Nut and Jaggery Muffins (Vegan)

The Beach House Kitchen (and a box of carrots)

We’re on the road in France and Spain at the minute, but here’s one we did earlier…….

We have some lovely friends of the Beach House Kitchen to thank for these nuts, Rachel and Axel over on Anglesey, who somehow man-handled their monkey puzzle tree into letting go of its precious nuts.  Not an easy task, these trees are seriously covered in sharp spines.

We saw this technique being executed by the British wild food guru Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on his TV programme ‘Veg Everyday’ recently and he needed the help of a tree expert and a hydraulic lift.  From what Rach tells me Axel simply shimmied up a neighbouring tree and shook the hell out of the top, using only a snake catching pole (Axel is an expert in all things snakes and adders) and net.  Unconventional harvesting techniques demand an unconventional recipe me thought.  Hugh made a tasty looking summer cous cous salad out of his puzzle nuts, but we were on a different page all together.

Monkey Puzzle Nuts

So I had a bowl of these beauties, I roasted them and tried one, tastes a little like a chestnut merged with a pine nut.  They are probably best just eaten as they are, but I couldn’t resist sticking them in this vegan muffin recipe that I’ve been sitting on for a while.  A word of gentle warning, these nuts do go a bit dry after roasting and when baked.  CRUNCH!

Jane has been fantasising about cake now for a few days and I have finally got around to making my poor, long suffering lady something resembling a sweet thing.  This is as close as I get really, all that white flower, butter and sugar makes me feel a little queasy.  These muffins are packed with the good stuff and still taste mighty fine.

Monkey Puzzle Tree

What on earth is a Monkey Puzzle Nut?

The monkey puzzle tree (or Araucaria araucana if you’re Latin speaker) is an evergreen that can grow up to 40 metres tall with a trunk of two metres wide!  The tree is covered with sharp, blade-like, ‘reptilian’ leaves or spines that make the monkey puzzle nut one of natures toughest morsels to harvest.  The tree is native to the low Andean slopes of Chile and Argentina but seems to do well on this little grey island.  It is a hardy conifer and you regularly see them sticking out of gardens and stately home driveways.  I don’t think there is a more incongruous tree on this island than the monkey puzzle.

What on earth is Jaggery?

Jaggery is an unrefined sugar used in many parts of the world, known as Gud in India.  It  has an amazing toffee-like texture and can be made with palm, coconut or date tree sap.  Jaggery has a powerful, caramelised flavour that sets it apart from any sugar I have come across.  It is high is sucrose and can be used as a healthier alternative to refined sugar.  Great in a chai.  I like to bake with it because it flavours and sweetens.

You could use a good unrefined brown sugar as a substitute, or even something like molasses, as jaggery can be a little hard to track down.

These muffins make for a great breakfast (they are nice and dense) and are best served warmed through.  A cold muffin has an air of austerity to it that a baked good should not possess.  If you are storing them, make sure they are in a well sealed container or well cling filmed, they can get a little dry these vegan sorts.

I used polenta and oats here as they were in the cupboard, another flour like spelt, rye or tapioca will work really well.  Polenta isn’t quite fine enough to bind and bake as well as other flours.  The oats add alot of ballast and ‘feel’ to these wonder muffs.

Monkey Puzzle Muffins in the mix

Makes for six hearty muffs.

The Bits

2 cups polenta, 2 cups oats, 1 teas cinnamon, 1 teas baking powder, 1/2 teas bicarb,  1/4 teas sea salt, 2 mashed bananas, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1 grated carrot, 1/2 cup jaggery, 8 finely diced dates (finely chopped), 1 teas vanilla extract, 2/3 cup monkey puzzle nuts (or pine nuts/ your favourite nut), 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (finely chopped), 1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup soya milk (or your favoured milk)

Do It

Preheat your oven to 375ºF and grease six muffin cups (or use silicon muffin cups).  In a bowl, mix with vigour the polenta, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a food processor, blitz together the banana, coco oil, jaggery and vanilla until relatively smooth with just some small banana lumps remaining.  Add wet mix to dry and add carrot, chocolate, seeds and milk.  Fold and stir together nicely until just combine.

Muffins pre-mix

Divide the batter up between the six muffin cups, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top and a thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Ready to bake

Serve

With a cup of fine tea.  Best warm from the oven, but great in a packed lunch too.

Lovely looking muffs

We Love It!

Simply put, we know of no cooler muff.

Foodie Fact

Jaggery is unrefined and a more complex carbohydrate than normal white sugar.  It contains magnesium and salts and good levels of the antioxidant selenium.  Jaggery also contains iron, which helps ease tension.

Monkey Puzzle and Jaggery Muffin

Categories: Baking, Desserts, gluten-free, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 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

Beach House Egg Benedict with Asparagus

Morning bluebell

This is our version of the famous Waldorf Hotel breakfast dish.  It was originally created by a man named Benedict (surprisingly!) who wanted something to cure his hangover.  I have almost completely changed the dish, made it a healthier delight, and served it for supper.

That seems to be the BHK style, take a classic and meddle with it until it is almost unrecognisable!

Asparagus is a very beautiful thing, so fleeting, which makes you appreciate it more. I have recently looked into growing them and it really is a labour of love. They are quite tricky and only give you good spears after a few years. Hootons Homegrown have been selling some delicious packs of asparagus, so we’ve been using it in many recipes. Simply pan-fried is my favourite and topped with a local egg makes it something rather special.

This is a gorgeous light dinner or lunch and quick to prepare. The layered effect and combination of creamy dressing, runny egg and crispy vegetables give it a ‘complete’ restaurant dish feel. We added a little toasted oat bread for some ‘packing’. We’ve been in the garden for most of the day, doing loads of seeding and planting; transplanting and spreading of horse manure. We needed a good feed.

We loved to use the last of our wild garlic here, picked from the roadsides of Anglesey. The extent of our foraging consisted of opening the car door and leaning out. Not exactly Ray Mears, but just as satisfying. Who doesn’t appreciate a little free food?

Broccoli Florets

The Bits
Glug of olive oil, half a handful of pumpkin seeds, 1 big handful chopped wild garlic, 1 big handful chopped mint, half a large head of broccoli, 5 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, splash of water.
Bunch of whole asparagus spears (take of the tough tails, normally one inch from base)
Mixed salad leaves
2 free range, organic eggs (with vivid yolks)
For the Dressing
(these measurements are slightly larger than a teaspoon)
1 teas honey, 1 teas dijon mustard, 4 teas olive oil, 1 teas white wine vinegar, salt + pepper (s+p), 4 teas creamy natural yoghurt.

Do It
Make dressing, add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix together thoroughly. Taste and adjust to how you like it (sweeter, saltier, not quite mustardy enough, more bite, smoother etc).
In a large saucepan, on a medium heat warm the olive oil then add your pumpkin seeds, roast for a few minutes until slightly golden, then add the cherry tomatoes and scorch a little, then add the wild garlic then broccoli.  Add a splash of water (roughly 2 tbs). Season with s+p. Cook for a couple of minutes then add spinach and mint.  Put to the side with the lid on, keeping warm.  This will steam the broccoli.
In a separate small saucepan, bring some salted water to the boil with a splash of white wine vinegar and poach your eggs (crack them into a tea cup and pour low and gentle into boiling water for a neater shape).
As that is happening, heat a glug of olive oil in a small frying pan and flash fry the asparagus spears for three minutes. Do not overcook, they should be nice and crunchy. You may add a splash of truffle oil here, if you are feeding people you love very dearly. It’s a decadent touch.
Give your salad leaves a quick wash and drain.

Beach House Benedict

Serve
Place a flat pile of green salad on your serving plate, add the broccoli and wild garlic fricassee (posh word for something fried), then spoon over the dressing, top with a neat pile of asparagus spears and place the egg on top and season with a little s+p. We had it with a piece of toasted oat bread.

We Love It!
Jane loved it so much she actually licked the plate clean! It wasn’t pretty!

Foodie Fact

Asparagus has been enjoyed by folk for thousands of years and has also been used for its medicinal properties.

Asaparagus is brilliant for digestion and helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.  It also contains very high levels of Vitamin K.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, Garden, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Recipes, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Ricotta with Wild Garlic and Mint

Wild garlic and mint

I realise that I write regularly about making my own cheese.  It is something that I am quite fascinated by.  I have tried yoghurt and using live cultures etc, but it is difficult, especially due to the fluctuating temperature of our cottage (we only have a wood burning stove for heat) and the temperamental weather (British weather is utterly mental).  Live cultures etc don’t seem to like this, they are sensitive sorts.

Making ricotta requires non of this effort.  It is a fail safe method of making your own gorgeous cheese.  Not complex or pungent, but super smooth and creamy.  Every time.

This is a simple technique.  I would advise you seek out good quality, organic milk for best results.  Once you try it, you will not want to go back to the shop bought variety.  This is a real homemade treat that takes no time at all and actually saves you money.

I have mixed a few fresh herbs in here.  We had just picked some wild garlic, we took a wrong turn on Anglesey and ended up driving through a field of the stuff! The mint is beautiful looking, grown by the good people at Hooton’s Homegrown.  I walked into the kitchen this morning and was greeted by the wonderful aroma of these two and could not resist combining them with the cheese.

Ricotta means ‘recooked’ in Italian and is a so versatile.  It goes well in savoury and sweet dishes.  I love it with some warm oat bread and honey and it makes a delicious base for pasta sauces, we have also used it with dark chocolate for dessert (see here).   This ricotta recipe is excellent as it can be stirred directly into warm pasta.  It is basically a great thing to have in the fridge.

I am sure that this is one of those cooking techniques that you will use again and again. You can even make paneer, just use the same method but use a semi skimmed milk (the ricotta uses whole milk).  See a recipe here on the brilliant Kolpona cuisine blog.

There is no waste here.  After the curds have formed, drink the whey.  This is packed full of good protein.  It’s the same stuff those muscle bound freaks buy for inflated prices (and biceps!).  The whey can also be used in cooking, its great in stews, soups and even breads.

Cheesecloth had always eluded me.  I had heard of this mythical fabric but never owned any.  I have resorted to all sorts of strange methods to compensate for it.  I mentioned this to Jane and in her ever thoughtful fashion, she bought some in a little shop somewhere in Yorkshire.  I am now the proud owner of a metre square.  Thank you honey!

The Bits

1 litre of good whole fat milk (makes enough for a decent sized ball), juice of 1 lemon or 2 tbs cider vinegar (or any distilled vinegar), 1 teas sea salt, 1 handful of wild garlic, 1 handful of fresh mint, 1 piece of muslin/ cheese cloth.

Homemade ricotta with wild garlic and mint

Do It

Heat the milk in a pan gently until it is steaming and small bubbles are forming around the edges, do not boil.  Add the lemon juice of vinegar, then stir a couple of times to mix.  Take off the heat and leave for 5 minutes, allowing the curds to form.  Line a medium sieve with your cheese cloth and place over a bowl.  Gently pour the milk/ cheese through the sieve and allow to drain.

Making the cheese

The longer you leave it to drain, the drier the cheese.  Think about what you would like to us it for.   I recommend leaving it for around 10 minutes.  Cool and cover, place in the fridge, it be good for around a week.

When the cheese is fully dried, chop your herbs finely and mix in with the cheese.  If it is proving to be too dry, mix in a little olive oil to get things lubricated.  Taste the cheese, add more salt if you like.

Using vinegar will give a cleaner flavour, lemon will make it slightly lemony.  Again, it depends on how you would like to use the cheese.

Serve

We had ours mixed into roasted root veggies, with our Sprouting Spring Salad.

Roasted root vegetable

Foodie Fact

You can use goats milk for the ricotta, it will be more tangy.  In Italy they use alot of sheeps milk, which is very smooth and creamy and of course the famous buffalo milk, which is equally as good.  It is fun to experiment with different milks.  I have to say, I like the ricotta we get from local Welsh milk.

Calon Wen Milk

Pickled Part

You can’t beat a crisp dry white wine with a fresh cheese like ricotta, something to cut through that awesome creaminess and get your palate sparkling.  We had a lovely Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which worked a treat.

Categories: Local food, Organic, Recipes, Snacks and Inbetweens, Wales, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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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