Kefir Tequila Lemonade Cocktail

This is a really refreshing twist on a classic marguerita cocktail using kefir made by fermenting water kefir grains in sugar, sultanas, lemon and ginger for 5 days.

Kefir Tequila Lemonade Cocktail

Kefir Tequila Lemonade Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 3 measures (3 x 25 ml) best tequila
  • 2 measures (3 x 25 ml) kefir lemonade
  • 1 measure (25 ml) 1:1 sugar syrup
  • 2 lime wedges
  • Cracked ice
  • Ground sea salt

Directions

    Sugar Syrup
  1. To make the sugar syrup dissolve equal parts of castor sugar to water by volume.
  2. The Cocktail
  3. Chill cocktail glasses and then twist the rims into ground salt.
  4. Fill a Manhattan cocktail mixer one third with ice and swirl to chill.
  5. Add the tequila, the kefir and the sugar syrup
  6. Shake for 15 seconds.
  7. Pour into glasses.
  8. Twist a lime quarter to release the oils and garnish each glass with the lime.
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Mo’s Crispbread Crackers

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I love Dr Karg crackers but being on a tight budget can’t afford to eat them as often as I would like. So here is my recipe for a similar home-made, seeded crispbread cracker that is lighter, crispier and absolutely delicious.

Mo's Crispbread Crackers

51

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

50 crackers

Serving Size: 2

Mo's Crispbread Crackers

Ingredients

  • 125g rye flour
  • 125g spelt
  • 1 tsp dried instant yeast
  • 100 ml warm water
  • 50 ml milk
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • 40 g pumpkin seeds
  • 12 g oats
  • 12 g sunflower seeds
  • 12 g linseeds
  • 12 g caraway seeds
  • 7 g sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp powdered seaweed
  • 20 ml olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine the flours, yeast, warm water and milk into a dough. Cover with a tea towel and put in a warm place for half an hour.
  2. Grate the cheese (not too finely) and weigh out all the seeds.
  3. Switch the oven to 200 C (400 F / gas mark 6) to preheat.
  4. After the half hour is up, add the rest of the dry ingredients to the dough.
  5. Knead in the olive oil.
  6. Line several baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  7. Dust a wooden board and pastry roller with flour. Break off a handful of dough and roll out to the thickness of the pumpkin seeds.
  8. Cut into 8 cm (3 inch) squares with a knife and lift onto the baking trays.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until evenly light brown on top.
  10. Use a pan slice to remove them from the tray and put them onto a wire rack.
  11. Allow to cool and crisp for 10 minutes before eating.
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Alexanders Soup

Alexanders 'Smyrnium' Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

6

Serving Size: 320 ml

Alexanders 'Smyrnium' Soup

A really delicious fragrant soup that makes the most of the few greens available in January and February. Exceptionally tasty!

Ingredients

  • 4 large heads of alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum (stems peeled)
  • ?1 large parsnip?)?
  • 1 bunch of wild garlic Allium ursinum or wild leeks A. paradoxum or A. triquetum
  • ?6 strands of dulse? Palmaria palmata
  • 2 onions
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil?
  • 2 litre of good stock?
  • 1 tablespoon of birch bolete or porcini powder
  • Salt and pepper.

Directions

  1. Use a potato peeler to lightly scrape your alexanders stems and wild parsnip root to remove the outer fibres. Trim any roots off the wild garlic.
  2. Chop the onion and gently fry until translucent in coconut oil.
  3. Then add the chopped parsnip. Fry for 3 minutes then add the stock and the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Take off the heat and cool.
  6. Once a little cooler, use a stock blender to blend the ingredients or, if very cool, transfer to a blender or food processor.  
  7. Season with salt, pepper and a spoon of bolete powder.
  8. Reheat before serving.
  9. Garnish with a leaf spring of alexanders and some tiny wild leeks.

Notes

You can also make this using wild angelica or wild lovage later in the year.

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Unlike many of the other Umbillifers in the family, alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum prefers the cooler months and will quite happily keep producing bright green leaf over winter from November on. After Spring, these become too woody to eat which makes it the perfect choice of foraged vegetable for early February. That is, if you can find it! While common down south it is not widespread in Scotland but can be found in Edinburgh, Fife and East Lothian.

For eating straight as a vegetable, peel the side stalks and cut off the smaller branching stalks, and together with the leaves, steam for 7 minutes. Then add butter, salt and pepper! Or try this lovely soup above.

Alexanders soup

 

 

 

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Hair Ice in Wales

I was recently contacted by Neville Davies from South Wales who discovered something unusual in his local woods this January. Neville sent me the photo below and writes:

“On January 23rd 2015 I was walking through the Beech Woodlands of Draethen in South Wales three miles east of the famous town of Caerphilly.   It was a very cold morning and as I walked through the woods I remember noticing a twig with what I thought to be sheep’s wool attached to it.   It wasn’t until a while later, when I had seen the same substance on another twig on the ground, that I took the time to look more closely.

I was amazed to see that it resembled snow or frost flakes, and that they ran along the whole length of the twig.  I tried to pick up the twig and the flakes fell off in chunks reminding me of tuna flakes when they fall apart from a tin.

I remember thinking how odd this seemed and thought no more of it until I had feedback from my newsletter, where I had included a picture, that this was possibly Hair Ice.

I was very excited about this and was directed to your website post What is Hair Ice? where the photos are identical to what I had taken.

This is a new species for me and I feel very proud to have come across this.”

Neville Davies
www.ecologycymru.co.uk

Hair Ice by Neville Davies

Hair Ice by Neville Davies

If you live in or are visiting Wales, do have a look at the www.ecologycymru.co.uk website as they run lots of guided walks and events for people interested in nature, flora and fauna.

Above is Neville’s great picture of hair ice. You can also find more photos of hair ice (haareis) and an explanation of what hair ice is and what causes hair ice, at my post What is Hair Ice? Do let me know if you have any more sightings to report of this unusual phenomenon. January 2015 seems to have been just the right weather conditions for it!

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Yummly

I’ve been looking for a way to organise my recipes and test driven quite a few apps. I’ve now discovered Yummly. It’s easy and a pleasure to use. You can find a treasure trove of recipes on it and control what you see by what your dietary preferences are down to great detail. I’m now putting all my recipes into Yummly format and you can see them all either her on this blog, or at my Yummly page: yummly.com/page/monicawilde

It’s easy as pie [sic] to sign up with your Facebook or Google account. Do have a browse and remember to give me some ‘Yums’ if you like my recipes!

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Wild Antidote for Smoking

Antidote for Tobacco – Victorian ‘nicorette’!

Trying to give up smoking? One of the most commonly used herbs was Lobelia inflata, nicknamed Indian Tobacco after its use by Native American peoples. It can be hard to get hold of these days as it is Schedule 3 herb which restricts its sale to the general public. If taken in inappropriate amounts it acts as an emetic, causing nausea and vomiting.

Here is another Native American smoking cessation aid which can be made at home:

White Oak Chew Beans

150 grams White Oak Bark, finely chopped
A tiny pinch of capsicum (cayenne) powder (no more than a 12th of a teaspoon / 345mg)
Gum arabic (or edible pine resin)

Grind both your oak bark and capsicum with a pestle and mortar to pulverise them into a very fine powder. Moisten with gum arabic enough to make it stick together. A chew is about the size of a bean. Chew a bean several times a day. In three or four days the desire for tobacco will be gone. Whenever you want a cigarette take a chew on an oak chew bean.

Calamus Chews

I have recommended calamus root (Acorus calamus) to a lot of people as chewing the dried root does help with cravings. It also creates a ‘zen-like’ focus eliminating the fuzzy mind that can go with withdrawal. This also includes withdrawal from some benzodiazepines.

Jim McDonald in Blessed Bitters says “Cravings need not be relegated to food, however. Small doses of many bitter herbs can be very helpful for cravings associated with many addictions, due to their calming affect on mood. An example of this is the chewing of calamus root to ease the cravings for tobacco.”

Use around a centimetre of the root, chew to moisten it and then wedge it between your gum and cheek. Chew again whenever you get cravings. In large quantities (over 3 cm) Acorus can make some people feel nauseous to work out your own tolerance level.

If collecting your own, do remember that sweet flag (Acorus) root can be confused with blue flag (Iris) root which is poisonous so take special care when harvesting. The freshly dried root is by far the most effective. I have written much more on the use of Acorus here in cooking, medicine and collecting it.

Valerian Drops

If anxiety is a big factor, you could also take a tincture of valerian root Valeriana officinalis to chill your nerves. Put it into a dropper bottle and place a few drops on the tongue for 2-3 minutes at the point of craving or take a teaspoon 3 or 4 times a day if anxiety pervades your life.

Smoking Thins Your Brain – The Evidence!

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A day after this article was posted, research was published showing that smoking thins your brain and is linked to all major neurological diseases. Even 25 years after giving up, your cortex is thinner than someone who’s never smoked.

When people have conversations about getting old, most people say that it’s the loss of mental powers that would bother them most. They don’t want to be a great age if they have senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems. These are all inextricably linked to smoking, in that smoking hugely increases the likelihood of your brain function and memory being affected in old age.

The study involved 244 male and 260 female subjects — five times larger than any previous similar research on smoking and cortical thickness. Their average age was 73. The test group included current smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers. All of the subjects were examined as children in 1947 as part of the Scottish Mental Survey.

Researchers used health data gathered during recent personal interviews with the subjects, and also analyzed data from MRI scans showing the current state of the subjects’ brain cortices.

“We found that current and ex-smokers had, at age 73, many areas of thinner brain cortex than those that never smoked. Subjects who stopped smoking seem to partially recover their cortical thickness for each year without smoking,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Sherif Karama, assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University, psychiatrist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and an affiliate of the Montreal Neurological Institute.

The apparent recovery process is slow, however, and incomplete. Heavy ex-smokers in the study who had given up smoking for more than 25 years still had a thinner cortex.

Although the cortex grows thinner with normal aging, the study found that smoking appears to accelerate the thinning process. A thinner brain cortex is associated with adult cognitive decline.

“Smokers should be informed that cigarettes could hasten the thinning of the brain’s cortex, which could lead to cognitive deterioration. Cortical thinning seems to persist for many years after someone stops smoking,” says Dr. Karama.

Journal Reference:
S Karama, S Ducharme, J Corley, F Chouinard-Decorte, J M Starr, J M Wardlaw, M E Bastin, I J Deary. Cigarette smoking and thinning of the brain’s cortex. Molecular Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.187

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Wild Garlic & Hazelnut Pesto

Wild Garlic & Hazelnut Pesto

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

2 x 250ml tubs

Wild Garlic & Hazelnut Pesto

This fresh and fiery pesto can be made with any of the wild garlic family. This commonly includes wild garlic or ransoms (Allium ursinum), few flowered garlic/leek (Allium paradoxum), three cornered leek (Allium triquetrum), and crow garlic (Allium vineale).

Ingredients

  • 150 g hazelnuts, lightly toasted
  • 150 g (very large handful) wild garlic
  • 150 ml good quality olive oil

Directions

  1. Pick your wild greens in the spring and lightly rinse them to remove any soil or leaf mould.
  2. If picked including bulbs (on private land with permission only), trim off the roots.
  3. In a mill blender, first grind your hazelnuts until very finely chopped.
  4. Then, with the blender blade, add the wild garlic and olive oil and blend for about 2 minutes until smooth.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste, or a sprinkle of pepper dulse (Osmundea pinnatifida) if you have it.
  6. Scoop into a tub with a lid.
  7. Chill and refrigerate when not in use.

Notes

Serve with crackers as a spread or dip. Use a spoonful to spice up a soup or a stir fry.

I used hazel nuts as they are indigenous to Scotland and can be foraged in great quantity in the autumn as they were 5000 years ago and more. For a less nutty flavour you can use unsalted cashew nuts. If you are very patient, leached acorns or pignuts make a nice base!

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Seaweed Crackers

Seaweed & Nettle Crackers

51

Prep Time: 60 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

20-30 crackers

Serving Size: 2

Seaweed & Nettle Crackers

These are really tasty little crackers to have with cheese, pesto - especially wild garlic pesto at this time of the year, or chutney.

Ingredients

  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 3g dried yeast
  • 2 teaspoons dried flaked dulse Palmaria palmata
  • 2 teaspoons nettle seeds Urtica dioica
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 140ml warm water
  • You can use poppy seeds or caraway seeds if you don't have nettle seed
  • (If you don't have nettle seed you can use poppy seed instead. If using pignut or caraway seed, just use one teaspoon.)

Directions

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add the warm water and mix through. Gently knead into a soft, slightly sticky ball.
  2. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour.
  3. After half an hour put the oven on to warm to 180C. I find a conventional oven gives more even results than a fan oven.
  4. Dust a clean table and rolling pin with flour. Then halve the ball and roll each one out to a thickness of 2mm. Try to make every set the same thickness to cook evenly.
  5. Cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter or cut into rectangular strips with a knife for 'thins'.
  6. Put the uncooked crackers on to a tray lined with baking paper.
  7. Now put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. After 20 minutes is up, using a frying pan slice, slip the crackers onto a wire rack to cool.
  9. They cool in just 5 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!
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Venison nuggets in wild gravy

I love having lunch on the days I’m working from home. This 10 minute recipe is venison nuggets in porcini and blackthorn epiné gravy. With a side salad (not foraged in the pic), lemon soy dressing and toasted nuts. Fabulous!

Venison nuggets are fried 2.5 minutes on each side in olive oil. Add a few sliced mushrooms when on the second side which will quickly take up any excess olive oil. Then a cup of water, porcini and seaweed powders (no need to add flour), and sauté for 4 minutes, until starting to thicken and almost caramelise. Add a slug of epiné and serve.

The seaweed in this version was pan-toasted and crumbled laver (Porphyra umbilicalis). If you don’t have any, crumble a toasted nori sheet from making sushi. The two species are closely related. Not hugely high in iodine but a big vitamin B12 hit. You could substitute fried tofu instead of venison and you’d have an excellent vegan version!

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Marinated Dandelion Roots

Marinated Dandelion Roots

Prep Time: 12 hours

Cook Time: 10 minutes

4

Serving Size: 3 each

Marinated Dandelion Roots

A delicious variation on the marinated burdock roots that are popular in Japan. These are exceptionally tasty and make a lovely wild antipasti. Dig up your roots in the autumn and spring. First year roots are always less woody but this is less of an issue with dandelion than it is with burdock!

Ingredients

  • 12 dandelion roots Taraxacum officinale
  • 50 ml rice or white wine vinegar
  • 50 ml miso or stock
  • 2 tablespoons medium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Nettle seed (or sesame seed)

Directions

  1. Scrub the dandelion roots to remove any dirt. Scrape off any stubborn dirt. Halve the roots and soak in water for 3 minutes.
  2. Boil in a pan with water for 5 minutes, while you make the marinade, until just tender but still crisp.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the nettle seed) to a small saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Bring to the boil. Then on boil, remove from the heat.
  5. Remove the dandelion roots from the heat after 5 minutes. Strain. 
  6. Put them onto a chopping board (some people also put them inside a plastic bag) and pound them with wooden rolling pin so that the roots soften. The object is to soften and flatten them, not to mash them!
  7. Put the bashed roots into a bowl and cover with the marinade for at least half a day or, ideally, overnight.
  8. Turn them occasionally to ensure the marinade covers them all.
  9. Serve cold as an antipasti, sprinkled with dry toasted nettle or sesame seed.
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