Category: All Recipes

Morel Nuggets Recipe 

Springtime is morel time! There are lots of fabulous ways to cook morels but this is a favourite.  

Morel - morchella esculenta

Preparation 
First clean your morels thoroughly. I don’t like soaking them as it degrades the texture and dilutes the taste. If they are very buggy seal them in a freezer bag for a while and all the little bugs will run out of the crevices as they run out of oxygen. But here in Scotland, bugs are not such a problem in the early Spring as it’s still quite chilly. These ones were prepared by slicing them into quarters and brushing them with a pastry brush.

Morel - morchella esculenta

Ingredients
Morels (Morchella esculenta or M. elata)
An egg or two
Breadcrumbs
Powdered seaweed
Salt
Pepper

Directions
Spread freshly made breadcrumbs out on a baking tray and toast in a hot oven (200C) for 5 minutes until light golden brown. Season with powdered seaweed (I used pepper dulse), salt and pepper.

Beat egg well in a bowl. 

Heat butter in a frying pan over a low heat so not to burn the butter. 

Quickly dip each piece of morel in the egg then dunk it in the seasoned breadcrumbs until completely covered. 

Fry gently on each side until golden brown. Remove from pan onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain briefly before serving.

Morel - morchella esculenta

Spiced Chaga & Elderberry Tea

A fabulous brew for foraging in the rain when you don’t want to end up with a cold! 

I’ve used elderberries (Sambucus nigra) against colds and flu for years. It’s so tasty my children were always happy to drink it, rather than echinacea tincture. So I make litres of elderberry syrup every year. You can make lovely hot, mulled teas by adding thyme, rosemary, sage and other kitchen herbs. Today, having harvested a huge amount of chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) recently I made this spicier version.

Chaga mushroom  harvest

Chaga mushroom

Both chaga and elderberries are great at supporting the immune system. Chaga strengthens and balances, elderberry stimulates (cytokine release), lemon contain vitamin C and ginger is antibiotic. I mix it all with some kitchen spices, and hogweed seed when I have it, to make a really tasty, warming brew.

Chaga infusing  in elderberry

Chaga infusing in elderberry

Ingredients (makes 4 cups)
1 cup of elderberry syrup
3 cup water
3 tsp grated chaga
3 tsp grated fresh ginger root
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon (juice and zest)

Directions
Simmer the chaga, lemon zest, grated ginger and all the spices in the water for ten minutes. (If you have time you can leave to infuse overnight to strengthen the medicinal chaga extract but you can also drink it straightaway if in a hurry.) Add the lemon juice and elderberry syrup and warm it right through. Strain off using a sieve lined with a little gauze or muslin. Drink!

NB When grating chaga, hold the black outer edge and grate the brown side where the fungus is most active.

Chaga mushroom

Chaga mushroom

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

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

 

 

 

Seaweed Crackers

Seaweed & Nettle Crackers

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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These seaweed and nettle seed crackers are really more-ish. They’re really quick, especially since I ditched adding yeast as it makes no difference, so I’ve been whipping up batches when friends pop in. They only last a few seconds!

To find out more about the mood-boosting properties of nettle seed read my nettle seed post here.

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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Sea Buckthorn Caramel Sauce

Sea buckthorn caramel sauce

Sea buckthorn caramel sauce

This can be made with any wild juice. I have tried this with guelder rose berries, wild blackberries and barberries. This is lovely dribbled over ice cream, seaweed pannacotta or a wild berry and carragheen cheesecake.

Ingredients
300 ml sea buckthorn juice
300 grams white sugar
30 grams butter
100 ml double cream

Directions
Measure out all the ingredients. Put the juice and the sugar into a saucepan and, over a low heat, stir to dissolve using a clean wooden spoon that has not been used for making soups and stews. (Old spoons can release old flavours into your sweets!)

Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and turn up the heat a little. As the toffee solution heats it will start to darken in colour. Stir only occasionally. Let the temperature reach 110°C (230°F) when measured on a sugar thermometer. This is the thread stage. When you drop the syrup into a glass of ice cold water it will hang in soft threads and not dissolve.

Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring to dissolve. As the temperature drops, stir in the cream. Return to the heat.

Now reheat again to 110°C (230°F). At this stage pour immediately into a warmed ceramic jug and serve with dessert. If it is cold and served later you may wish to stand the jug in a bowl of warm water to increase viscosity again.

Sea Buckthorn Toffee

This recipe for sea buckthorn toffee can also be made using crab apple verjus. These cold or pressed, tart juices make a fabulous sweet and sour, tangy toffee. For tips on picking and making sea buckthorn juice follow this link. Juices such as rowan berry juice and hawthorn juice which are made by extracting the juice in a little water have a more delicate flavour so use as little water as possible. See Rowan Fudge recipe for more about juice extraction.

Rowan berry toffees

Rowan berry toffees

Ingredients
300 ml sea buckthorn juice
300 grams white sugar
30 grams butter
100 ml double cream

Directions
Line a 20cm square baking tin with greased parchment paper and put to one side. Measure out all the ingredients.

Put the juice and the sugar into a saucepan and, over a low heat, stir to dissolve using a clean wooden spoon that has not been used for making soups and stews. (Old spoons can release old flavours into your sweets!)

Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and turn up the heat a little. As the toffee solution heats it will start to darken in colour. Stir only occasionally. Let the temperature reach 120°C (250°F) when measured on a sugar thermometer. This is the hard ball stage when drops of the toffee solution dropped into a cup of ice-cold water will remain as firm balls of toffee.

Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring to dissolve. As the temperature drops, stir in the cream. Return to the heat.

Now heat to 140°C (280°F) when measured on a sugar thermometer. The toffee solution will have become much darker and the bubbles have become smaller and closer together. This is called the soft crack stage when drops of toffee solution dropped into a cup of ice-cold water will separate into hard threads that will flex a little before snapping. At this stage pour immediately into your lined baking tin.

You can also use silicon moulds. Here I used Little Kitty ice cube trays but they made enormous toffees and kept my foraging guests quiet for a very long time!

Sea buckthorn toffees

Sea buckthorn toffees

Sea Buckthorn Caramel Sauce

Another thing to note is that this recipe will also make a delicious wild juice caramel sauce if you remove from the heat at both stages at a temperature no greater than 110°C (230°F). This is lovely dribbled over ice cream or with fruit.

Sea buckthorn caramel sauce

Sea buckthorn caramel sauce

More Notes on Making Sweets with Wild Berries

Caramel = White Sugar + Cream
Butterscotch = Brown Sugar; cooked to 140°C / 280°F
Toffee = Brown Sugar + Butter; cooked to 150°C / 300°F
Fudge = White Sugar + Milk (+ Butter); cooked to 110°F / 230 °C
Nougat = Water + Corn Syrup (+ Whipped Egg White (+ Sugar + Corn syrup (+ Butter + Vanilla)))
Brittle = Water + White Sugar + Syrup (+ Butter + Baking Soda); cooked to 150°C / 300°F

Sugar Candy Table

(From Justin Dunham)

Stage Temperature (°F) Temperature (°C) Sugar
Thread 230–233 °F 110–111 °C 80%
Soft Ball 234–240 °F 112–115 °C 85%
Firm Ball 244–248 °F 118–120 °C 87%
Hard Ball 250–266 °F 121–130 °C 92%
Soft Crack 270–290 °F 132–143 °C 95%
Hard Crack 295–310 °F 146–154 °C 99%
Clear Liquid 320 °F 160 °C 100%
Brown Liquid 338 °F 170 °C 100%
Burnt Sugar 350 °F 177 °C 100%

Rowan Berry Fudge

Ingredients
75 grams butter
700 grams granulated sugar
100 ml evaporated milk
100 ml rowan berries
200 ml water

Directions
The juice can be made in advance. If you want to make more and freeze or pasteurise it, just add double the amount of water to rowan berries by volume.

Put the rowan berries and the water into a small saucepan and simmer until the berries are tender. Mash them in the pan with a potato masher. Remove from the heat.

Place a square of muslin over a sieve and strain the juice from the berries into a measuring jug. Once most of the juice has drained through, and the berries are cool enough, draw the edges of the muslin together to form a bag and give the bag a good squeeze.

Use the butter wrapper to pre-grease a large 25 cm baking tin.

Return the juice to the saucepan. Simmer on a medium heat to evaporate some of the liquid until you have reduced it to 100 ml of fairly strong rowan berry juice concentrate.

Keeping the saucepan over a medium heat, now add the evaporated milk to the 100 ml of rowan berry juice. When it is warm, add the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Stir it continuously with a wooden spoon.

Once boiling, adjust the heat so it does not boil over, and boil for exactly 8 minutes. Alternatively, if you are using a sugar thermometer, boil it until the temperature reaches 113 degrees C (235 degrees F), but do not boil it for more than 9 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the butter until it has dissolved and then pour into the pre-greased tin.

Cool on a wire tray. When half cool, score lines in the fudge with a cake knife. When fully cool, remove from the tin and break along the scored lines. Store in a tin lined with greaseproof paper or a plastic food saver box.

How to make Dandelion Coffee

Dig up your dandelion roots in the Spring or Autumn. Cut off the leaves and any root hairs. Rinse the roots well in running water and use an old toothbrush to get any earth out of the crevices.

Wash your dandelion roots well.
Young roots are plump not wrinkled
Cut any large ones into strips, as similar sized pieces roast more evenly. Pat dry and put on a baking tray. Roast in a hot (150C) oven for 60 minutes. They will be very dark brown (not black), smell nutty and snap crisply when done.

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Snap any long pieces with your fingers and put into a blender or a pestle and mortar. Or in my case, a Pyrex glass bowl and use the end of a wooden rolling pin! Crush until you have a rough powder resembling coffee. If you’ve picked a lot of roots you might want to use a coffee grinder. I tend to find that it works out as one dandelion per cup of dandelion coffee.

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To brew, use twice as much per person as you would regular ground coffee. (Three times as much if you like your coffee strong.) I like 2 generous heaped teaspoons per mug. Pour very hot water over the grounds in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

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Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then pour into a mug, using a strainer.

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This is really nice taken black, but I’m a sucker for a drop of milk!

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And that’s how to make dandelion coffee!

Although you can tell its not ‘coffee coffee’ it is surprisingly nice, and not at all bitter like chichory. Although Arabica still has the No. 1 spot in my books I would rather drink this than instant coffee any day. I like it in the evening when I feel like a hot coffee but don’t want the caffeine. Dandelion coffee is my decaf of choice!

Wild Manhattan

Here’s a Wild Manhattan recipe that uses a guelder rose syrup liqueur I made from the berries of Viburnum opulus. Delicious twist on a classic dry Manhattan.
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Ingredients
2 1/2 shots Old Turkey Bourbon
1 shot Martini Extra Dry
1 shot Guelder Rose Syrup Liqueur
2 dashes Napiers Best British Bitters

Directions
Mix onto ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until cold. Strain and serve.

Garnish with a single dog rose hip!

Wild Mushroom Pâté with Hen of the Woods

In late September it seems as if there’s a hen of the woods around every oak tree. I’ve found 8 in the last 4 days. It has a lovely almost Stilton cheese fragrance. Having so many it’s been a job to get through them so made this delicious pâté.
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Ingredients
250g hen of the woods or other wild mushrooms
25g butter
250g pack soft cream cheese
25g walnuts (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper

Directions
Finely slice your hen and sauté in the butter for about 10 minutes until just starting to brown. Leave to cool.

For a smooth pâté, Put in your blender and blend with the cream cheese, salt and pepper.

For a coarse pâté, chop the cooked mushrooms finely and blend in the cream cheese with a wooden spoon. You can also substitute the cream cheese for drained cottage cheese if you like more texture.

Mix in the finely chopped walnuts. If the flavour needs punching up (not needed with hen but sometimes with field mushrooms) and a spoon of bolete powder at the seasoning stage.

Leave in the fridge overnight for the flavours to fully develop. Return to room temperature before serving.

Eat with warm French or walnut bread, or on oatcakes.

This recipe was inspired by John Wright’s pâté recipe from his book Mushrooms.

How to Dry Mushrooms

Porcini powder is the most fabulous, deep, rich flavouring for stocks, soups, casseroles, in fact almost everything!
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Birch bolete powder comes a good second and most mushrooms produce an intense umami stock powder. You can use an oven or hang up thin slices to dry, but to produce any significant quantity you really need a dehydrator. This stacking one from UK Juicers is perfect.
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Cut the slices the same thickness (about 2 mm) so that they dry evenly.
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If you have a large stack rotate the trays every couple of hours. A full load like this will take about 8 hours on 145•
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Birch bolete powder below in green topped jar and dark orange birch bolete powder in small jar.
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Wild fungi in August

It’s been a good year for fungi already and the combination of a hot, dry summer with a few days soaking from the post-Hurricane Bertha rainfall, has resulted in a phenomenal mushroom crop!

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These were found in a one hour walk to some favourite spots where I know the mycelium is underground. A smattering of chanterelles – they were at their best 5 days ago straight after the rain.

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The first of the porcini. Most still not much bigger than exquisitely flavoured buttons nestling in longish damp grass at the side of an old hedge run. However, there were some of meatier size in prime condition like this one.

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There was also a mass fruiting of brown birch boletes. This is a really reliable mycelium that fruits prolifically every year without fail!! Look at the size of this one – and it’s still the start of the season.

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Lastly, a few days ago I found the first few amethyst deceivers in a patch of damp beech leaves. These are lovely just tossed raw into salads. Eat them quickly as the colour fades from rich velvet purple to a pale grey as they start to dry out.

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Wild mushrooms on toast anyone?

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Wild Raspberry Jam

This is a really easy recipe for wild raspberry jam. It takes just 12 minutes to cook and it tastes delicious. Also uses half the sugar of many other regular jams.

Ingredients
1 pint of wild raspberries
1/2 pint of sugar
2 jam jars (sterilised)

Directions
Put a small saucer into the freezer compartment of your fridge. Measure the raspberries into a measuring jug with the sugar. You should have half the amount of sugar to berries assuming the berries are pressed in tightly.

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Put into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, gently mash the berries with a potato masher and leave in a warm place for half an hour. The sugar will have started to dissolve in the juice. Give it a good star to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.

This ‘cold processing step’ helps the jam to keep as much flavour as possible.

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Put onto the stove and heat on a low-medium heat, stirring to dissolve the last of the sugar.

Bring to a gentle boil. As soon as bubbles appear all over the surface, quickly skim off any froth, then boil for 12 minutes. (If you have increased the quantities you will need longer.)

After 12 minutes remove from the heat, and drop a blob onto your cold saucer (from the freezer). As it cools it should be perfect jam consistency. If not, put back on the heat, boil for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and test again.

As soon as it’s ready pour or spoon it into sterilised jam jars. Seal with a sterilised lid. The jam is ready to eat as soon as cooled but will keep, unopened in a cupboard, for six month.

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Rose petal vodka

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Roses are in full bloom at the moment and are an essential ingredient in wild cocktails. Wild rose vodka infusion can be added to crushed raspberries to make forager John Wright’s Pink Pint, but I love to mix it with the deep, sweet berry gins. Added to sloe gin, it elevates it to an other-worldly level. A hint of wild fennel seed or sweet cicely seed vodka can also be added.

You can use any roses but one abundant wild rosé that gives a great taste and colour is this one, Rosa rugosa.
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Very simply, you take any wide necked bottle or jar, insert your rosé petals and cover with vodka. Give it a gentle shake every day or so and leave to infuse for a week or two.
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The colour will leave the petals, leaving them a pale grey. Your infusion will start to turn a deep reddish-brown. After 2 weeks strain off the wild rose vodka, discard the petals and keep it in a brown bottle or dark cupboard as over time, light can change the colour and flavour. Enjoy!

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A mixture of 75% sloe gin and 25% rose vodka with a capful of wild fennel seed vodka makes a lovely twist on a traditional drink.

Daisy Soup for Dinner Parties

This is a neat ‘magic’ trick to impress your friends at dinner parties. Well… It really is the sort if thing that only a forager would do!

Ingredients
Any soup
Garden daisies

Directions
Pick your daisies in the afternoon after their heads have closed. Toss them in cold water if you feel they really need washing. You’ll need about 5 per guest.

Heat your soup to quite hot, and pour into individual bowls. As your serving the guest, scatter the closed daisy heads into the surface of the soup.

Smile as your guests gasp in amazement as the flower heads open up again before their very eyes!

I’ve always loved playing with my food!

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How to pickle Ash Keys

Make a pickling vinegar by heating – in a Bain Marie – all your favourite spices with one spoon of soft brown sugar and a pinch of salt per cup of cider vinegar. Infuse for 5 minutes then leave to cool. Strain it before using it.

Ideas for spices include: peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, chillies, cloves, bay leaf, coriander seed… Or use wild spices like hogweed seed, ground elder seed, wild leek seed… See my wild spice chart here.

Pick the ash keys when they are really, really young and green. As early as possible or they get stringy.

Put the ash keys into boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove and change water. Simmer in new water for 5 minutes. Strain. Cool a little.

Pack the cooled keys into preserving jars leaving a 3 cm (an inch) of space at the top. Fill with your spiced vinegar right to the top.

Seal. Leave for 3 months. Eat!

Wild Labneh Roule Cream Cheese

Recipe for a delicious ‘cream cheese’ substitute

This is a very simple way to make a cream cheese replacement for those lovely soft herby French cream cheeses called roule. It’s not a real cheese as nothing is added to separate the curds and whey but it’s a close call!

Ingredients
1 small pot of good quality plain organic yoghurt
4-5 wild garlic stems
4 new green ground elder leaves
6 small sorrel leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions
Put a colander or sieve to stand over a bowl. Line with a pieve of cheesecloth folded to give 3 layers. Spoon the yoghurt onto the cheesecloth and cover with a saucepan lid or piece of tin foil. Leave to drain for 24 hours.

After 24 hours the whey should have drained off (use it in a soup or sauce), and the yoghurt should have thickened to a cream cheese consistency. This is called labneh.

Very, very finely chop the wild greens. Put in a bowl with the labneh and fold the wild greens in with a fork. Add some salt and pepper, forking it in until the taste is to your liking. Remove and mould into a ball or log. This will keep for a week or two in the fridge – if you haven’t eaten it long before then!

Sweet Woodruff May Wine

How to make German May Wine
using Sweet Woodruff

Sweet WoodruffIn Germany, the first of May was traditionally celebrated with this delightful sparkling Maiwein drink, infused with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) a member of the same family as cleavers (Galium aparine) and lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum).

Like many plants it contains coumarins which smell somewhat like new mown hay. Sweet woodruff has little smell until you dry it, when it is transformed by an amazing sweet, vanilla smelling scent. Last year I hung a bunch in my car and it made the best car air freshener ever! In the Middle Ages it was used for scenting floors, mixed in with the straw.

One side note about coumarins – large doses can make you feel a bit nauseous so May Wine is for lightly imbibing or you’ll end up with a terrific hangover! Studies of coumarin in sweet woodruff recommend you do not exceed 3.5 grams fresh woodruff per litre of wine. This recipe makes 2 litres, so to keep within recommended safe levels weigh your sweet woodruff and use no more than 7 grams. At the stage that I pick it, 1 sprig is approximately 1 gram.

Ingredients
7 springs of fresh sweet woodruff
1 bottle of light white wine (German Reisling)
1 bottle of sparkling wine (Prosecco, Sekt, champagne)
(Or for a less alcoholic version, 1 bottle of soda water)
1 punnet strawberries (quartered)

Directions
Pour the white wine into a jug over the sprigs of sweet woodruff and leave overnight. The next day, add the sparkling wine or soda (slowly!) and pour into glasses over the chopped strawberries. Garnish with sprigs of sweet woodruff or edible flowers such as violets, daisies or primroses.

If you can only get dried sweet woodruff, use 1/2 cup of organic dried herb and only infuse for 1 hour (2 at the most). Strain out the herb, then add the sparkling wine or soda.

Wild Variation
Use little wild strawberries if you can find them (not in Scotland at this time of year).

Alternatively you can use rhubarb or Japanese knotweed. In this case, simmer 500ml of chopped rhubarb or knotweed with 50 grams of sugar until it is extremely soft. Add to the infused wine before you add the sparkling wine and give it a good stir. Strain the wine to remove the woodruff and rhubarb/knotweed pulp. Then return to the jug and add the sparkling wine or soda. Pour into chilled glasses and decorate with edible flowers.

Remember if foraging for Japanese knotweed to trim the plant on site and do not disperse any part of it away from the site. Make sure everything you bring home goes into the saucepan. This is because even small trimmings will grow. It is illegal to cause Japanese knotweed to grow and spread, as it is an invasive, controlled plant!

Nettle & Wild Garlic Soup

Nettle & Wild Garlic Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves 6-8

Nettle & Wild Garlic Soup

Nettle tips are delicious in the Spring and early summer although they shouldn't be eaten once they grow rough and start to flower as they can be irritating then. They are incredible good source of iron, calcium, silica, other minerals, vitamins and a very rich source of plant protein, not to mention fibre! Traditionally they are used to condition hair and make it strong and glossy (both humans and horses), to make bones and nails strong and strengthen chicken egg shells.

Ingredients

  • 500g nettle tops (half a carrier bag)
  • 100g (2 handfuls) of wild garlic (any part of the plant)
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 potato (peeled and diced)
  • 1 tbsp dried mushroom powder (any edible bolete)
  • 1 length of dried kelp
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 2 litres hot water

Directions

  1. Rinse the wild garlic leaves (including buds and flower if you have - leaving a few aside for decoration) and chop roughly.
  2. Rinse the nettle tops in a colander and put aside. I pick the nettle tops with scissors, snipping them off them using the scissors as tweezers - it's really quite fast and I am still a bit of a nettle coward!
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Sweat for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the diced potato and stir. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the seasoning, then the nettles and the wild garlic.
  4. Add 2 litres of hot water and the kelp, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Take off the heat and cool. Remove the kelp. Adjust the seasoning. When cool, use a stick blender to fully liquidise the soup. Or pour into a blender, liquidise and then return to the pan.
  6. For an absolute taste revolution, add some freshly made horseradish cream. A large tablespoon stirred into the pot is completely mind blowing!
  7. Reheat and serve.

Notes

This is a quite a rich soup and fairly thick. You may need to add extra liquid when you reheat it. Decorate it by dribbling over a little cream or chilli oil (although not chilli with the horseradish!) and adding a few open wild garlic flowers or a bud!

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Cleavers and Red Pepper Soup

Cleavers & Capsicum Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

6

Serving Size: 320 ml

Cleavers & Capsicum Soup

Ingredients

  • 100 g bundle of cleavers tops Galium aparine
  • 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium size onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 red peppers (long organic Romano are tastiest)
  • 1 red chilli pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 x 400g can organic plum tomatoes
  • 50ml elderberry pontack (or Worcestershire sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (Encona or Tabasco)
  • 1 tbsp toasted seaweed (nori or dulse)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1.5 litres hot water

Directions

  1. Rinse the bundle of cleavers and trim off the roots. If you have picked it carefully, you'll have all the roots end to end and can cut them all off with one pass of the scissors. If not, it may take you a while!
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped garlic and onions. Sweat for 5 minutes until starting to soften.
  3. Add the roughly chopped red peppers and stir. Hold the bunch of cleavers over the pan and using scissors, cut them into the pan in 1-2 cm lengths. This prevents the stems wrapping themselves around your stick blender later on! Cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1.5 litres of hot water and all the seasonings. Simmer for 15 minutes until the peppers are tender.
  5. Take off the heat and cool. Adjust the seasoning.
  6. When cool, use a stick blender to fully liquidise the soup. Or pour into a blender, liquidise and then return to the pan.
  7. Reheat and serve. Finely chop some wild garlic or chives as a garnish.

Notes

This is a low-fat soup and does not contain potatoes or flour to thicken it. For a special treat you might like to add a little creme fraiche or crumbled feta cheese but it's delicious without it!

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Cleavers, also known as clivers, goosegrass or sticky willies, is a great diet food. John Gerard, a 16th century herbalist, quotes Pliny saying ‘A pottage made of Cleavers is good to cause lankness and keepe from fatnesse.’ It is diuretic and particularly good for the lymphatic system. It is also a really good blood purifier, used by herbalists to clear up skin problems.

The tips of the plant are tender in the Spring – they can be added to salads at this stage – but their quickly lose their palatability due to the rough texture (like sandpaper) that develops. This is a shame because it is a really healthy plant to eat. I often juice it in my wheatgrass juicer and it tastes fantastic added to pear and ginger. But I also love it in soups, especially when trying to lose a few winter pounds in the Spring.

Cleavers

Cleavers just at the picking stage.

Wild Garlic Salad Dressing

This is a lovely dressing that goes well with a mixed leaf salad such as dandelion leaves, chickweed, sorrel and wild garlic leaf.

1 tablespoon finely chopped wild garlic stalks, buds and flowers.
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white sugar

The first step is not entirely necessary but does make for a more ‘garlicky’ flavour.
1. Warm the oil and pour over the wild garlic in a small glass mixing bowl. Leave to infuse for an hour (or two or three!).
2. Start whisking the oil with chopped wild garlic, salt & sugar and drizzle in the lemon juice, whisking all the time.
3. It should elmusify so that the oil and lemon juice do not separate.
4. Sprinkle the dressing over your salad. Enjoy!

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Japanese Knotweed Muffins

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Yesterday I found two wild dessert foods. Wild growing rhubarb, a garden escapee, and Japanese knotweed (on the right of the basket. It was quite a coincidence as Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica previously Polygonum japonica) can be cooked in exactly the same way as rhubarb. Stewed, as below, crumble, jam, flans, cakes and of course muffins.

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Here is the green, aniseed-flavoured Sweet Cicely custard that I served with it.

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Here’s the recipe for Japanese knotweed muffins.

Ingredients
175 grams plain flour
125 grams Demerara sugar
100 grams Japanese knotweed
100 ml kefir or soured milk
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 200C. Beat together the egg, oil, sugar and milk. Then lightly fold in the chopped Japanese knotweed (2 cm pieces), flour and rest of the dry ingredients. Spoon into reusable silicon cupcake cases, or paper cases in a tin cupcake baking tray until 3/4 full. Pop into the middle tray of the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. To test if cooked, a skewer pushed in should come out clean.

I was going to post a photo, but we ate them before I remembered the camera!! Nom nom.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

How to make Comfrey Leaf Fritters

Comfrey Leaf FrittersComfrey leaf fritters are delicious when cooked properly. I particularly like the sweet version as it especially suits the soft nature of comfrey. The secret is to have a really light, crispy tempura batter on the outside with the softness of the comfrey on the inside. There are two ways to do make comfrey leaf fritters depending whether you are going to serve them as a starter or as a dessert.The method is the same but there is one ingredient change, the type of fizzy liquid that you use.

Ingredients
50g white flour
50g cornflour or arrowroot starch
100ml fizzy liquid
For savoury: use soda water
For sweet: you can use lemonade or ginger beer.

Sunflower oil
Sesame oil

Method
First thing is to chill all your ingredients. The best batter is made when everything is cold. While they are chilling, rinse your comfrey leaves and buds in a colander.

Then add your oil to a saucepan in the ratio of 9 parts of sunflower oil to one part of sesame oil. This gives a lovely light oil which cooks at higher temperatures and helps to avoid the fritters from being at all greasy.

Heat the oil to 180˚C (356˚F). Low temperatures will result in greasier stodgy fritters. Line a shallow flan dish or plate with some paper kitchen towel, and put it on a flat surface near to the stove and have a pair of cooking tongs or a slotted spoon to hand.

Remove the chilled flour and cornflour from the fridge and put into a mixing bowl.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

Add the chilled fizzy liquid.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

Stir the mix together really quickly in one minute using either a spoon or, traditionally, chopsticks!

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

Do not worry about leaving any lumps. It’s more important not to over stir or the mix will become glutenous and lose it’s light crisp texture.

Get your comfrey leaves near at hand.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

A leaf at a time, dip the leaves in the batter and fry quickly for literally a minute each side.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

Remove from the oil as soon as they start to slightly brown. These were a little overdone.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

Serve while still piping hot.

Comfrey Leaf Fritters

If you’ve heard lots of scare stories about comfrey and its PA content, please read this article.

Hogweed Tempura

People often ask me what hogweed shoots taste like. It’s a hard question to answer as there is just no supermarket vegetable equivalent that I can think of. So hogweed just tastes like, well, hogweed! Making a tempura of it is exquisite and, without a doubt, is the best way to serve it. Especially if accompanied by a homemade dipping sauce. I use a spiced elderberry vinegar mixed with a little soy and a tree sap syrup. Johnny Aitken, a lovely chef that I know, added some pomegranate molasses to my salad dressing mix which also makes a great dipping sauce. The trick with tempura is to chill everything, not to over blend the batter and have the oil at the right heat. 

Common hogweed shoot tempuraCommon hogweed shoot tempura

Ingredients

  • 50g of cornflour
  • 50g of rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 100 ml of chilled fizzy water*
  • Sunflower oil for frying

* You can also use soda water, lager, or a 50:50 mix of vodka and water. The latter is useful if you want to use up one of your infused vodkas. Infused ground ivy vodka and alexanders vodka go very well with hogweed tempura. 
Directions

Trim your hogweed shoots and emote any soil.

Set your oil to heat in a deep fat fryer to 180F. 

Put the powdered ingredients into a bowl and mix together. Add the chilled liquid and quickly mix into a batter. A few lumps are fine – don’t overblend as it works the gluten. You can add a little more water if it seems too thick. 

Dip each shoot in the batter, coat it well, then put it into the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes until crispy.

A traditional teriyaki sauce would be:

  • 20g of soy sauce
  • 20g of sake
  • 20g of mirin
  • 20g of corn starch

Try using a homemade vinegar, such as:

  • 40g of spiced elderberry vinegar
  • 20g of 1:1 simple syrup (magnolia infused syrup is great)
  • 20g of corn starch

Mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over the gas for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Set aside to cool.
Common hogweed shoots

Common hogweed shoot tempura

Common hogweed shoot tempura

Common hogweed shoot tempura

Homemade Bouillon Powders

Making your own bouillon could not be simpler. This process applies to any ingredient but I’ve started with wild mushrooms (in this case birch bolete) as they give an unrivalled depth, richness and flavour especially wen combined with dried seaweeds. Pick your mushrooms (or other ingredients) in season, slice them and dry them. I use a dehydrator but you could also use a cool oven, or string them and hang in a cool, dry place. Keep them in brown paper bags until you need to use them.

Step 1: Put your dried, sliced mushrooms into a blender or grinder

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Step 2: Switch it on for a few minutes

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Step 3: Leave the lid on for a minute until the dust settles.

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Step 4: Open the lid.

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Step 5: Spoon into a jar, add lid and store until needed.

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Step 6: Repeat with dried seaweeds, dried celery or parsley (wild versions include lovage, Angelica, ground elder), dried carrot, dried onion, garlic, etc.

Step 7: Blend and experiment until you find your perfect bouillon!

See my Wild Spice Chart for ideas of plants to add http://bit.ly/W1ldSp1ce