Category: Wild Food Recipes

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 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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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!

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

Mushroom Ketchup and Powder

A recipe for a mushroom liquor and powder from The Compleat Housewife: Eliza Smith, 1736.

This recipe makes a mushroom ketchup (liquor) to use instead of Worcester sauce in cooking and the mushrooms are further dried after to use in stock powders.

To make the Mushroom Powder.

Take a peck [by volume 9 litres (2 gallons or 16 dry pints)] of Mushrooms, wash and rub them clean with a flannel rag, cutting out all the worms; but do not peel off the skins.

Put to them [add] sixteen blades of mace, forty cloves, six bay-leaves, twice as much beaten pepper as will lie on a half crown [3 cm diameter (1 1/8 inch)]; a good handful of salt, a dozen onions, a piece of butter as big as an egg, and half a pint [280 ml] of vinegar.

Stew these as fast as you can; keep the liquor for use, [strain, bottle and remove but keep the mushrooms] and dry the Mushrooms first on a broad pan in the oven; afterwards put them on sieves, [air dry on a rack or dehydrator] till they are dry enough to pound all together into powder. This quantity usually makes half a pound.

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Another sort of Mushroom-Powder.

Take the large Mushrooms, wash them clean from grit, cut off the stalks, but do not peel or gill them; so put them into a kettle [strong open saucepan like a jam pan] over the fire, but no water; put a good quantity of spice of all sorts, two onions stuck with cloves, a handful of salt, some beaten pepper, and a quarter of a pound of butter; let all these stew, till the liquor is dried up in them; then take them out, and lay them on sieves to dry, till they will beat to powder; press the powder hard down in a pot, and keep it for use, what quantity you please at a time in sauce.

To pickle Mushrooms.

Take your Mushrooms fresh gathered, peel or rub them, and put them in milk, and water and salt [to soak].

When they are all peeled, take them out of that, and put them into fresh milk, water, and salt to boil, and an onion stuck with cloves; and when they have boiled a little, take them off, and take them out of that, and smother them between two flannels [kitchen paper to dry them, then put them into a preserving jar].

Then take as much good Alegar [vinegar produced by fermenting ale] as you think will cover them, and boil it with ginger, mace, nutmeg, and whole pepper.

When ’tis cold, let it be put on [pour over] your mushrooms, and cover them close.

Scarlet Elf Caps

Scarlet Elf Caps Sarcoscypha coccinea are an edible fungus in the order Pezizale, that Orange Peel Fungus belongs to. They are widespread in February and love fallen branches half-buried in rotting leaf litter in mixed deciduous woodland.

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You can eat the young ones raw – sandwiched between wild garlic leaves make a fabulous combination. They can be gently fried in butter but they also keep their colour and texture well in a stew or risotto. Avoid older specimens as they can be a little tough and chewy!

How to make Horseradish Sauce

Fresh Horseradish Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

200 g

Serving Size: 2 g

Fresh Horseradish Sauce

Ingredients

  • 100 g horseradish roots, freshly dug and washed.
  • 100 g crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Pick, scrub and peel a large horseradish root in autumn or in early spring.
  2. Chop roughly (bringing tears to the eyes!), weigh it and put it into your food processor or blender.
  3. Add the same weight in crème fraîche, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per 100g of mix, then blitz until smooth.
  4. Blend in more crème fraîche until you have the consistency that you want.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

Only make small quantities at a time as it is best made fresh and will only keep a week in the fridge. A little of this goes a long way. Also never serve it in a silver pot, as it will cause the silver to blacken.

To add a bit of colour, you can also blend in a piece of raw beetroot for a bright pink sauce!

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This is definitely worth making at home as it tastes so much better than any of the shop-bought ones! Hot and spicy, horseradish Armoracia rusticana has a very high Vitamin C content and has a antimicrobial action that helps to preserve meat. The sauce goes equally well with cold roast beef and hot fish dishes.

Before

After

If you still have roots left over, you can dehydrate slices of the root and then powder it when it is thoroughly dry – and being very careful not to get any dust in your eyes! Keep it in an airtight container. To use, blend a little powder with water, as you would make up mustard, to make seiyô wasabi paste. Alternatively you can pickle fine sliced pieces in vinegar.

Marinated Burdock Root

Ingredients
10 slim burdock roots
120 ml rice or white wine vinegar
120 ml miso or stock
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons medium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Nettle seed (traditionally sesame seed)

Directions
Peel and cut the burdock into finger-size lengths and soak in water for 5 minutes.

Boil in a pan with water and a dash of vinegar for about 5 minutes while you make the marinade.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the nettle seed) to a small saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.

Remove the burdock roots from the heat. Strain. 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!

Cut the bashed roots into pencil-width strips. Put into a bowl and cover with the marinade for at least half a day or, ideally, overnight. Turn them occasionally to ensure the marinade covers them all.

Serve cold sprinkled with dry toasted nettle or sesame seed.

Fungi season in Scotland

It’s early November and the fungi season is coming to a close in Scotland. Well, not entirely! September and October are really the bumper months especially for chanterelles, porcini, boletes and porcelain fungus. But just as the glut seems to be all over, the sharp-eyed will be able to spot the winter mushrooms coming through. November is heralded by winter chanterelles, as tasty as their cousins despite their drab grey-brown caps. They are also called yellow legs for their olive-yellow stems. They like to grow near beech, often very well disguised by the fallen leaves, and sometimes near oak and pine as well.

Winter Chanterelles and Amethyst Deceivers

Also in the leaf litter you may spot a late flush of amethyst deceivers. These look as if they are made of deep purple velvet (see mixed in with the winter chanterelles above). The stems are a little fibrous but the caps, sautéed in butter are very tasty.

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Hedgehog fungi, easily distinguished by their soft spines underneath, instead of gills, tubes or pores, are also still out. They have a lovely nutty, peppery taste to them and cannot be easily confused with inedible mushrooms.

On the trees, as the weather gets cooler, you will often get velvet shanks (enokitake) emerging and late flushes of oyster mushrooms continue throughout the winter. Oysters seem to particularly like horse chestnut trees, at least in central Scotland. Wood ears (aka jelly ears) also like the cooler months and can be found on elder and willow trees. Finally, on old hardwood stumps, you may even come across a troupe of stump puffballs.

McNee

Make your Hawthorn Gin now

It’s been a bumper year for berries so make the most of it. Now is the time to be picking hawthorn berries and laying down plenty of hawthorn gin or hawthorn brandy for next year. It’s so easy and well-worth the effort. See the recipe here.

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Also keep an eye out for late elderberries, rowan berries, rose hips and, if you’re down by the coast, look out for sea buckthorn berries too.

Sea Buckthorn Marinade for Venison

Here is my recipe for sea buckthorn marinade. This is especially good in the late Autumn and Winter months. The spices make it smell like Christmas and, after the warm reception it got from my resident tasters, I think its a hot favourite for Christmas dinner. Serves 4.

Ingredients
4 large (or 8 small) venison sirloin steaks (I was given red deer but roe deer will be fine too)
200 ml sea buckthorn juice
200 ml maple syrup (an extravagance but it was on sale in the shop, otherwise use dark honey with an optional dash of molasses)
200 ml red wine
1 tsp curry powder (or 2 tsps powdered hogweed seed)
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper.

Directions
Combine all the ingredients and pour over the venison steaks in a bowl. Cover and leave overnight in a cool larder but don’t refrigerate. When you are ready to cook, take the steaks out and pat dry with paper, but keep the marinade.

Fry the steaks in a frying pan, in olive or rapeseed oil, for two minutes on each side. This will caramelise the outside and cook them, leaving a pink centre. Perfect!

Nest them in a shallow oven dish, ideally on a bed of sautéed dulse seaweed, and keep them warm in a low oven. Cover them lightly with foil so they don’t dry out.

Heat the marinade up, adding any juices from cooking the venison, and simmer for 5-10 minutes to reduce the mixture to a gravy consistency. Pour over the steaks. Serve hot with buttered new potatoes and peas.

How to pick Sea Buckthorn berries

There are so many sea buckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides) at this time of the year. They are very high in vitamin C and have an antioxidant (ORAC) profile just below acai berry – except you don’t have to fly it in from the Amazon! Just get out for a walk along the coast and these hardy bushes, with their silver grey foliage, are nestled in the sand dunes and scrub, laden with bright orange sea buckthorn berries.

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Of course the fun starts when you try to pick them! They are so full of juice (with just one seed) that they literally explode as soon as you put any pressure on them. Conventional wisdom says detach the berries with a fork, inserting the times behind the berries and picking them into a bucket. However, there are some thorns, and lots of little branches, and this is a time consuming operations. There are really only two ways to pick sea buckthorn berries…

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The first challenge is getting them off the bush. Seriously, nothing beats using a pair of secateurs. Take the small twigs from further down the stem and you won’t spoil the visual impact for other people. And don’t forget to leave plenty for the birds. You might also find a pair of gloves handy. They are spiky but personally I don’t find that the spikes get in the way much. They are well spaced out and not particularly sharp. The long branch below was picked from the from of the bush, the smaller one from further down the stem. I prefer the smaller ones as they are easier to juice from.

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One quick way to handle the berries once you have picked them and got them home, is to put them in the freezer. The hard, frozen berries are much easier to pick off the twigs as they don’t explode in your hands. This is suitable if you are going to simmer the berries to extract the juice and then strain it in a muslin bag. I don’t have room in the freezer to do this so I squeeze the juice off the twigs without picking the berries.

First wash your hands and get a large saucepan. It’s best to sit outside as until you get the hang of it the juice can go everywhere! Take a twig in your hand, the small ones fit perfectly into the palm of your hand, and with your fingers pointing down into the saucepan, gently squeeze. If your fingers are pointing down, this directs the juice into the pan and not up the walls and in your eye! Quarter turn the twig and apply more pressure, then turn again.

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If you do have some that seem to have some spikes, point it leaf end down toward the saucepan and squeeze the berries while moving your hand slightly in a downward direction. This pushes the spines over and you won’t get spiked and they grow in the direction of the leaves.

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If you’ve ever milked a cow, you will quickly notice the resemblance to milking. Milking the berries like this makes this a very fast way of processing the berries without the painstaking task of picking them off one by one. If you do want a few for decoration, use a fork to spring a few off.

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You’ll notice that in the left over twigs, although the berry skin is still attached, you are hardly wasting any juice. If you’re not sure, then put them in a dish and you’ll see how little is left in the bottom at the end. I find that one small mushroom basket full of twigs with berries, gives me a litre of cold-pressed juice.

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Once they are all squeezed, you are left with cold-pressed sea buckthorn juice, and a few leaves and twig bits. First mash with a potato masher to get any berries that have detached fully pulped. Then, strain through a sieve and then through a muslin bag to remove any debris.

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Finally, here is your lovely juice. One other advantage of doing it this way instead of simmering the berries, is that the heat doesn’t reduce the vitamin levels and, if drunk fresh, you’ll also have the benefits of those health-giving enzymes.

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However, to make it palatable and to preserve it in any quantity, you will need to heat it with sugar to make a syrup. But only after you’ve used some fresh to make marinades, sauces, sorbet, cheesecake, coulis and a whole host of tasty dishes!

Nutritional profile of sea buckthorn berry

Sea buckthorn (antioxidant ORAC profile: 70,000) contains high levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids (essential for good immunity), flavonoids (good for your heart) and phytosterols (which help to reduce LDL cholesterol).

Sea buckthorn also has a complete fatty acid profile that includes omega-3s, -6s, -7s and -9s.

It is equivalent to açai berry in its high levels of antioxidants, with the advantage over açai of its omega complex profile.

Did you know?

Apparently the ancient Greeks noticed that when their horses fed on sea buckthorn leaves, their coats turned glossy and shiny. This is where the botanical name of Hippophae comes from. Hippo means horse and phaos means to shine.

Winter Chanterelle mushrooms

The last week of October. It’s dark by 6, there’s a chill in the air, and the trees are wearing their full autumn colours. The wild mushroom season is drawing to a close… or is it?

Look closely among the fallen leaves, for a mushroom that is almost perfectly camouflaged. The Winter Chanterelle or Yellowfoot (Craterellus tubaeformis).

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It’s easy to identify with its dull brown cap, pale grey hymenium (the bit underneath!) of false gills that extend down the yellow stem. You’ll find it under spruce, pine and beech.

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It’s as tasty as the Common Chanterelle with a stronger and more peppery flavour, and less fruitiness. It also lends itself to drying unlike its summer counterpart. It’s robust enough to handle itself well in a soup or a stew as well as the classics: toast, omelettes and creamy garlicky pasta. Pair with wood sorrel, one of the last of the winter greens.

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Porcini Parma Lasagne

This is a delicious dish that’s easy to make using most kinds of mushrooms, particularly porcini (ceps), oyster mushrooms, chicken of the woods, and any other firm textured fungi. I’ve put both carnivore and vegetarian options.

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Ingredients
1 pack fresh lasagne sheets
3-4 large porcini
1 pack Parma ham/pancetta
or 1 small bunch of asparagus
1 wedge Parmesan cheese
50g butter
50g flour
500ml milk
Salt, black pepper, pink pepper, bay leaf and ground nutmeg.

Directions
Put spices in milk, bring to boil then remove from gas and leave to infuse for 10 minutes while you thinly slice your porcini.

Grate your Parmesan ideally in a mill or food processor.

Melt butter in a saucepan over a low heat, add flour to make a paste then slowly add the milk stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add half the Parmesan and check it is well seasoned. You should end up with a medium thick béchamel sauce. I particularly like the addition of a generous amount of freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper.

Put some béchamel in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, then sheets of lasagne, then béchamel, then a layer of porcini, salt and pepper, followed by a layer of Parma ham or split, trimmed asparagus (or both!), a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, then another layer of béchamel, another layer of lasagne sheets and so on.

Once you reach the top of your dish finish with a layer of béchamel, then sprinkle with Parmesan and dot on some slices of butter.

Put in a medium hot oven (190C) for half an hour until cooked through and brown on the top.

Serve with a wild rocket, watercress and sorrel salad or other late wild edible greens. For salad dressing mix olive oil with some elderberry balsamic vinegar infused with a clove of crushed garlic.

Serves 6-8

The following pictures are of a hen of the woods lasagne with streaky pancetta bacon and Parmesan.

For extra umami add one layer of pre soaked dulse seaweed!

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Porcini Mushroom and Walnut Soup

This is an absolutely delicious soup. Ceps Boletus edulis and walnuts make perfect partners. It is also very quick and easy to make.

Ingredients
1 onion
500 grams fresh porcini (ceps)
1.25 litres of chicken stock
(or 2 organic Kallo chicken stock cubes
1.4 litres of water)
A handful of shelled, chopped walnuts
1 dessert spoon walnut oil
50g butter
1 dessert spoon flour
4-5 tablespoons cream
Salt, pepper and nutmeg

Makes 8 bowls

Directions
Clean the mushrooms by brushing and shaving off any dirt and wiping them over with kitchen paper. Chop them and leave to one side. Slice the onion finely.

Sauté the onion in half the butter, in a large saucepan, until it starts to soften. Add the porcini and sauté gently, adding the rest of the butter and the walnut oil. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Sauté for a further five minutes until the mushrooms start to soften too.

Sprinkle over the flour and mix in well with a wooden spoon then start to slowly add the warm stock, blending well with the spoon to prevent any lumps. Once all the stock is in, add the handful of walnuts. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Now adjust the seasoning and add the cream. Serve immediately or, if prepared in advance of the meal, reheat before serving.

When serving, put into warmed bowls, drizzle a touch of chilli oil on and add some grated or pared Parmesan curls.

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Giant porcini mushroom

One of my guests on Sunday’s Fabulous Fungi Walk spotted this huge penny bun. Also known as ceps or porcini Boletus edulis this monster mushroom weighed about 850 grams. Still very far off the recently found 3 kilo Polish porcini!

Often mushrooms this size are past their best, but this one had firm, fragrant flesh, was completely maggot-free. We ate half with my guests, fried gently in butter with salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and a dash of cream. Given their reaction I think they’ll all be foraging again soon!

The other half we had later for supper. Cooked in a similar way with the addition of a splash of white wine, more cream, reduced to a sauce and tossed with crumbled Parmesan into fresh penne pasta. Delicious!

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There are many wonderful ways to cook porcini as it lends it’s deep, earthy taste to many dishes. One of my favourites is fresh Porcini and Walnut Soup. When you find big ones, it is also worth making a Porcini Parma Lasagne. This also works well with common puffballs, birch or bay boletes and other large, firm fungi.

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