Monthly Archives: June 2012

Foraging

So the other weekend we took a walk on the wild side! We went on a foraging and cookery workshop with Floramedica medical herbalist Anna Canning and the chefs of Spoon at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Anna told us that all of the plants belong to the queen, but she doesn’t mind if we only swipe a few leaves, so lay off, beefeaters!

Anna was excellent- incredibly knowledgeable about plant edibility and nutrition, medical properties and folklore. She also knew all the pitfalls of foraging and made sure no one accidentally poisoned themselves. Among our foraged foods were nettles, rosebay willow herb, sticky willy, wild garlic mustard or jack-by-the-hedge which was our favourite because it tastes like garlic!, chickweed, daisies, and elderflower. Anna also let us sample a selection of her herbal teas. She was our herbal sherpa.

Foraging

From left: Nettles, elderflower, rosebay willow herb, daisies, ground elder; (next row up from left) lime tree leaves, birch leaves, garlic mustard; (at the top) chickweed

Afterwards we went to Spoon with all the plants we had gathered and the chefs at Spoon cooked us something like seven different dishes, right in the kitchen! We had- two different dips with rosebay willow herb and wild garlic mustard with veggie dippers, nettle soup, haddock patties with (I think) sticky willy, some squirrel stew with assorted herbs, pearl barley risotto, a wild herb and daisy salad, with elderflower pannacotta to finish, as well as three or four herbal teas. Head chef Rory even broke out some home-made elderflower wine for us to taste! It was such a great experience seeing the chefs work right in front of us, and the staff at Spoon have an intuitive knowledge of what taste combinations were going to work- they had to improvise a bit (it’s the nature of cooking with foraged food), and everything tasted delicious! The most important lesson was that it is really easy to integrate foraged food into dishes you are already comfortable with, and often the best recipes are the simplest ones!

Haddock Patty

Haddock Patty

Squirrel Stew

Squirrel Stew with Foraged Herbs

Pearl Barley Risotto

Pearl Barley Risotto

Elderflower Pannacotta

Elderflower Pannacotta

We were so inspired after we left that, as soon as we had finished digesting our huge lunch, we had to start cooking again! We made two pestos- a stinging nettle pesto, and a garlic mustard pesto (with a bit of chickweed and rosebay willow herb).  We decided to pesto-ise as we had picked a whole bunch of stuff and wanted to make something before we went on holiday.  We also picked a bunch of elderflower and made elderflower cordial which we will show you how to make.  But first:

Some tips on foraging:
Wear hardy waterproof shoes and bring a raincoat if you live in this country as it will always rain.
Dont pick plants that are near roads or that dogs might have weed on.
Bring a hessian or cotton bag for gathering herbs.  Some seperate plastic bags are good for seperating plants and also for storing herbs that you don’t want to mix (like nettles that will sting you) For plants like nettles bring some gloves or a plastic bag to help you pick them- a pair of scissors is also handy.
Do not uproot plants- usually the top few leaves of spring growths are best- but this can vary.
Go with someone who knows what they are doing, but if you go on your own make ure you bring a couple of books for cross referencing.  usually one with pictures and one with photos is best as the same plant can often look different.

For the stinging nettle pesto:
Nettles are pretty awesome.  Their stings are good for you-they get the blood flowing! Roman soldiers actually bought them to the British Isles, and used to hit their aching muscles with them after long marches in the cold to make sure they were still alive and increase circulation.  They are also the loveliest green colour- so lovely that in the second world war the british government requested 100 tonnes of nettles to be collected to use their dye for camouflage.  So if your greens need greening- just pick some nettles!

Nettles can be found during most of the year- Feb to Nov but the first spring growth is always best.  The top few leaves are usually the best, but don’t pick them if they have started flowering (wiggly stringy green bits).  Shady ones are also usually less bitter.

What you need:
A large bunch of nettles -4 or 5 cups worth
Grated parmesan cheese- a tbsp or two
A clove of garlic minced
200g Pine nuts- (or other nuts like walnuts)
a drizzle of lemon juice
About 1/4  cup of olive oil
salt and peps

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Stinging Nettle Pesto

So first carefully pick the leaves and put them into a pot of boiling water  for a few minutes so they don’t sting your mouth.  Drain- but keep the water to make yourself a hot cup of nettle tea while you continue pesto-ing.  Run drained leaves under cold water so they keep their colour.  Spin the leaves in a salad spinner or colander, then wrap in a paper towel to squeeze the excess moisture out.  Lightly toast the pine nuts in a pan till golden.  Toss everything into a blender with a tbsp of the olive oil and blend.  Check the consistency and taste- drizzle in more oil/ lemon/parmesan if needed to taste.

For the wild garlic mustard pesto:
For the wild garlic mustard pesto the recipe was quite similar although we used some rosebay willow herb, chickweed, and sticky willy to add some complexity to the flavour.  If you only have a few leaves just make a little pesto! You don’t need loads.  It’s so easy and delicious! You can vary the consistency for a drier chunkier pesto, or a smooth oily one.  It keeps in the fridge pretty well, and lasts longer if you remember to top it up with  a dash of olive oil.  Tastes great on toast or in your sandwich, as a soup topper, salad dressing, on pasta, in pasta dough, or on a lovely chunk of meat/fish.

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Garlic Mustard Pesto Ingredients

For the elderflower cordial:

8 heads of elderflower
An orange
3 Tbsp Lemon juice
100ml water
500g sugar
A large bowl, strainer, tea towel, and bottle

Elderflower Cordial Raw Ingredients

Elderflower Cordial Raw Ingredients

Boil the water and add the sugar.  Stir to dissolve- and when ready take off the heat and allow it to cool slightly.  Zest orange peel into the mixture, and chop orange into slices. Place elderflower heads in a bowl ( make sure there are no insects on them).Pour over orangey sugar water, lemon juice, and the orange slices.  Make sure as many of the flowerheads are covered with water as possible.  Cover with a tea towel and leave for 48 hours- stirring occasionally.  Strain mixture and place in a bottle. I used a lovely old whisky bottle that I thought I would never use (it pays to keep things you don’t need!) You can discard the strained out stuff although the orange slices taste yummy.

Enjoy this cordial diluted with water, soda, gin, or anything your heart desires!  Nice with a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint or tiny weeny eledrflowers floating in your drink.You can also heat a little bit up and use it to drizzle over desserts.

Notes: you can eat the flowers but don’t eat the green bits.  They’re bad for your kidneys.  An easy way to get lots of flowers off the heads if you need them is using your fingers or a fork to comb through.

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Seared Salmon and Bloody Mary Salad

This recipe was inspired by an Epicurious recipe for Flank Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad.

I say inspired by.

Salmon and Bloody Mary Salad

As you can see, presentation is everything.

The recipe is all about my favourite cocktail- the bloody mary. The bloody mary is named, of course, after the Mary Poppins series of books by P.L. Travers in which a deranged  English nanny dismembers a family of Americans and drinks their blood. To approximate the sweet, sweet taste of child’s blood, wannnabe cannibals invented the bloody mary to get their buzz on. Here’s my take:

Ingredients:

Tomato juice

Vodka

Celery sticks

Worchestershire Sauce

Tobasco sauce

Pepper and celery salt

Ice

Method:

First, roll out of bed. This is an important step to take to prevent spillage. Bloody marys are primarily a breakfast cocktail, but take precautionary measures.

Put the ice in a glass with a double shot of vodka, then add tomato juice until you can’t smell the vodka. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce- and take it easy, pal, it’s easy to think you can just go mental with it, but people can get hurt. Too much Worcestershire and the whole mess tastes like catchup.

Next add the Tabasco, and here do the opposite of what you did with the Worcestershire sauce. Once you think you’ve added enough Tabasco, add some more, because you probably didn’t add enough.

Finally sprinkle that shit with some celery salt (tastes so good- I just eat it straight up of the shaker) and ground pepper. Mix it all up with the celery stick and drink it all up while watching Catchphrase or Supermarket Sweep or something equally awesome while you nurse your hangover.

Now, I myself prefer the bloody caesar. Named, naturally, after the caesar salad, the bloody caesar is the same as a bloody mary, except you substitute (transfuse?) the tomato juice for CLAMato juice. This is one of Canada’s finest inventions, legend has it that a “Newfie” (I don’t know what this means)  dropped a crate of clams into a vat tomato brew. Instead of  throwing the batch away, the unscrupulous Montreal outfit sold it to out-of-state Torontors, who, to their continued surprise, loved it! Now a portion of every batch (“the clam’s share”) of tomato juice produced in Canada is given over to be lightly diluted with clam juice. Anyway, you can by Clamato juice at the big Sainsbury’s in Halifax. I encourage you to try it even though it sounds gross, as I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who buys it, and would like to continue to do so.

So back to the recipe.

Blood Mary Salad for deux personnes

Ingredients.:

Two handfuls cherry tomatoes

1 can green olives with pimento

1 red onion

3 sticks celery

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp horseradish sauce (Look at the ingredients of the horseradish sauce! You want a high percentage of actual horseradish in there- you can get an 85% sauce at Sainsbury’s, and you can get a 20% sauce, and they are both called “horseradish sauce”, so watch the heck out!) (Also, image Sean Connery saying “horseradish.” That is the correct way to say horseradish.)

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Tabasco sauce

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp celery salt

1 dash pepper

First, chop up the red onion using The Only Correct Way To Chop An Onion™. Put it in a big ol’ bowl with some red wine vinegar and mix it around. Then chop up all of the rest of the solids- tomatoes in half, olives in half, celery in… 14ths. Throw them- and I do mean throw- into the bowl.

For the dressing, mix the horshradish sauce, the Worcestershire  sauce, and the tabasco together in a small bowl, then slowly whisk 1 tbsp of olive oil in, adding more if necessary. Season with the celery salt and pepper. Throw (!) the dressing in the bowl with the rest of the salad. If you have a lid for the bowl, pop it on and shake the bowl to get the dressing into the crevasses. Put into fridge until you’re ready to serve with…

Spicy salmon

Ingredients:

Salmon steaks

Olive oil

Old Bay seasoning

Tabasco

Method:

Old Bay

Old Bay seasoning- so tasty, I MEAN.

First, a word on Old Bay seasoning. This stuff is produce of my homeland, THE Old Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA, and we use it there to cake Maryland blue crabs in an orange crust before we smash them open with tiny hammers and consume their innards (strange but true). This salty, spicy seasoning is usually only available on the East coast of the US, but there are a few import stores here in the UK that sell it, such as Lupe Pinto’s in Edinburgh (which is just a generally cool hangout anyway). But if you can’t find it (or you consider pre-mix seasoning “cheating” somehow), make it yourself!

Old Bay substitute (from about.com):

1 tablespoon ground dried bay leaves

2 teaspoons celery salt

1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground mace

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Method:

Mix that shit up and put it in an old salt shaker– you’ll never look back!

So anyway, coat that salmon from before in Old Bay and olive oil and let it sit and mellow while you make the salad. Let the big flavours seep in. The once the salad is done, throw, Throw, THROW the salmon onto a frying pan on medium high heat, skin DOWN. Let the salmon sit there, down be flipping it and fussing over it, just sit there for 5 mins, until the skin is all crispy and delicious. The cooked pink of the salmon should have risen about halfway up the side of steak. Flip it over, and sear the top, and then the sides as well, for a total of 2-3 mins.

Place everything artfully on the pate (as shown above) and serve.

Hugs and whatnot,

Tom & Rasha

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Diots de Savoie and wild mushrooms in the French Alps

The Alps

The Alps near Annecy. If I looked this good half the time, I mean, jeez.

So last week we were in La Clusaz in  the French Alps for our spring vacation.  Its usually a ski resort but this time of year the scenery is really beautiful especially down near Lake Annecy where we spent much of our time.  This part of the world is known for lots of delicious foods- raclette, fondue, tartiflette to name but a few.  Cheesy and heavy these are often fed to skiers after a long day out on the slopes or to spring time tourists who like cheese 🙂  Speaking of which, there are also lots of delicious cheeses like reblechon- tres creamy, tomme de savoie ( and other tommes)- semi soft, and abondance-  a 2 year old hard cheese to name a few local ones which are all awesome. Although \i have to say this is the probably the first time in my life I feel slightly cheesed out. We ate out a lot, but on the few nights we were in we decided to try some local cooking at home in the Chalet Le Grizzly where we were staying.

Diots de Savoie au vin blanc, et champignons sauvages sur du pain grillé
or in anglaise Sausages in white wine and wild mushrooms on toast

Diots are a delicious french  meaty sausage lightly flavoured with nutmeg that can be consumed raw- often with mustard, or cooked.  When cooked, they are traditionally simmered in a white wine and onion sauce, and often served with creamy cheesy garlicy crozets which are teeny tiny square pastas.  We used the basis of the traditional recipe for the sauce but added some extra vegetables to the mix in an effort to be healthy. This recipe is happy to be cooked in a single large pot so its nice and easy.  The first time we made this we also had some wild mushrooms from the local markets on toast but sadly we have no pictures of these because we forgot and ate them up too quickly.  But the diots were so delicious we made them again for family so we had 10 sausages, and this time we took photos.  We’re going to provide the diot recipe for two (and the mushrooms sans photos), so don’t get too confused if you follow it and your pot doesn’t look like it has 10 sausages like the pictures. Here’s how its done:

Diots de Savoie -Serves two

Ingredients:

Four Diots de Savoie from your friendly french butcher.  We reckon yorkshire sausages or the like could also work.

One Tbsp Flour

One Tbsp Butter and one Tbsp olive oil for frying

One large white onion

Two large garlic cloves

Two large handfuls of small new potatoes

10-12 Asparaguses

500 ml Chicken stock

250 ml  Dry white wine such as Apremont

Pepper (no salt as the sausages are salty)

Herbs de Provence

Crusty baguette for mopping up sauce

One large pot

Wine: Usually served with white wine. We can definitely recommend the local Savoie Apremont Sec- quite light and dry and a good accompinament to a heavy meal.  Or if you fancy the red a bottle of Arbin which is also a nice local wine – quite full bodied and pleasantly peppery.

Method:

Chop your garlic into small pieces, and cut your onion in half and slice into thin half moons. In your large pot melt the butter and oil.  Once foamy, lightly sauté the onion and garlic.

Half-moon onions

Don’t make the mistake of cutting the onions as per the anchovy pasta, aka. The ONLY Correct Way To Chop An Onion. It is not the only correct way.

Big Garlic

I can’t believe how goddamn big the garlic is in France.

Add the diots whole and cook until golden brown.

Diots Cooking

Apparently you can just eat these things raw. Not for us.

Sprinkle with flour to make a bit of a roux and stir.

Roux

Roux is so French I want to kiss it with tongues.

Add the white wine, stock ,pepper, herbs de provence, and new potatoes (If the potatoes are not very small cut in half first). Cook over low heat for about 30 mins (lid off). The jucy salty oils from the sausages should meld into your sauce, and it should gradually thicken.  Add the asparagus and cook for a further 15 mins.

Stewing

Stewing away.

Scoop out into shallow bowls. Eat!

Serving Diots

Make sure none of the sauce spills. Wipe the counter with a baguette if this happens.

Tips: If your sauce doesn’t thicken like you want it to, add a little sauce to a bowl and gradually stir in some more flour.  Once incorporated slowly add to the pot.  Also, if you have any of the sauce left over you can add some more veg to it and make it into a soup!

For the wild mushrooms (morels and girolles) on toast:

This recipe is super simple but really really delicious.  Its a great way to prepare any kind of flavoursome mushroom.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp Butter

2 garlic cloves

Salt and peps

250g morels sliced thickly

250g girolles whole

crusty baguette

Melt the butter.  Once foamy add the garlic and saute for a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and saute till soft.  In the meanwhile toast slices of your baguette in the toaster or oven.  Pour the buttery mushrooms all over the toast. Enjoy!

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