As the Lockdown begins to bite we are eating our way through the garden. Fortunately, we’ve been foraging for many years and so have well honed recipes for our ‘weeds’.
Here is a first selection of my weed recipes! Apologies to all god children, friends and former friends who were forced to eat prototype versions of these. Well you all survived……..
Ingredients: (For 4)
120 grams Stinging Nettle tips.
Half a small onion, no more. We used half our last onion which prevented us using too much! (Chopped finely).
1 large garlic clove or a couple of wild garlic leaves. (Chopped).
A stalk of lovage, with leaves. Or a celery top will do. (Chopped).
A handful of chives. (Chopped).
An eighth of a good sized celeriac. (Chopped into 1 inch hunks).
Up to 750 ml stock. (General chicken & veg or just veg).
Dollop of thick yoghurt or Greek yoghurt or Alpro ‘Greek’ or Creme fraiche.
Salt & pepper. Pansies for garnish.
This meal is a by-product of gardening.
Harvest the Stinging Nettles. If you are doing a lot of gardening at the moment, consider it payday. Although most nettle recipes tell you to diligently harvest only the tips, this is bullshit. Extirpate them! Pull up the beggars up and sort them out later. Oh, and wear gloves and you need a lot of them, so it’s useful gardening. (You can pick nettles in the Spring only – March to May. They must NOT have started to flower).
Sort the nettles out. KEEP YOUR GLOVES ON! You only want the tips, NO stems or large leaves. It’s best just to have the top 2 leaves only. Wash & get rid of any stems and bugs that are sneaking through. Weigh to have your 120 grams or a few more.
In a large deep frying pan with a lid (or sauté pan or wok if we are being fancy), really gently fry the onion in olive oil. Add the Lovage after a few minutes; then add the Chives.
In separate pot:
Cover the Celeriac with water and boil for about 10 mins until it has just softened. Remove and add to the onion/lovage mix. Reserve Celeriac juice. (There should be about 250 ml of this). Toss the Celeriac around in the pan, while frying.
Add a tablespoon of Celeriac juice to frying pan. Cook on for 10 mins on moderate heat, covered.
Add 500 ml stock plus 250 ml celeriac water, bring up to near boiling.
Add 120 grams nettle tops top up with further stock up to 3 ladle fulls. You don’t want too much as you want to keep the ‘creaminess’.
Cook the Nettles for 5 mins on medium – high heat. Uncovered
Pour into saucepan, and blend with a hand-held electric blender for several mins until a smooth bright green soup!(Or use a blender, but then you may have to warm it up again).
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with Violas or small Pansies. Add a dollop of thick yoghurt or Alpro Greek and salt and black pepper at table to taste.
Very tasty -“Weed patch to tummy in an hour!” says Lynette.
Serve with an acidic white wine such as a good Vinho Verde or Albarinho. Strangely not good with Chenin nor we suspect Sauvignon.
STINGING NETTLE SOUFFLÉ
100 grams of nettle tops from young early season nettles, (these can be
stinging nettles or dead nettles).
125 ml kefir (milk or soya)
2 medium eggs
1 desert spoon very good quality almond milk. (Or more Kefir).
Salt and black pepper
100 grams of feta or ‘greek block’.
Select the nettles carefully and with care; ie, while wearing gloves!
Wash the nettle tops, then boil them for about 1 & 1/2 minutes.
Drain well and squeeze out ALL excess water.
Using a blender or a hand blender, grind the nettles into a pulp.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites.
Beat the egg yolks then their stir these in, also stirring in the Kefir, Almond Milk, Feta and Salt & Pepper.
Whisk the whites until stiff, then fold in until well distributed through the mix.
Pour into 4 oiled large individual ramekins or a couple of oven proof deep dishes.
Put the ramekins in a water bath about 1/2 cm deep.
Put this water bath into a preheated oven (180 degrees C) for 40 minutes, by which time IT SHOULD HAVE RISEN!
Serve immediately or it will collapse!!!
Likewise as above, serve with a good acidic white wine.
GEORGIAN-STYLE RABBIT (or CHICKEN) “Chakapuli”
This dish also uses up the garden and is ideal for road kill or a good way of making Tesco’s cheap and nasty chicken more interesting.
Ingredients: (For 2 good apetites).
1/3 bottle White Wine
A cullender full of Sorrel.
A handful of fresh Tarragon or a good couple of teaspoons dried Tarragon.
Some fresh herbs such as Rosemary and Sage.
Some Wild Garlic leaves.
Some Fenugreek of some kind. Blue Fenugreek would be best, but is hard to find in UK shops at the best of times, so a little Indian Fenugreek, (‘Methi’), will do.
Take a jointed Rabbit (or chicken thighs) sautée with in butter, olive oil spread or mild olive oil. Add some chopped Wild Garlic leaves. (Go easy with these unless you know their strength!)
– Then add wine and cook fast uncovered for a few minutes, but do not allow to burn.
– Then add a few baby leeks or spring onions, lots of sorrel, some tarragon, and a bit of rosemary, sage, ground fenugreek, plus salt & pepper.
– Cover and cook on a low heat for 15 mins later
– Add a dash of wine vinegar and several chopped plums or damsons.
It’s ready a few mins later.
Serve with a Green Salad with a Georgianish-style dressing (ground walnuts, salt, wine vinegar, powdered marigolds if you have them to hand, and a bit of oil).
Also Svanetian Potatoes. (Very easy. Think Bombay Potatoes, except with Svanetian Salt as prepared by the Svan people of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, rather than Garam Marsala). If Tesco doesn’t have any Svanetian Salt in stock, mix a small handful of good salt with 2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp each of dill, fenugreek, paprika and marigold, plus a little cumin or coriander. If you haven’t got any dried marigold, raid a neighbour’s garden for some fresh flowers.
Ah and WINE! A Georgian wine. A white or perhaps a Rkatsiteli Amber or one of the lighter Georgian reds, such as a Shavkapito. Not a full on red Saperavi and certainly not a semi-sweet red.
(Failing a suitable Georgian wine, any really heavy white, maybe a Rhone, or a mid-weight, dark and up-lifted (but not oaky) red. Egs: a good Chinon or a Ribera del Duero Crianza).
NEAR STARVATION WEED PIE
This dish will be very useful if the lockdown goes on much longer.
Ingredients: Forage lots of Sorrel, plus some early season Nettle tops, young Ground Elder leaves and Dandilion leaves, stalks and flowers, plus maybe a few young leaves of Dock and Common Hogweed if you know what you are doing or are very hungry. Also gather some Lovage and fresh Oregano / Marjoram if you have any in the garden.
Garlic or some Wild Garlic Leaves.
A couple of large Carrots .
A couple of Parsnips.
A couple of Potatoes (Optional for another layer).
Some Feta or Vegan Greek ‘Block’.
Some Wild Asparagus or fine Asparagus or Purple Sprouting Broccoli. (OR If you’re REALLY HUNGRY or an experienced and adventurous forager, you could perhaps use some fern tops instead. Even though half of Japan and Korea eat ferns, they come with a severe health warning and must be boiled thoroughly and correctly prepared before use – even then, I find them repellent and can’t recommended them).
Salt, Pepper & Olive Oil.
Method: Chop up weeds and herbs, keeping the Sorrel separate. Boil the weeds in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and press out the water.
Meanwhile, sauté a chopped up leak, a small chopped chilli and a couple of cloves of garlic in quite a lot of Olive Oil.
Chop up the Sorrel.
Chop a few bits of wild asparagus or as tender fine green asparagus or Purple Sprouting Broccoli into 2 inch lengths
Slice up the Carrots and Parsnips lengthways .
Beat 2 large eggs then combine weeds, herbs, sorrel, asparagus and leek mixture with the eggs (holding back as much oil as pos). Grind some black pepper over.
Line a casserole or lasagna dish with the carrots. Put the weed-egg mixture over this. Sprinkle crumbled feta or goat’s cheese on top. (Optional).
Put the sliced Parsnips into the oil and fry for a couple of minute. Arrange the parsnips over the top so that they fully cover the pie. Pour any remaining oil over the top.
Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or in the embers of a fire for much longer if there is no electricity.
Serve! (Goes well with a tomato dish, eg butter beans / green beans cooked with tomato, garlic & olive oil).
These recipes are all Gluten free and can be made Dairy free.