Nettle Soup

Weed Recipes for Lockdown

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……..

 

NETTLE SOUP

Ingredients: (For 4)

120 grams Stinging Nettle tips.

Nettle Soup

Nettle Soup

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.

Method:

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

Rejected nettles

Sort and reject stems and large leaves

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’.

Method:

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).

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

1 Rabbit

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.

Method:

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.

A Leek

Garlic or some Wild Garlic Leaves.

A couple of large Carrots .

A couple of Parsnips.

A couple of Potatoes (Optional for another layer).

2 Eggs.

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).

Tim Clarke Foraging

The author foraging for sorrel.

These recipes are all Gluten free and can be made Dairy free.

Ma’s Spiced Christmas Ham Recipe

Turkey is a boring bird, why have it at the Christmas feast?

We’re not, we’re having a GOOSE. However, we’ll demolish the whole thing in one lunch with only a few bits left over for a snack supper with bubble & squeak. So we need something else to feed the assembled hordes and that, is a spiced Christmas Ham.

Ingredients:

1 Large Smoked Gammon ham, rind on, off the bone. A green Gammon can be used if you prefer. (Mine is 8 kilos ie 17 lb). Actually, I’ve done it on the bone too – it’s just that it bigger and more cumbersome.

Several pints of vegetable stock, spiced with a small handful of All Spice and several Bay leaves.

Cloves (lots of them), soft brown sugar, demerara sugar, Ginger Ale, Cider and Mustard powder.

For the final phase: 4 large unwaxed oranges. Squeezed the juice, grate the zest of the peel.

Method:

First, weigh you ham and work out how much stock you will need….

Make the vegetable stock if you haven’t already. Grate up a couple of large onions, a washed leek, a couple of large carrots, a few sticks of celery, a parsnip and some lovage if you have any. In a large pan, fry it all together in basic olive oil, tossing and stirring for a few minutes. Add a few bay leaves, a small handful of all spice, black pepper and maybe some thyme or lemon thyme. Then add the water – you’ll need several pints – enough to cover the ham when you boil it. Bring to boil and cook pretty vigorously for 10 minutes.

Ham into very big pan – add the stock, straining it. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 12 and a half minutes per pound, (30 minutes per kilo) – then let the ham sit in the stock as it cools.

Fish the ham out of the stock and then carefully strip off the skin, leaving on all the fat.

Make a series of deep incisions into the fat (not quite to the meat) across the whole ham then at right angles, making diamonds which should be about 1 inch across.

Stud the ham with cloves, putting a clove into the centre of each diamond and one in any odd triangles of fat. You want a lot of cloves…..  It should look a bit like “Pain” from “Hellraiser”.  If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, no matter, you need a LOT of cloves.

Pour some Ginger Ale over the ham, then dust with a little mustard powder and sprinkle well with soft brown sugar.

Put on a roasting tray that allows you to baste. Slam it in a hot oven 230c. fat side up for 20 – 30 minutes (according to size).

After a few minutes, pour some cider over the ham..

a few minutes later pour some ginger ale, then again orange juice.

Shut the oven double quick each time.

After this, baste with the pan juices dredging up the sugar. Repeat this, 3 times.

Take out of the oven and pile up a crust of demerara sugar and course-grated orange zest on the fat.

Return to the oven at 180c. for 30 minutes. Do NOT baste. Drink the remaining cider.

Just as good cold as hot, if not better!

I got this recipe from my mother a few years ago and it’s the delicious Christmas flavour from my childhood. I’ve never had a ham like it but I don’t think it’s an original. I’m pretty sure it came from Constance Spry and she modified it a bit.

Sorry haven’t got a photo of this. I will have after Christmas, but that, is a fat lot of use!

Autumn recipes. Time for Ceps!

The first of the food blogs

 Autumn;  game, mushrooms, fruit, nuts….. especially mushrooms, especially if it stops raining and we have a few warm dry days. Firstly, yes, we do get Ceps in England and indeed in Hampshire, where they grow on warm sandy sites and we have a few. Also some of the other Boletes, such as Bay Boletes and Red-cracked Boletes are common and these are useful too.

The Cep, Porcini or Penny Bun, king of mushrooms

The first recipe is a northern Spanish classic. I first had it when we were setting up the Rioja Vineyard Walk and was hooked instantly. The trick is to get the liquid right, you don’t want too much of it coming out of the Ceps (and prawns) at a late stage in the process.

The second is a Veronese Risotto, hence it uses the super-absorbent Vialone Nano rice and not much stirring. It should be creamy but the rice grains should be fairly firm still. 

And the third is one of my own, a rich Pheasant casserole-roast

  

REVUELTOS CON SETAS (Scrambled Eggs with Ceps)    Serves 2

 Ingredients:   4 large good quality Eggs.  

16 medium sized prawns (Optional)

100 – 150g Ceps

Dash of mild olive oil    30g butter / Bertoli              

 A little lemon juice   Salt   Chopped Parsley

 

PREP. 

Discard any damaged parts of the Ceps.

Cut Ceps into thick slices

If using uncooked prawns, cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes.

Beat the eggs in a bowl. Season.

 

Fry the Ceps with little mild olive oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat for about 2 minutes – stirring.

Add a few drops of lemon juice and some salt, but NO pepper. Vap off any juice.

Bring the temperature down and add the Prawns if you are using them.

Add a little butter / Bertoli or something similar, to the pan.

Pour the egg into the pan and cook on a gentle heat stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it is cooked.

Add chopped parsley and serve.

 

Wine: 

Delicious, but pretty hopeless with wine. Better than straight scrambles eggs, I suppose, so you could try Champagne…. I think I had a Sin Crianza red Rioja with it the first time I had it, which clearly made an impact.

 

FRESH & DRIED BOLETUS RISOTTO

Serves 4

Ingredients:   Double handful fresh edible Boletus, ideally Ceps.

                        Dried wild mushrooms.

                        150 grams Nano (or Arborio Rice)

                        1 medium onion

                        1 medium Leek

                        Half bottle dry white wine

                        Clove of garlic, crushed.

                        Mushroom stock –  (or some good chicken stock).

                        Chopped parsley leaves and Chopped parsley stalks.

                        Salt

           

PREP: Soak Dried Mushrooms in hot water for several hours.

Then cut into julienne strips & half these lengthways,

the pieces will be roughly the same size as a fully inflated grain of Nano rice.

(The dried Mushrooms bring great flavor, but their texture is uninteresting).

Reserve the juice.

Cut the Fresh Mushrooms into ¾ inch-ish hunks.

Cut leaks into 1 inch by ¼ inch-ish strips.

 

METHOD: 

Heat oil, add rice & chopped onion.

Fry the rice, but do NOT burn.

Once it has gone white / brown round the edges, add half bottle of white wine;

vap this off on a high heat for a couple of minutes.

 

Turn heat down to medium.

Add a small mug of stock, the crushed clove of garlic and a little salt;

Cover. Do not stir.

 

After 5 mins, add leak, dried mushrooms.

Test the rice, add another cup of stock.

Cover. Do not stir.

 

A couple of mins later check the rice again, it should be nearly cooked and fairly dry.

If it’s still hard, add more stock….

 

When the rice is nearly cooked

add the chopped fresh Mushrooms and chopped parsley stalks.

Add large knob of butter or similar, stir in.

 

Stir well, scaping off the bottom and folding back in.

Add rough chopped parsley leaves.

Check seasoning and add more salt if needed

and SERVE.

 

OPT. You can add Parmigiano, but take care that it doesn’t swamp the flavour.

Note:

You can dry your own Boletus. Ceps can be found in Southern England, and there are many other members of this family which you can find even more easily such as Red cracked Boletus, which do dry well.

 

WINE:

This is a Veronese style Risotto so it calls out for a good Valpolicella Classico.

 

     

    PHEASANT, CEPS & ROSEMARY                Serves 4!

    Ingredients:   2 young pheasants

                            Olive Oil

                            Rosemary – a couple of large sprigs

                            2 cloves garlic

                            Double handful of Ceps and other wild mushrooms.

                            2 medium onions rough chopped.

                            Some red wine

                            Salt & Pepper

     

    PREP: Take 2 young pheasants that died off fright rather than getting both barrels.

    Make sure that ALLthe shot and bits of feather are removed.

    Cut the Pheasant in half down backbone, and remove ribcage.

    Reserve breast.

    Remove legs & cut off the drumsticks which go into the stockpot.

    Debone the thighs. Reserve thigh meat.

     

    MAKE THE STOCK: Chop up carcass with a small axe.

    Put it in large saucepan with small bits of meat and fat, skin and drumsticks.

    Add a little oil & rosemary, brown.

    Cover with boiling water. Boil to make stock. If you have tons of time before serving make a concentrated stock now! 

    Or if not, GET IT GOING and get it well reduced by serving time….

     

    ROAST: To a large deep frying pan, add some olive oil, the Pheasant pieces, salt and black pepper, several 2 inch sprigs of Rosemary and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.  Brown the Pheasant!  

    Remove and put in a casserole /oven pan.

    Arrange so breasts are skin-up. Make sure there is a sprig of rosemary under each piece.

    All thigh-meat and any small bits should be lumped together so they don’t dry out.

    Add a couple of slugs of red wine and some stock (esp the fat from the top).

    Put into oven @ 200 for 30 mins, basting after 15 mins with more fatty stock.

    Then take out of oven, rest in a warm place.

    Put the rosemary & juices into the stockpot.

     

    FINISHING THE SAUCE:

    Get 2 rough chopped medium onions on to fry in olive oil for several mins.  

    Deglaze the cooking pan with a decent slug of red wine. – Add to stock pot which should still be reducing well. 

    Add the small Pheasant bits & thigh meat to the onion. 

    Add sliced ceps & other mushrooms.

    Add the reduced stock through a sieve.

    Check seasoning, adjust salt and pepper in needed, (however the Roast Veg should be well salted so the stock should not need more).

    The final consistency is a reduced sauce, not a liquid!

    SERVE:

    On each plate, place a breast and cover with sauce, making sure all get some thighmeat and plenty of mushrooms.

    Accompanied by Roasted root veg, including sweet potatoes.  

    And roast potatoes of course.

    WINE: A really good red burgundy with a few years ageing behind it. A Nuits-St Georges, Vosne from the south side of the village, a Gevrey or a Pommard should be ideal.