As August has been unfolding I have been sneaking up to the moors and delighting in the tinges of purple, pinks and yellow as the heath-land takes on its late-summer coat. Bell heather (Erica cinerea) is the first to appear with her larger purple bell-shaped…
Tag: ulex gallii
Five years ago I wrote a blog about my Nettle and Honey Cake – it went down a treat. Named as; ‘probably the best cake I’ve ever had’ by one enthusiastic forager, I was super pleased the result. Every so often I like to repeat…
Song, verse, sound and rhyme have been used by humans for thousands of years to communicate, respond and express. Sound is an integral part of our daily landscape. It has been used functionally (to explain things) as well as for fun and as an essential part of celebrations across the world. Rachel Lambert is a foraging teacher who has sung all her life. She sings on her own on the moor, with friends, with family, to mourn and to celebrate life. Since childhood she has learnt songs and made up songs, feeling happy to hit the right or wrong note and just enjoy singing!
Why wild singing
There is much scientific evidence to suggest that singing is good for the brain, heart, gets creative juices running, sends feel good endorphins round the body and can help counter anxiety and loneliness. Coupled with the great outdoors, which can legitimately claim similar health and well-being benefits, wild singing is a pretty good boost for the body and soul.
The benefits of using song to learn about plants
Singing about plants and nature is also part of our historical tapestry. When Rachel Lambert (Wild Walks South West) has researched past uses of plants she’s often come across poems and songs. Songs tell of plant uses, claims of curing ills, bringing love and of old traditions. Rachel has taken this idea and created new songs to tell of plant qualities she often shares with participants on her foraging courses. Songs can be a great way to remember things, as well as just enjoying the moment.
If you’d like to see snippets of other songs, or read more about this experience, you may want to view my other Wild Singing blogs. I run The Singing Forager Experience for anyone who’d like to listen to, hum along or join in. Dates for these are here; The Singing Forager Experience and details of how to book is here.
Gorse Flower Fudge Oh my god, I had such hopes with this recipe, I really thought I’d clinched it first time (which happens occasionally, though is definitely not a given). Heating it slowly, the smell of the gorse flowers was divine and the flavour of…
I warn you, this might be a blog with questions.
I did wonder what to make the title, it could have been; what’s yellow, subtle with a crisp outer and soft centre? Though it sounded too much like a chocolate advert. Here’s the answer, a recipe, and a few other questions.
Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons
I first made these macaroons a few years ago for a journalist’s break in Lamorna Cove, I’d trialled them a few times and loved the play on coconut with the association of gorse flowers – you know, that lovely coconut aroma when you pass a gorse bush on a sunny spring day. Revisiting them more recently I decided to tweak the recipe and replace the golden syrup in favour of using my own, wild, homemade gorse syrup. The result was even better and blending fresh flowers into the mix added wonderfully to the colour too.
These Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons are light and moist with a slightly crispy outer, coloured and scented with gorse flowers. Well to be honest, the colour is bright and the scent subtle with just a sniff of moorland gorse flowers, though friends decided the recipe was too good to exclude.
Which asks the question; what’s important? Using wild food for the nutrition, the flavour or the fun and the experiment of it all? I’ll let you answer that for yourself, though for me, we enjoyed the macaroons, a lot. And maybe, just maybe knowing they were handmade, and incorporated something wild and fresh increased that pleasure and their goodness. After all, my understanding is that relaxing pleasures can also increase the body’s ability to absorb nutrients well – making it a win-win situation.
Back to the recipe.
Coconut macaroons are so much easier to make than the French macarons, which I’ve never tried to make as I’d heard too many stories and rumours about the failure to success ratio. You can’t go wrong with these, just gather some gorse flowers at any time of year, a few extra ingredients and set to. Oh, and they’re gluten-free too.
Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons
250 ml gorse flower syrup
50 g unrefined sugar
A little coconut oil (for greasing)
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking powder
25 g fresh gorse flowers
30 g ground almonds
250 g desiccated coconut
Place the syrup in a small pan with the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to 180ml and thickened a little, it will thicken more as it cools. Pour into a jug or food processor and blend in the fresh flowers and leave to cool. Grease a baking tray and pre-heat the oven at 150°C. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they begin to stiffen then add the baking powder.
In a second bowl combine the ground almonds and coconut, and then pour in the flower syrup. Fold in the egg whites until the mixture is even and using one tablespoon per macaroon, spoon onto a greased baking tray. The macaroons should be in slightly loose rounds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and crispy around the edges and remove from the tray while still warm. Keeps well in an air-tight container.
Part of the fun of foraging for me is coming home with a wonderful choice of unusual ingredients to cook and create with, or drying them to use another day. In my kitchen pretty much anything goes, of course there have been disasters along the way, though I’ve also had some pretty successful surprises.
Foraging also gives me the benefits of broadening my nutrition through a wide range of foods. It’s impossible for me to know everything that my body needs (or would take a lot of expensive analysis), though I do know that by including different seasonal plants and seaweeds I’m more likely to be feeding myself micro-nutrients that would be easy to miss.
For example, we all know that life provides a myriad of stresses and that good nutrition helps to counter the effects of and helps to reduce stress. Though did you know that in particular, seaweed provides up to 56 different essential minerals and trace elements for the human body. Wow.
I first came across sargassum seaweed (also known as wireweed and used to be known as japweed) in Sonia Surey-Gent and Gordon Morris’ book: Seaweed A User’s Guide; an unassuming and valuable book. Here, sargassum muticum is given high acclaim;
‘Sargassum… eaten as a powder with a drink of water, provides all the nutrients needed by the body, with hardly any calories.’
Hmm, all the nutrients needed by the body… sometimes I need a strong reminder to use seaweed. Feeling in the mood to make bread I decided to grab some dried gorse flowers, and the dried and ground sargassum that had been hanging around the kitchen waiting (too long) to be used.
This is what I came up with, complete with a sprinkling of nutrients, made with love and enjoyed with organic chicken soup after a cold and beautiful evening round the fire with friends.
Gorse Flower and Sargassum Seaweed Focaccia
A slightly sweet and nutty bread, with all the lovely texture that focaccia normally has, perfect with cheese and salad, with soup, or drizzle with gorse flower syrup if you fancy something even sweeter.
300ml warm water
100ml gorse flower syrup
1 dessert spoon dried yeast
500g organic strong white bread flour
handful of dried gorse flowers (2x handful of fresh is fine)
1 tsp dried and ground sargassum seaweed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
1 heaped tsp sea salt
Pour the water and syrup into a jug and stir in the dried yeast. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, flowers, seaweed, oil and salt, mix in half the water and with clean hands, combine and knead for 5 minutes, gradually adding the rest of the water. Now for the fun part – stretch and pull the dough for at least another 5 minutes before placing on an oiled surface and kneading for a further 5 minutes. Your dough is now ready to rest (and maybe you too), so pop it back in the mixing bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size. Preheat the oven the 220°C and flatten the dough into a large, oiled tin and leave to rise for another 1/2 an hour, and prod your fingers into the dough at evenly spaced intervals to give the traditional focaccia topping effect.
Scatter the top with extra gorse flowers (if you have), a little olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden onto and hollow sounding when tapped. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before using a fish slice, or similar to remove from the tin and leave to cool on a cooling rack. Slice into squares and eat fresh. Lasts well for 2 or 3 days.
Rachel’s Seaweed book talks you through identification, sustainable processing and drying of sargassum muticum seaweed.