As the saying goes; 'when gorse is not in flower then kissing has gone out of fashion.' Luckily there are two types of gorse (Ulex gallii and Ulex europeaus) here in the UK (and in many places across the world) and they hybridise too. Between them, all seasons are covered with gorse flowers, because kissing never goes out of fashion!
As I write this in late summer, the gorse and heather flowers are starting to flash their colours across the moors and on cliffs near the coast. Hmm, those wonderful yellow and purple hues together make me smile.
I used to call these Gorse Martyr Cookies because these cookies wanted to look less than they are; homemade biscuits fit for a martyr not a foodie. I also wanted to keep this fab recipe to myself!
Although these are wholemeal oat cookies, they are also deceptively sweet with their rustic-looking icing. They are a favourite of mine, so I’m quite happy that they are disguised as overly humble biscuits. Made using dried gorse flowers they can be crafted any time of year.
Gorse and Oat Cookie Recipe
- 15–20 g dried gorse flowers
- 75 g butter
- 25 g soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Gorse Flower Syrup (page ..)
- 75 g rolled oats
- 75 g wholemeal flour
For the icing
- 25 g unrefined caster or icing sugar
- 2 tbsp dried gorse flowers
- 1 tbsp water or Gorse Flower Syrup
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a large baking tin. Place the gorse flowers in a small saucepan along with the butter, brown sugar and gorse syrup. Heat, stirring occasionally, over a low heat and once the butter has melted, take off the heat and leave to infuse.
In a large bowl, mix the oats and wholemeal flour. Stir in the butter and gorse mixture and combine well. Roll into 12 small balls and flatten into cookies on the baking tray. Bake for around 12 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly crispy at the edges. Allow to cool before removing from the tray.
For the icing, finely blend the flowers and sugar in a seed grinder or equivalent; the result should be a powder with tiny flecks of yellow. Mix in the water, or syrup if you have it. The consistency will be quite watery but leave to set for a few minutes before pouring it over the cooled cookies. The moisture will soak into the biscuit. Leave to dry, then enjoy as wholesome sweet snacks.
When I first used Hogweed seeds, this light, spongy textured biscuit was the carrier I chose for their unique flavour.
Perfectly balanced with flours and spice, it’s a simple, reassuring lightly spiced treat and a good place to start if your unfamiliar with hogweed’s flavour.
Hogweed is a member of the umbellifer, apiaceae, also known as carrot family. There are wonderful edibles and poisonous plants in this family and correct identification is essential.
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As part of my Sweet Wilds collection (desserts and sweet treats made from foraged and home-grown ingredients), here I introduce three ways you can turn Ground Elder into something sugar-coated. It has a tangy, refreshing flavour which is quite delightful!
Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria ) also goes by the names; herb gerard, bishop's weed, goutweed, gout wort, snow in the mountain, English or wild master wort.
Why use Ground Elder?
Ground Elder contains good amounts of vitamin C and various other medicinal benefits including being used to treat rheumatism and arthritis.
Its names goutweed, gout wort (wort means plant of worth) and bishop's weed come from using this plant to treat gout which is the result of eating too much rich foods. Rich foods was the food of bishops and monks as far back as the middle ages.
1. Fresh Ground Elder leaf icing
Blend the leaves to a fine, herby pulp, mix with icing sugar the lemon juice to a smooth paste and drizzle over cakes or biscuits. Mixture makes enough to ice one cake.
- 2 tbsp fresh ground elder leaves
- 50 g unrefined icing sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
2. Ground Elder stem sugar
This recipe is made from candying the Ground elder stems then blending them with sugar. Finely chop the stems and place in a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat. Allow to heat up then add the sugar and watch sizzle for a few minutes as the sugar and moisture is absorbed. Stir to check the process and take off the heat when the plant starts to become dry and the bottom of the pan white with the dried sugar.
Scrape off the sugar and allow to cool. Weigh the candied stem sugar and ad the same amount of sugar to a spice blender and blend to a powder with the candied stems. Use in Ground elder shortbreads.
- 50 g ground elder stems
- 25 g golden granulated sugar
- Extra sugar (to be measured)
3. Dried Ground Elder sugar
Dry the leaves. I just leave them out in a warm room, but you could use a dehydrator or place in a warm (but turned off) oven. Blend to a powder and mix well with the icing sugar. Use to dust over Ground Elder shortbreads.
- 1 tbsp dried ground elder leaves, powdered
- 1 tbsp unrefined icing sugar
Do you have Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria ), also called herb gerard, bishop's weed, goutweed or gout wort, growing in your garden? Have you tried everything to get rid of it? Why not eat it! At least then you could appreciate it for all its herby goodness.
The traditional and simple way is to use it instead of parsley as a salad garnish or in cooking. Though if, like me, you have a sweet tooth, you may want to try making these. It's a straight forward recipe, quick, cheap and they last well, once made.
Ground Elder Shortbread Recipe
An unusual recipe that uses the stems and leaves of ground elder to give an edge of green and a little pungent twist to these simple biscuits. They keep well once made too.
Makes about 40
- 250 g plain flour
- 25 g golden granulated sugar
- 35 g ground elder stem sugar
- 1/2 tbsp cornflour
- 160 ml light olive oil or sunflower oil
For the sugar dusting
- 1 dessertspoon unrefined icing sugar
- 1 dessertspoon dried ground elder leaves
In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugars and cornflour. Blend in the oil and massage to form a moist dough. Place in the bowl, cover tightly (I like to use a wax wrap over the bowl rather than clingfilm) and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. At this stage you can leave it for a couple of days until you're ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4 and line a couple of large baking trays with baking paper. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough to out 3 mm thickness. Use a 6 cm biscuit cutter and, using a flat knife, move the cut biscuits onto the baking paper. Re-roll and cut the dough until you've used it all (or all you can).
Bake for around 15 minutes, or until golden. Leave for 5 minutes in the tray before moving to a cooling rack. Leave to cool before dusting with the icing sugar.
To make the icing sugar: Dry the leaves in a warm place, a switched off but still warm oven or a dehydrator. Use a spice, nut or coffee grinder to blitz them into a fine powder and stir well into the icing sugar.
A couple of months ago I lost my sense of smell completely. My world changed and everything tasted of cardboard. Fortunately it was only a temporary loss due to a virus, though it was a fascinating and slightly scary experience. I've always known how important my senses are to me; foraging engages my vision, touch, smell, taste and intuition. To be without two of these (smell and taste are so dependant on each other) was odd and left me functioning in a very different way. I'm the kind of person who always stops to smell flowers - I find it a life affirming way to engage with the world.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is one of my summer scents; scattered along the coast path and beaches in selected places in Cornwall and commonly on the Isles of Scilly. When the sand is hot and the air is warm it is a lovely whiff of refreshing aniseed to breathe in. It's scent also makes it easy to identify.
Indigenous to the Mediterranean, it is well known and used to aid digestion and has naturalised in many places across the world. It's been used in fish and seafood dishes, and I like to use it in bread and desserts. I think it is perfect as a dessert - an after dinner digestive which is full of soothing flavour.
In my first book - Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - I shared a recipe for fennel sorbet and fennel flower-head fritters, though you can use the same recipe for fennel ice lollies (images above). I also have a great Wild Fennel Bunyols recipe, which was inspired by my Catalonian friend, Marta and are perfect for Autumn or cooler days.
The sorbet and ice lollies are so full of flavour and they use the foliage of fennel - the leaves and young stems which are often over-looked. I highly recommend experimenting with these parts too.