Tag: wild food

Hogweed Shoots in a Cake!

Hogweed Shoots in a Cake!

Hogweed shoots are normally used as a type of so-called poorman’s asparagus, cooked on their own, or used in dhal. I also enjoy them in lightly spiced Thai stir fries and recently discovered the joys of eating them in farinata – a lovely subtle addition. […]

Eating Japanese Knotweed

Eating Japanese Knotweed

I love to eat weeds. Many weeds are edible, abundant and available as food if we just knew, or remembered, how to use and cook them. Invasive plants are also great to eat. I always think; why curse something when you could be eating it […]

The Best Nettle Syrup Recipe

The Best Nettle Syrup Recipe

I recently went out for a meal at a restaurant and they had wild nettle cordial on the drinks menu. Ooh, as a forager with a soft spot for ‘sweet’ I just had to try it. I must say, I was disappointed. I even asked for an extra dash of cordial so I could taste it better, though even then, all I could taste was sweet.

Perhaps because I’m used to making my own, non-commercial wild nettle cordial – fresh and homemade always tastes superior, I feel. Personally, if I make something from wild ingredients I want to benefit from a mixture of the nutrients, the flavour and the whole experience of picking to creating with it.

I find nettles rewarding to cook with because they are in such abundance and their flavour is pleasant though not overly strong. My wild nettle syrup is dark green, it is nettley (not a real word, though you get the idea) and good for you. Here (video above) I’m about to dilute it as a refreshing prelude to a nettle based lunch of nettle soup and nettle pakoras.

Oh, I do like the common stinging nettle – it is the perfect spring wild food! Here I tell you a little about why I love nettles in a short video, and here I expand on some of the reasons nettles are worth falling in love with.

Back to the recipe.

Urtica dioica

Rich Nettle Syrup

Dark and rich, I’ve watched nettle syrup disappear surprisingly quickly as a diluted drink at events. This version includes fennel, which lifts the syrup out of the darkness a little and is delicious in Nettle Baklava or Sweet and Nutty Nettle Energy Balls (more on those another time). Nettles also goes well with lemon or root ginger (simmer the ginger with the nettles, or add the lemon at the end of cooking).

Makes approx. 750 ml

Ingredients

  • 800 ml water
  • 3 tbsp fennel seeds, freshly ground or crushed (optional).
  • 200 g nettle tops
  • 800 g soft brown or demerara sugar
  • 1–2 tbsp lemon juice (if not using immediately)

Put the water, fennel seeds and nettle tops in a medium saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes. Take off the heat and strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth, using a wooden spoon to help squeeze all the liquid out.

Measure the liquid, and for every millilitre add one gram of sugar (e.g. 500g of sugar for 500ml of liquid). Place the nettle liquid and sugar back in the saucepan, bring  almost to the boil (the liquid should be steaming), reduce the heat and leave on the heat for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Do not allow it to boil. If using the syrup immediately, siphon off the amount you need. For the rest, add one tablespoon of lemon juice for every 200 ml of liquid, allow to cool and store in sterilised bottles.

 

Spring Dessert: Nettle and Honey Cake with Gorse Flower Syrup

Spring Dessert: Nettle and Honey Cake with Gorse Flower Syrup

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 […]

Why I love Stinging Nettles  (A little film footage!)

Why I love Stinging Nettles (A little film footage!)

I’ve been teaching foraging for a while now (over 10 years), and I’ve just come across some old film footage of me introducing stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). Oooh, we were all younger then, weren’t we! Nettles remains one of my favourite wild greens, especially in […]

Making Nettle Pakoras

Making Nettle Pakoras

stivesscreenprint

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are one of my favourite spring greens, and this was a recipe I shared with Graham Pullen of St Ives Screen Printing at Tom’s Yard. Graham is keen on making art affordable and accessible, and has incorporated the recipe into one of his hand-printed individual cards (featured above). I love both Graham’s botanical drawing of the humble nettle, and his interpretation into print.

The last time I made this recipe was for my friend’s birthday last spring. We had a ‘bring a contribution’ curry dinner and the range of curries, samosas and spiced breads was great. These nettle pakoras fitted in perfectly. The only down-side was my dog sneakily finishing off the cooking oil. Trust me, you don’t want to know the end of that part of the story.

Urtica dioicaStinging nettle recipe (Urtica dioica)

The fourth time I made them was when I ran a nettle day at Bramble Cottage. It was great having a 6 month old, budding forager with us, gurgling, watching and smelling the various stages of the process. Perhaps that’s where this nursery rhythm tune came from, finding a soothing way to give a little extra information about the humble stinging nettles.

You can watch the process and hear the song in this video; ‘Making Nettle Pakoras’ below. The reason for the song lyrics is explained in my blog When NOT to eat Stinging Nettles, yet the song is self-explanatory really, so just watch and listen…

 

The recipe?

Do get in touch with Graham, and he can show you, sell you or tell you where to get a great range of foraging recipe cards, including this one with the full recipe. For more ideas, why not browse my Stinging nettles blog. Nettles are regularly included in my wild food foraging courses too.

The Lessons of Making Gorse Flower Fudge

The Lessons of Making Gorse Flower Fudge

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 […]

What’s Wild, Yellow and Subtle?

What’s Wild, Yellow and Subtle?

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 […]

A Forager’s Dog – Paddy foraging Blackberries

A Forager’s Dog – Paddy foraging Blackberries

 

I have a foraging dog. He’s called Paddy McGinity (a name I inherited rather than gifted to him), and yes, he can climb rocks and cliffs as agile as a goat.

Most of the time my dog is with me on forays, while I forage and teach up to 100 different species of wilds in the UK. Often, he’s doing his own thing (chasing rabbits and exploring), though sometimes he hangs around and is inquisitive.

I’ve watched him ‘watch and learn’ to forage blackberries, rosehips, acorns and he’s good at apple scrumping. Seaweeds aren’t so popular with him, expect Kelp stems and fish, crab and rabbit are favourites, naturally.

Actually, many are surprised how many fruits and vegetables he’ll eat – celery and cabbage leaves being the exception, though cabbage stems are a hit! I’ve watched him sneakily remove broccoli from my friend’s bag, gobbled tomatoes from crates, and forage raspberries straight off a friend’s allotment (sorry Liz). To me it makes sense; a natural diet of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Unfortunately he’s not that selective, and easily succumbs to bread, sugar and fat (not dis-similar to us!).

He’s eaten many other wilds over the years too, mostly be default when he’s foraged (I’d say stolen) food from my kitchen. Nettle and Lemon energy balls he devoured very quickly, as were the second batch (very frustrating), Hogweed Seed Biscuits were a hit too, Alexander Seeded Bread is gulped easily and Elderflower ice cream has been ogled at, but so far I have been able to keep it away from him.

Such a sweet dog.

Of course, though he’s also an instinctual animal, a wild beast, an opportunist and a forager. Not dis-similar to us, though he is more closely connected to his wild roots. We have lots to learn from animals, and unfortunately they have lots to learn from us!

picking seaweeds from a rock pool

How to Make Gorse Scented Butter

How to Make Gorse Scented Butter

I’ve always considered myself an artist rather than a scientist, and heaven help me if I had to make cakes for a living; I’m far too much of a slow, pondering and inventive cook to make any money from it. I do have some successes […]