Thursday, 14 April 2011

Wild Garlic Pesto

On the way to work the other day, I accidentally took a detour through the Trelowarren Estate, which is rather splendid: I tried to pass through quickly, but became entangled in a large patch of wild garlic, and in fighting to free myself, I accidentally tore several full leaves straight out of the ground!

This makes you stink, but I love it:

Take a large handfull of Wild Garlic, hack at it until bored, then mix it with a good glug of olive oil, grated parmesan, salt, pepper, and a pile of toasted, chopped Walnuts.  Dollop it on some penne, mix it together with some more cheese (cheddar/ babybell etc) serve, eat, then go on a hot date.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Pancakes with Sorrel, Sea Beet, and Feta

A few days ago, we went for a wander along the coastal path by Mawnam Church. 

The first part of the path is currently made out of sorrel, so we picked quite a lot.  Leo mostly just ate it (although I stopped him after a bit because Sorrel is a diuretic, and for someone trying to get the hang of using a potty, that just aint cricket):

We also found a lot of Sea Beet in the pretty little cove made of skimming stones, by a sign saying "Private Property: Keep to the Path".  Wankers.  

With a back pack full of foliage, I felt completely prepared for this years wild pancake day, and went home feeling slightly smug.
Back home, I could only find buckwheat flour in the cupboard, so used that to make a kind of blini batter (as per the instructions on the packet, ish).  Now, I know that the first pancake is always shit, but my first pancake tasted like a soggy doughnut rescued from a gutter.  In my excitement, I still ate some of it, but decided to leave the remaining frying and flipping to Anna, who is better at that kind of thing (apparently you don't need the 3 gallons of oil that I used).

For the filling, I fried half a red onion, added some garlic, added a bunch of sea beet and sorrel (previously steamed) then some feta, mixed it all up, and dolloped it on top of the (perfect) blinis that Anna made.  Damn fine, highly recommended:

The garnish was chickweed and hairy bittercress.  Not sure what that was supposed to be doing, apart from looking quite nice.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Winkels good, Dog Whelks bad

There are millions of winkles about, but not quite as many millions as I had first thought:  Lots of them are in fact dog whelks, which taste shit.

It didn't take long for Leo and I to gather a couple of handfuls of the critters, despite the fact that Leo didn't help at all.  He did, however, pluck one winkle off a rock, hold it up to his face and say "are you ok?" before quickly launching it as far as physically possible. Didn't even give it a chance to answer - guess we'll never know.

After letting the crustaceans purify themselves in salted water for a few hours...I cooked them to death:  Fried some onion, carrot, garlic, and then added a handful of bladderwrack (because it was growing where the winkles came from) and a bit of water.  I added the winkles to the pot, put the lid on, and steamed them for five minutes.

Then I ate them, which is very satisfying (if you haven't done it before):  You stick a pin or a cocktail stick into the opening and pull out the good stuff; a wierd slimy grey curly thing.  It's a bit off putting at first, but when you stop and think what a mussel looks like...Anyway, I will definitely eat them again, but give dog whelks a miss (maybe they taste bad because they are carnivores).  My winkles were nice, though - not at all tough, like you would expect.

Winkles and Dog Whelks are fortunately quite easy to tell apart:  Dog whelks have a white/ grey shell, with a distinct groove on the rim of the opening, which is where they shoot out their evil sucker thing.  Winkles are more greenish/ dark grey, and usually squirt a bit of water at you when you pull them off a rock.  Which is fair enough, really.

ps The above is also another way not to eat bladderwrack.  There must be a way...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Winter foraging tip: Rob your local Nursery

I have discovered a great place to ensure a bountiful return on a winter forage:  Your local nursery (yes the plant kind, the kind that won't get you arrested).

The most common weed which grows in compost (and therefore in and around almost every pot in some nurseries) is Hairy Bittercress.  It has a peppery note, not unlike watercress, though subtler.  I can't believe I said note.  As it's quite a small plant, it's normally a bit of effort to gather enough to make it worthwhile, but not so in a nursery...

Although Hairy Bittercress is an unwanted weed, it's probably best to ask permission from the nursery staff before picking some.  I didn't, but I like to live dangerously:  Whilst Leo created a distraction by climbing through the Christmas tree packing machine, I furtively filled my pockets, keeping a beedy eye on the gnarly old gardener behind the Agapanthus.

Pockets full, I picked up a small gooseberry bush, and headed for the till in the shed by the entrance.  The gardener clocked me, thrust his shears deep into a nearby pot, and slowly staggered towards me. "Morning" he said.  But it wasn't morning at all, it was lunch time.  He knew.  I could feel my heartbeat pounding as I handed over the cash with a shaking, sweaty palm.

"Turned out ok, hasn't it?" said the gardner, briefly glancing up at the grey sky, before fixing me with an intent, searching look.  He handed me my change.  "Turned out ok?" I thought.  What does that mean!?  It's not ok!  It's cold, a bit windy, and it's only just stopped raining!  While I struggled to grasp his hidden meaning, I felt panic rising up within, and realised that I would't be able to hold my nerve for much longer.  "YES IT'S OK TURNED OK OUT" I blurted, then ran to the car, bundled Leo and the gooseberry bush into the back seat, jumped into the front, and fled for the hills...

Later, safely home, I created the prettiest dish I have ever made, and the best possible dish for a blog, because it wasn't especially tasty.  I turned the Hairy Bitter cress into a kind of pesto (oil, parmesan, and pepper) which I dolloped on top of Sea Beet potato cakes, which sat on a bed of mixed green leaves and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.  My Sea Beet potato cakes were supposed to be Sea Beet and Mackerel potato cakes, but I couldn't find any mackerel in the fridge.  They were still nice, but essentially just bubble and squeak.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Winter: Tis the season to be very excited

Over the past few years I haven't lived in one place for more than a year.  In one way, this is a very good thing, as looking for wild food in a new spot is one of the most exciting things about foraging: you never know what you're going to find (even though you often find bugger all).  Walks in London, Bristol, Pembrokeshire, and Cornwall have all tempted me with a variety of edible delights, from Sea Beet to half eaten Chicken Cottage remains.  As an unaccomplished, relatively clueless forager, I am quite proud of how adventurous I have been in sampling these delights, and quite surprised that I am still alive.

However, I am discovering a disadvantage of this change of scenery: a lack of location-specific seasonal anticipation (what a bullshit phrase I've just come up with):  Having been in one spot for over a year, I am now getting very excited about particular things cropping up in particular places (particularly wild garlic).   Even though it's January it almost feels like spring (when it briefly stops raining) and I'm half expecting to see familiar shoots poking through the mulch.

Of course, this is all a long winded way of saying:  It is winter, there is nothing but mud outside, and tonight, I am getting a take-away.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sloe gin made by toddlers

Our children make our homes look shit.  Fact.

I can tolerate the general mess - the constant clutter of garish plastic crap cascading from every cupboard, but the "art" we force them to produce is, let's face it, rubbish:  At least cheap toys are made by professional children, and usually function in some way, even if not the one intended.  This, however:

serves no purpose whatsoever, looks crap, doesn't remotely interest Leo, and yet, I cannot throw it away.  I don't know why - Leo wouldn't care if I did, wouldn't even notice.

It seems that most other parents suffer from a similar disorder:  They assume their fridge door is white, because most fridge doors are white.  But they haven't actually seen their fridge doors for years because they are covered in layers of poster paint splodges on cheap crumpled paper.

There is a "wizard hat" (ie a piece of black paper rolled into a cone with some stars on it) sitting on the back seat of my car.  It's been there for weeks, and I carefully manouevre around it whilst unloading shopping, or strapping Leo in his seat.  Leo would happily jump and down on it, if I let him (and he has much better hats to wear). 

To slightly reduce the pointless "art" produced by your kids, I heartily recommend having them make sloe gin for you.  Leo loved adding the sloes, one at a time (plop!......ploink!.....plink!) and pouring the sugar into the bottles (and everywhere else) through a piece of paper rolled into a cone...(ok, vaguely useful).  And once he'd finished, we polished off the remaining gin between us, and Leo chundered everywhere!

Only kidding.