I like to walk hedgerows and bridal paths nearby and watch them as spring develops. On Sunday (early April) I took a walk in the spring rain to find some spring greens for a soup. One of the best known … Continue reading
I finally have some updates for this section of the blog! I am excited to share the journey I have been on over the last two weeks with you! It has been crazy and beautiful. It is just the start. … Continue reading
Well that’s the most exciting title Ive written to date I think. Sounds like fun. I’ve had a number of discussions about these very recently, so have decided to write up a blog post and share some recipes. For the … Continue reading
Im going to focus on hazelnuts, walnuts and sweet chestnuts as I find these to be the most useful and hope to have interesting and useful things to share.
Just quickly; some of the other nuts you can forage and use are acorns, beech and pine. Personally I think they are a lot of hard work for little results though if you have a gluten free diet it might be useful to know you could make flour from acorn or chestnuts. Acorns can be high in tanins which are bad for your kidneys, so it is usually leeched out with water.
I thought it worth mentioning here that new leaf growth in the spring from many of these trees is tasty.
You may find Beech is more useful for that rather than the teeny tiny nuts, though Im told if youre lucky enough to have a press you can make lovely oil with them . Given how I use oils this is something I would very much like to own! (If you should hear of one being thrown out remember me).
Theres is always such a huge abundance of beech masts that everyone at some point must have thought about how they can be useful
Im talking about the 3 nuts in the order you are most likely to be finding them in the year.
The trees are more shrubs, so looking in hedgerows is a good start, I go towards the end of summer and if I find any pick them and eat them right away. When you eat nuts whilst they ae fresh and green like this, they are softer, wet and sweeter (kind of sweet in the way that carrots are) You can pick them and leave them to harden and dry to be more like the ones in the shops around christmastime
If you’re very lucky or you have your own trees that you a re able to keep squirel free you might find some that have dropped and some that have ripened and slightly hardened.
Check them for little holes left by the weevils, the squirels know not to eat these and there wont be anything edible inside.
Doormice also like hazel nuts and I couldnt resist sharing this very cute of photo of a sleeping one from The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Taken by Tom Chalmers
cute distraction; worth digressing for
So this is what your hazel nuts look like.
This is from TCV website which I highly recommend.
http://treegrowing.tcv.org.uk/grow/tree-recipes/hazel ‘TheConservationVolunteers’ do these useful information pages/guides for growing your own trees.
It’s easy and you might grow your own hazel.
I was lucky enough to find some ripe and ready just waiting to be picked up from the ground!
I shelled them with nutcrackers (ate quite a few) and then roasted the rest with a little almond oil and sea salt
snacked on a few more
Then stored them in honey. I think they’re nicer than salted caramel and nut brittle.
(yes I snaked on a few more..)
Inspired by such thought, this happened:
Recipe for ‘Nutty dessert glasses’
(makes x4 small glasses/bowls)
x1 tub mascarpone
about 24 hazel nuts (honey to drizzle)
400g soft brown sugar
150 ml from your bottle of hazelnut coffee porter (drink the rest wahey!)
chestnut puree (optional)
In the bottom place a few of the hazelnuts stored in local honey (you can just put shop bough ones in and drizzle them in honey)
Whip up a tablespoon of mascarpone with a good sized tablespoon of chestnut puree (recipe to follow, could add a bit of freshly squeezed orange instead or leave it plain)
(my my nails are clean that is from peeling chestnuts -it hurts might be bruised)
I then topped with granola (making granola is easy but I took photographs and will add a recipe later, google will help in the meantime)
place in the fridge whilst you make the caramel/syrup
I used 150ml of Saltiare brewery’s hazelnut coffee porter
I added around 100g of brown sugar turn up the heat to get it going and then turn down to a med/high
leave it to bubble and froth for around 5 mins
removed from the heat when its looking a bit thicker
the bubbles will die down and it should look like this
Get your gla ss(es) from the fridge, sprinkle in granola nd then drizzle over your caramel
Hazelnuts are also very good for baking with -bread too very nice with cheese 😉 I used walnut this way (coming next)
One of my favourite childhood trees was a big old walnut tree. I have recently been informed that they only produce nuts for 40 years -seems unlikely to me but then maybe my memory is influenced by the fact that I was much smaller then. It seems very old and I remember gathering and eating the walnuts, and there were always so many of them! It has been hard for me to find one producing the nuts abundantly, and even harder to beat the squirrels to them, nonethless I was lucky this year and managed a ‘haul’ of about 7. I think they’re likely the most difficult to forage.
These are what the leaves look like there were no nuts still on to photograph, just the peeled remnants of the squirrels feast 😦
Each leaft is devided into 7-9 ‘leaflets’ whcih might be able to see there.
The walnuts are inside a green tough skin, you can see some of the black through these, and on the peeled ones. This can be used as a natural die and ink. You might be able to see them leaking on the picture? fresh walnuts are also called wet walnuts or green walnuts. Once you crack the shell the familiar wrinkly walnut appears inside. They are much softer resh and have a much milder sweeter flavour. You can save and dry thm if you like. I nibbled on mine and baked a few in bread rolls with a traditional nettle wrapped cornish Yarg. They were delicious.
You can google a basic white bread roll recipe -I used the hairy bikers one.
If you are lucky enough to find more it would be great to have a go at making the dyes and inks. Or you might be able to get some fresh one at farmers markets. Of course thery dont have to be fresh to be useful and you can buy them to use in recipes. Apple walnut and gorgonzola are wonderful flavours in tarts and pastries. Baklava (walnut and pistachio) not just coffee and walnut cake -but why wouldnt want to make that? 🙂 and of course pastas and salads with walnuts and cheese, and walnut and basil pesto too.
Oh and who wouldnt like to make little boats out of the shells! http://madebyjoel.com/2010/04/walnut-boats.html
*intresting fact* The Romans associated the walnut with Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage and the wife of Jupiter. This association led to the unique wedding practice of throwing walnuts at the bride and groom as a symbol of fertility. Women often carried walnuts to promote fertility. The botanical name Juglans is derived from Jupiter’s glans.
moving swiftly on
Chestnuts are one of those trees that have both male and female flowers, the female flowers become the nuts in Autumn
The ancient Greeks dedicated the sweet chestnut to Zeus and its botanical name castanea comes from Castonis, a Town in Thessaly in Greece where the tree was grown for its nuts.
I am lucky to have a patch of very well established chestnut trees producing abundant amounts each, which is within walking distance (as are all of the nuts Ive foraged this year)
I estimate I picked around 2lbs that have gone into purees/preserves, pies and have been eaten as snacks, this is a teeny tiny fraction of what falls onto the ground and rots away.
you can cut a cross in the flat side or a slit along the edge top to bottom, some find that easier but there is a far greater risk of slipping, thus uts harder to do whilst watching a film or something, quite tricky without a chestnut knife I found so I opted fro the cross in the flat side. You need heat and moisture to make the shells easier to work with. You can roast, boil or even wrap a handful in a damp towel and place in the microwave for a couple of minutes. I found a very hot tea towel a bit of a nuisance/pain (literally) and I prefer the flavour of roasted (which could be done after if you find them easier to peel from the microwave) If you have a lot to do it will take you longer than the oven or boiling. Theres not that much difference/if any at all in the ease of peeling with each method. Peel an eat or set aside for use (I had to put mine in the fridge overnight) soft/moist/protein, means that they could likely spoil easily. You usually use them straight away.
The membranes can be bitter if you dont peel them off it is almost as painstaking as deseeding rosehips. I left them on for the next recipe. It didn’t taste bitter.
Chestnut preserve/jam and puree
NOTE: This recipe makes 2 batches one with milk/cream for quick-ish use (milk/cream will spoil) and one with water
300-350g of chestnuts (peeled and roasted divide into 2 pans)
2 cups milk (or cream)
2 cups of water
2 cups golden sugar
x1 vanilla pod
x4 tbspn dark rum
add the milk/cream to one pan and the water to the other and a cup of soft golden sugar to both
Bring to the boil, reduce, and simmer
when the liquid has mostly absorbed and the nuts are just going crumbly on the outsides lift them out with a slotted spoon and whizz in the food processor
cut you vanilla pod in half and scrape one half into each pan and add the rum
add the liquid from the pan to the processor, til you reach your desired consistency
(you may wish to add more boiled water/milk/cream or brandy. The water needs to be boiled if you are treating this as a preserve)
TIP: if you’re making both, start with the water one then you dont have to wash everything before doing the other! (get in)
This part is optional, I pressed my puree through a seive for a couple of jars as it has such a pleasant texture
I didnt do this for all of it as its time consuming, and seemed a little wasteful. I couldnt get it all through, what didnt go through I stirred back into mixture that I wasnt going to be seiving. If you liked tou could make 3 different grades of thickness the seives the unseived and the thicker left behind -they can have different uses. I added more rum to one of mine and we dipped toasted marshmallows in it 🙂
ladle into your warm sterilied jars and label, when cool, place in the fridge.
Chestnut, mushroom and ale pie.
25g packet of dried porcini (or equivelant if you forage your own)
4 portobello mushrooms
packet of chestnut mushrooms
100-200g of roasted chestnuts
handful of fresh thyme or parsley
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
100g of red camargue rice (or wild rice)
150ml of dark ale
100g of plain or corn flour
x1 packet puff pastry (I got ready rolled and found one which stated ‘sustainable palm oil’ on, I felt dubious and glad I dont usually buy ready made)
This made me x5 little ramekin pies and this pudding bowl one. You might prefer to make a larger family sized one.
Add your rice with water according to the packet and simmer til cooked, a darker rice with a firmer grain will add texture and bite to your pie
preheat the oven
as it cooks add the buttter to a heavy bottomed pan and soften the onions and garlic
Slice the chestnuts thinly and add to the pan
place your dried wild mushrooms (or porcini) in a jug with 300ml of boiling water
and chop your mushrooms something like 5mm (not too thin)
add all the fresh mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft
Then add your reconstituted ones and save the water/juice.
splash the ale over the ingredients in the pan
Put your flour into a jug, slowly adding this juice/water from the mushrooms which will still be warm and stir quickly
Add this to the mushrooms and stir quickly to coat everything as it thickens
chop your thyme and drain the cooked rice (if necessary) it should feel firm but cooked
add the rice and thyme to your pan and stir well
season to taste
prepsre your ramekins/pie dished and roll our your pastry. Use a cutter to stamp out the lids, or turn over your dish and cut out with a knife.
ladle the filling into your ramekins/pie dish and place the pastry on top you could seal with a fork around the edges
or leave the gravy to ooze out a little as I did 🙂 it looks a much tastier pie this way to me 🙂
glaze with milk or egg, pop in the oven for 20-30 mins on 220 oc
Braised beef and Doncaster ale sausages with onion and leek gravy, sweet potato chips and apricot chutney.
I thought I’d start by talking about local ingredients and some favourites from our rather excellent market. Sustainability is becoming more important to more people. It seems everyone is growing and making, not least for economic reasons. There is a tradition of growing, skills and advice are passed down generations. It isn’t hard to imagine how economic conditions help to keep these skills alive. In future posts -into the summer, I hope to be blogging about how we are pooling sources, skill sharing and trading with produce. Today the focus on ingredients from the local award winning market.
So what did I find to treat us with in a tasty supper? Wilkinsons award winning sausages caught my eye. I am not a fan of the frozen supermarket variety. To me there is nothing more foul than a chewy bit of gristle in your sausage, I would rather go without than that and then of course there is the whole terribleness of the meat industry and the abuses and contamination of the meat and meat products. Its been a good while since since I had any. What specifically caught my eye was that these are made with beef, and locally sourced meat (their website and counter staff will tell you exactly where from) and Doncaster brewery ale. The beef is marinaded for 3 days in the micro-brewery’s Cheswolds bitter and then breadcrumbs and black pepper are added. No wonder they are prize winners, the pork version was awarded gold at a British Pork Executive competition. Alas I had just missed them making sausages, else I could have watched and taken photos for you. They do it right there at the stall. (I have since been told on a Thurs morning if you want to see.) Obviously onion and leek go pretty well, I picked those up for pence, and whilst looking I got a large bag of apricots for £1.50 (most of the stalls on Friday had this offer and those kinds of surprises are the best thing about browsing a good market) and that, I thought, would be enough for a nice fruity sticky meaty supper. Theres nothing better on a cold dark January night.
I wanted a drink to compliment the food and what better than a nice ale to drink with it and to use for the onion gravy? The boys at Wilkinson’s told me that Doncaster brewery had just opened their tap room on Young St so off I popped for a nosey and to get a recommendation and a bottle. They were all out and assured me that everywhere else was, so I sampled a glass of sandhouse ale (after Doncaster’s historic sandhouses) and headed back to the market to see what the new market alehouse and deli might have to offer. Turns out rather a lot, friendly staff, with time for you and the inclination to chat about a shared love of local and sustainably produced food and drink. Who crucially, knew more about ale than me. Based on my ingredients I was recommended Imperial ale. From ‘The Imperial brewery’ just down the road in Brian Blessed’s town of Mexborough. It is a nice dark copper with a slightly sweet aftertaste and did the trick for adding a bit extra whilst still allowing the flavour of the sausage to be the star of the show. Right. Recipe time!
Supper for two
For the sausage:
4 Wilkinson’s beef and ale sausages
1 bottle of ale (won’t need it all for cooking!)
Homemade stock or demi glace or 1 stock cube (if you must)
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
1 medium leek
Roughly 1lb of peeled chopped apricots or other fruit
1 med white onion
2 garlic gloves
1 tspn chili flakesflakes
Approx 100g of brown sugar (sweeten to your taste)
4 tbsn cider vinegar
Spicy sweet potato chips:
1 medium sized sweet potato
Teaspoon cumin seeds
Tablespoon chili flakes
From the market alehouse and deli I also bought lmperials’ “Bees knee’s” because you know I like bees by now I guess, and its brewed with local honey from Mexborough, a pale straw coloured ale, light and slightly sweet with a hint of that honey, lovely to drink with my supper (I accidently drank all the rest of the ‘Imperial ale’ whilst cooking.) I also bought Axholme brewing co’s pumpkin porter (they grow their own pumpkins for it) which I had with my second supper of leftover chutney and poached eggs.
Slice and chop your fruit, onion and garlic for the chutney first as this takes the longest and preheat your oven to 200oc or gas mark 7
Add all your ingredients into a pan on a high heat turn it down to a low heat for around 45 mins till the sauce is thickened but whilst the fruit still retains a bit of shape.
Whilst the chutney simmers, peel and slice your sweet potato. Coat it with the olive oil and spices (I put it in a bowl and use my hands.) Then place onto a baking tray, it doesn’t matter if you need to overlap, lightly smear a little marmalade over (a little goes a long way.)
Slice your red onion and finely dice the garlic (or crush with a little sea salt, which is better) add to a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and soften gently whilst you slice the leek. Add the leek
Next heat your frying pan on a high flame and add the sausages turning regular to braise them for 3/4 mins. Then add to your garlic onion and leek.
Now deglaze yoiur frying pan with a good splash of ale and add your stock.
Transfer this to your sausages and again deglaze and stir up. Add ale and stock as required and season to taste, leave the sausages 7-8 mins to cook through.
Warm plates in the oven and serve with a large ale. Enjoy. We did!
Local honey and coconut lemon muffins
2 eggs (medium)
4 tablespoons of honey (I used local honeycomb)
250ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
125ml vegetable oil
400g self raising flour
lemon rind to your taste, I used a tablespoon
4 tablespoons of coconut (use less if you prefer)
The flavouring ingredients can be substituted for whatever you like. If you want to make chocolate ones do NOT use drinking chocolate and be sure to substitue 100g SR flour for the 100g of cocoa powder.
You will also need:A muffin tray and muffin paper cases
Whisk your wet ingredients together in a jug. Combine your dry ingredients into your bowl and make a well to add the liquid, mix untill it all comes together. Note: if you have any fresh fruit to add, do so right at the end after youve combined all the other ingredients. Fill cases two thirds full (for the right shaped muffins) and bake for 25 mins (approx, til brown)
This honey just makes everything better and really is a touch of magic in everything and anything. I am quite keen to keep my own bees and am researching the topic in order to get going this summer. So I just had to share how pretty it is.
For the cinnamon sugar
You can add sugar to an airtight jar and flavour it with a cinnamon stick (or any other ingredients) or you may wish to mix cinnamon and sugar as I did, it makes a lovely decoration on the top too. A good ration is 2 tablespoons of caster and one tablespoon of cinnamon. I took a couple of good pinches and spirinkled over before they cooled so that it ‘stuck’.
I tried out my new dehydrator with fruit so have a couple of jars of dried pear and apple. Pear and honey is a fabulous combination. Trust me I can’t wax lyrical enough about that, pear and honey muffins are fabulous!
Pear and rosehip tea
I added two small slices or one large slice, of dehydrated pear and a tablespoon of dried rosehips (mine are whole crushed ones) You can make tea with whatever you like and its fun to experiment with combinations. I added this to the infuser in the centre of my teapot and it made about 2 cups.