My love of food started at an early age, cooking with my Grandmother baking cakes. My grandparents had a large garden that my uncle grew many kinds of vegetables in along with the green house where I used to go and sit with the salt from the kitchen happily eating the tomatoes. That is how I remember vegetables tasting fresh from the garden with meat fresh from the local butchers, belly pork slow roasted a breast of lamb with roast potatoes braised liver and onions all now fashionable but were then the cheaper cuts of meat.
When I left school i went on a YTS learning catering while i waited to join the Army as an apprentice chef, I never liked the army but loved cooking so i left and worked in various restaurants. I left the industry many years ago but have continued to enjoy cooking and food.
In the last few years I have become increasingly interested in free range and organic food, shopping at the local farmers markets and farm shops, the tastes and smells reminding me of how meat and veg was when a child. We should all support our local producers and buy as much as we can from them rather than the multi national supermarkets whose only concern is profit not quality, for those that say they have to use a supermarket through cost this again is not true, my local butcher does 2 free range chickens for under £7 you will not get these prices and quality in any supermarket.
On this site I will try to bring you information on all things food form book reviews to recipes and guides. If you have any ideas or are looking for something in particular drop me a mail or message and I will try my best to help.
Where to start with the Vindaloo, the much maligned curry that is linked to drunks on a Saturday night ordering the hottest curry. This pork Vindaloo bares little resemblance to the mismatch of curry house sauces with added chillies to create the Vindaloo. An authentic Goan vindaloo does have heat but it is the depth of flavour from the spice mix and the vinegar that creates this curry. The word vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of the popular Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which made its way to India in the 15th century along with Portuguese explorers.
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
5-10 dried red kashmiri chillies (or 3–6 hotter dried red chillies), halved, seeds shaken out
6 black peppercorns
3 green cardamom pods
2cm cinnamon stick
Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
1 bulb garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fengureek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
10 curry leaves
3 tbsp. good-quality white wine vinegar, or to taste
400 g pork shoulder with some fat, in 1″ cubes
Salt, to taste
4 tbsp ghee
2 large onions, finely chopped
Sugar, to taste
In a heavy based pan place your dry seeds over a low heat to toast and release their oils, while the seeds toast place half the garlic, ginger and chillis in a food processor and blend to paste, add the vinegar.
In a pestle and mortar or spice grinder grind the cooled toasted spices to a fine paste, add to the garlic and ginger past and rub all over the diced pork, cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
In a large oven proof casserole heat the ghee, add diced onion, the remaining garlic, ginger and onions and cook until caramelised.
Add the pork and its marinade, cook until just coloured.
Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and 1 can of water. Place in covered casserole in preheated oven at 150 c, stir occasionally and add water if it looks to be drying, cook for two hours until pork is tender.
I serve mine with spicy sautéed potatoes.
spicy sauté potatoes
This Goan pork vindaloo is not like takeaway or many restaurant curries and I hope you enjoy it.
So another curry post on the blog, another that is not of the bastardised recipes that have no relation to authentic Indian cuisine. This is Chicken Mogul Curry & Tarka Dal.
chicken mogul curry & tarka dal
Mughal cuisine consists of dishes developed in Medieval India at the centers of the Mughal Empire. It represents a combination of the cooking style and recipes of Central Asia and North India.
Chicken Mogul Curry
2 tbsp Ghee , for frying
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fresh ginger finely chopped
2 tsp fresh garlic chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
4 skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into thirds
Half tsp turmeric powder
2 Large tomatoes finely diced
1 x 165ml tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 165ml tin coconut milk
10-15 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp Salt
2 whole green chillies , finely chopped
Half tsp ground green cardamom
1. Heat the ghee in a heavy based pot.
2. Add the cumin seeds and stir. Let them sizzle for a few seconds before adding onions and ginger cook until the onions start to caramelise but not burn, add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes.
3. Add the cut chicken thighs and fry in the spices until a brown colour is achieved.
4. Add the turmeric, diced fresh tomato and tinned tomatoes, diced green chilli, salt and curry leaves. Simmer on a steady heat until the chicken is cooked through.
5. To finish add the coconut milk, curry leaves and finish with green cardamom powder and a little fresh chopped coriander.
Dal is a very important aspect of Indian cooking, an excellent source of protein for the continents many vegetarians
250g yellow dried split peas, rinsed until the water runs clear
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife
2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
¾ tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp garam masala
1½ tsp ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful chopped fresh coriander leaves
Place the lentils and 900 ml pints of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.
When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a whisk to break down the lentils. Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.
Meanwhile, heat the ghee in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds.
Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until caramalised.
Blend the garlic and tomatoes to a paste. Add the paste to the pan and stir well to combine.
Add the ground spices and 100 ml of water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving.
So as things happen this week has had national burger day, it seems that every week it is national something or other day. So to go with my homemade burger I needed the best burger bun I could make.
There are so many opinions on what makes the best bun for a burger, you see brioche everywhere but for me a lot of them are far to sweet and make a better bread and butter pudding bread than a burger bun, then you have the mass-produced white pappy buns, sesame seed buns, the argument goes on and on.
You need a bun that will hold up to the juicy burger without falling apart and becoming a mush in your hand. In the end I decided on potato bread rolls. In the past I have been spoilt with potato bread rolls by Alex Gooch a local award-winning, world champion baker. I like to set myself high bars.
I think the secret to this recipe is supply smooth creamy mash, the only way to get smooth mash in my eyes is to use a potato ricer, no more lumpy mash that takes you back to your childhood.
I use organic strong white bread flour for the dough, as with all cooking the best way to get good results is to use good produce to start with.
Here is my recipe for my version of the best burger bun.
1 or 2 large Maris Piper potatoes – at least 200 g.
100 ml warm water
10 g dried yeast
20 g sugar
1 egg plus 1 more for a glaze
100 g butter
150 ml warm milk
Good pinch of Sea salt.
Peel and cut potatoes ready to make your mashed potato. Bring the potatoes to the boil and simmer until soft enough to mash. I use a potato ricer to get the smoothest mash that I can, to the potatoes add around 25 g of butter to make it smooth and creamy.
While the potatoes are cooking place the yeast and sugar in the warm water and set aside, this will activate the yeast.
In your mixing bowl add the flour, 175 g of your mashed potato, the yeast and water liquid, an egg and your salt.
Start to mix together and add the softened butter.
I use a stand mixer with the dough hook to mix the dough together, you can of course need by hand.
Set the dough to one side in a lightly oiled bowl for around one hour until doubled in size.
After one hour knock the dough back and on a buttered baking tray divide the dough into eight even sized balls, form into rolls and place on the baking sheet, allow to prove for a further 45 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 c.
Place the buns into the centre of your pre-heated oven, in the base of your oven add an oven proof bowl of cold water, this creates steam that makes for a better crust.
While the buns have their first 15 minutes mix the other egg yolk and a desert spoon of milk to make your glaze.
After 15 minutes remove from the oven glaze with the egg wash mix and place back in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top.
The best burger bun
So there we have my version of the best burger bun, with my version of the best burger.
So another post about pork I hear you say, yes pork three ways, I admit that over the years I have done one or two posts on all manners of pork from a slow roast to trotters and terrines. I have been very lucky over the years in having access to some fantastic local pork, all free range and generally native breeds.
When i seen a post on Twitter from Martha Roberts who breeds and rears her own pigs on the local hillside saying she had some pork available I dropped her a message and placed an order for a shoulder joint, a belly joint and a loin.
As always when I know I am going to be getting hold of some good quality meat my mind goes into overdrive about what I am going to do with it.
The shoulder and belly were destined for long slow cooks, the choice was traditional oven, wood oven or smoker. The loin I had already made my mind up on that and it was destined to be bacon, dry cured traditional bacon. I do not often cold smoke at this time of the year so no smoked bacon this time around.
So Sunday came around and it was destined to be pork Sunday, old smokey was set up for the shoulder and belly. I had two very different rubs set for the two joints. For the shoulder I was going for a Memphis style rub, in Memphis the rub is all important as they tend not to use sauces as much as other areas. The recipe below is my go to pulled pork rub.
1/2 cup / 8 tbsp paprika
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp mild chili powder(use medium or hot to kick up the heat)
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons celery seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground allspice
For the belly I went with the rub below, I make this in batches and keep it in a shaker for all things from chicken to steak.
1/2 cup / 8 tbsp paprika
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp kosher salt, finely ground
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp sugar
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp chili powder ( I use a fairly mild one )
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1/4 cup / 4 tbsp granulated garlic
2 tablespoons cayenne
The skin was taken off both joints and set aside to make pork scratching, I will be doing a separate post on the method I use to make the best scratching in the world. The two joints were liberally covered in the rub and set aside while the smoker was set up and the charcoal lit.
For all my BBQ cooking i use a ProQ, they are superb tools for the job be it direct, indirect, hot smoking or cold smoking.
I set the smoker up to 110c using lumpwood charcoal, i only use high quality lumpwood, no instant light chemical laden rubbish that taints the food. I had a few lumps of beech wood that I like to use with pork and chicken as it does not overpower the meat.
While the belly and shoulder were happily sat in the smoker getting a nice low and slow cook I was sorting out the loin that i was curing for bacon. I use a very simple cure that consists of sea salt, dark muscovado sugar, cracked black pepper and fennel seeds. I do not use pink salt or any other “cure”. The act of curing is to use salt to draw out moisture from the product that you are curing. My number one tip for anyone curing pork for bacon at home is to get the very best pork you can, free range, not factory farmed meat laced with antibiotics and who knows what else.
Once covered in the cure the loin is placed into a container and placed in the fridge, turn daily for around about a week, a small amount of liquid will collect in the container, this is the process of curing at work, drawing out the moisture from the meat.
So that is my pork three ways, i shall update the post with more pictures once the bacon is cured and i slice it for some awesome bacon sarnies and a good fry up.
Once again I have to thank Martha for the pork which is reared with love and the end product shows that, If you want to know more about Martha’s fantastic produce follow the link and drop her a line.
Until next time remember cooking is not difficult when you have fantastic produce to use.
There is not a lot out there that beats cooking perfect steak, local, grass-fed, well aged. All sounds very easy and when you look at the basics it is. Unfortunately over the last few decades meat has become the realm of supermarket and so many local butchers have gone by the way side. The meat in supermarkets does not compare to the meat you buy from a good butcher, supermarket meat on the whole is grain fed, fed growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics and never sees a blade of grass.
When your butcher tells you not only where your meat is from but how it is raised and how it has been treated after slaughter then you know the meat is good, for many knowing the provenance of the food they eat is becoming more important all the time. There is simply no way that the mass factory farming of meat is sustainable going forward. Eating locally sourced, grass fed and free range is the only way we can carry on eating meat, and to eat good meat well sourced less. I will happily pay more for good quality and eat less of it. I am very fortunate to live where I do and to know the people I do be they farmers, butchers or producers.
Recently and old school friend who has now been a butcher for 30 years offered me some T-Bone steaks, Mark is the owner of Palfreys butchers in Newport. Mark has many awards to his name and has carried on the excellent tradition of traditional butchery at Palfreys.
I visited Mark and collected some fantastic 55 day aged Longhorn cross Hereford T-Bone steaks. As you can see in the image below the colouring and marbling of the meat is fantastic and as it should be not the bright red you see at the supermarket.
When it comes to cooking perfect steak of this quality there is no messing about. The steak is removed from the fridge and all packaging removed to allow the meat to bloom and get to room temperature, never ever place a steak straight from the fridge on to a hot griddle or grill. Around twenty minutes will have the meat ready for cooking. Seasoning is purely salt, i never season with pepper as the heat i cook at purely burns the pepper leaving an acrid taste, season with pepper after cooking. Preheat your griddle or pan, I use a cast iron griddle and use this whether cooking in the house or when using the wood oven.
I use what has now become known as the Heston method for cooking perfect steak, with the griddle smoking hot place the steak down away from you, the heat will sear the meat instantly and seal it. if the pan or griddle is not hot enough when you go to lift the steak to turn it it will stick to the pan, I do not use oil when cooking steak of this quality the natural fat in and on the steak does the basting for me. After 20 seconds turn the steak and continue turning every 20 seconds, I use a meat thermometer for all my meat cooking and for a medium rare steak I remove the steak when it reaches an internal temperature of 50c and place on a grill rack next to the cooker and rest for at least the time I have cooked the meat for. If you do not have a meat thermometer I highly suggest that you get one. If you like your steak rare the internal temperature to remove the meat at should be 47c for medium aim for 55c, I will not give temperatures for well done as to me that is ruining good meat. After the meat is rested serve with triple cooked chips and a good béarnaise sauce, you can of course have a sauce of your choice be it Diane, mushroom or peppercorn I like to keep it simple and classic.
T-Bone Steak and triple cooked chips
As I say cooking is not difficult and when you have fantastic produce you do not need twenty processes and 30 ingredients to get the best from it, keep it simple. Support your local butchers and farmers and eat meat of a far higher quality than mass-produced supermarket produce.
Any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment and I will get back to you. Enjoy your meat and live happy.
A weekend of exploring fungi, weeds, flowers and wild cocktails on the Welsh borders in stunning countryside with amazingly knowledgeable people. I along with many other people have always picked wild free food since being a kid, generally the easy win stuff like blackberries, elderflower, sloe, nettles and dandelions etc. Like a lot of people mushrooms are a fascinating yet scary prospect on the wild food front. This years birthday present was a weekends foraging with Liz Knight and Mark Williams of Forage fine foods and Galloway Wild Foods respectively. I have known Liz for a number of years and have enjoyed her wild produce for a long time, I have met Mark previously and read his website posts on various aspects of foraging and fungi.
The place for the first days foraging which would be predominantly focusing on mushrooms was Nant y Bedd a 6.5 acre organic garden and woodland located at 1200 feet up in the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.
After tea and coffee Mark and Liz gave a run down of how the weekend would run and Mark handed out a small enamel cup to everyone, we would use these over the next two days for various tastings of the many and varied drinks that were in Marks large bag in various bottles, from cordials, to tinctures, to very sloe gin, to whisky sour. The first of these drinks we sampled was Elderflower and Sea Buckthorn champagne, I have tasted many variations on this drink and this I have to say was possibly the best I have had, you can find the recipe on Marks website.
Various sources state there are anywhere from 7,000 to 15,000 species of fungi in the UK. This is about 6 times the number of species flowering plants. About 3000 of these are species of larger fungi i.e. those with fruit bodies easily visible to the naked eye. The table below gives a brief introduction to the fungus families.
Characteristics and remarks
Contains the familiar mushrooms and toadstools. Divided into a number of classes including the Gasteromycetes (includes the puffballs and stinkhorns) and theTeliomycetes (includes rusts and smuts). The familiar gilled and pored fungi belong to the Hymenomycetes. All members of the Basidiomycota produce their spores on a characteristic cell called a basidium (plural basidia)
The largest number of species occur in this section. Includes the class Discomycetes (the cup fungi) and the Pyrenomycetes (flask fungi). Members of the Ascomycota produce spores in a sack like structure called an ascus (plural asci).
Mostly microscopic species includes the pin moulds that attack fruit in your refrigerator.
Not now considered to be related to the above three sub-divisions. The Oomycota includes the water moulds and some important pathogens such as potato blight. Many have produce motile spores during their life cycle which can swim.
An artificial sub-division containing those species for which no sexual state has been identified and therefore cannot be placed in any of the above sub-divisions. Most are thought to be derived from the Ascomycota. Includes many so called moulds such asPenicillium
The slime moulds. Very different from any of the above although spores are produced which look like the spores of the higher fungi. Many species include an amoeba-like stage in their life cycle.
Mark told us of a survey he carried out with one of the UK’s leading mycologists, during the survey Mark said that he could positively identify around 50% of what they found and the mycologist around 70% and saying that many could only be identified under a microscope. So when he gets a picture on twitter of a fuzzy mushroom cap and no other information asking “can I eat this” you understand his frustration. An important part of the identification is the habitat it grows in. Mycelium of the mushroom works with other plants, trees, soils. The word mycelium literally means “more than one”. It is actually a plural form of the word Mycelia. The word has New Latin and Greek origins and was first coined in text in the early 1800’s, and refers to the thread-like body of a fungus. The main part of the fungus is the mycelia, which lives inside the substrate (wood, straw, grain, etc). The mushrooms that we eat are actually just a small visible part of the organism. In nature mushrooms “bloom” much like flowers do. Like flowers, mushrooms bloom during certain times of the year when the conditions are just right. So when you ask for a mushroom to be identified you need to give as much information as possible, size (put a coin etc next to the cap), habitat (trees it’s under, grass, other fungi present), gills, spore colours, always use a guide-book, never trust just one source be it a book or website. For a far more in-depth guide to mushroom foraging visit Marks guide An introduction to fungi foraging.
At the start of the walk Mark said that often on a forage the first mushroom that is found he can not positively identify and that identification of mushrooms is down to probability and that you never munch on a hunch. This year has not been the best for fungi, the conditions have not been ideal for a bumper crop and we were a few weeks past the best time, the walk through the forest under a canopy of various deciduous and evergreen trees, from birch to Douglas fir both of these trees are great foraging sources in their own right, birch trees: tea from the twigs; a tea, spice, and flour from the inner bark; syrup from the sap. The needles of the douglas fir can be used for many things from teas, to adding to marinades and rubs for meat and fish, they have an amazing citrus note to them and can be used to replace lemon and lime in many things. During spring time, pine, fir, and other evergreen trees grow by producing new tips at the end of each branch. The new growth is a lighter, vibrant green, and you can (and should) eat it. The tips have a wonderful citrus-y, woodsy flavor that tastes awesome in all kinds of sautes, seafood, and roasted dishes. But the easiest way to preserve their flavor is steep them gently in a syrup, which will last in your fridge for weeks.
On the walk we came across various fungi from puff-ball to shaggy ink cap both edible. The puff-ball has another name that is far more amusing and when I told Ffion she laughed and will not forget its name of Wolf Farts, on the picture of the ink cap you can just see the tips starting to blacken, again please use a guide-book when identifying, both are edible when young.
Another fungi we found whilst on the forage is the honey fungus, one honey fungus living in the Blue Mountains of Oregon occupies almost 2,400 acres (965 hectares) of soil, covering an area as big as 1,665 football fields.
We also found brittle gill and parasol mushrooms, there are edible and inedible varieties in both families of so identification again is important, use your guide books, look at habitat, cap, stem, gills and spores and remember identification is probability not definitive.
Throughout the walk it highlighted that there are very few easy wins in mushroom foraging, it is imperative that you use guide books and never trust one resource, some fungi will not just give you a dodgy belly but have the potential to kill.
We ended the day with Mark making us a feast of fungi that he had brought with him, there was also breads, fermented wild garlic, wild mushroom pâté, wild garlic pesto, baked apples with wild spices and wild cocktails made by Lottie Muir author of Wild Cocktails from the midnight apothecary
We finished the day eating amazing wild food around a fire next to the wild pool in the garden at Nant y Bedd, to say I was jealous of this feature is an understatement, I told Sue about my jealousy on day two of the foraging and was told I am welcome to visit and have a swim. The first day of the weekends foraging was amazing and I learnt so much from both Mark and Liz.
The second day of the foraging course was to take place at the home of Liz at Forage fine foods, on a hillside just outside Abergavenny looking across the valley to the Cats Back and Offa’s Dyke. Again the day started with a small cup off the fantastic elderflower and sea buckthorn champagne.
To say that both locations for the weekends foraging are stunning is an understatement and I feel blessed that they are on my doorstep literally. The countryside that surrounds where I live be it the black mountains to the Brecon Beacons and the many hidden treasures between them is truly some of the finest in the UK and far further afield. Many take it for granted and do not pay any attention to what surrounds them.
Liz found her home 10 years ago in what was then a ramshackle drovers barn. The allure was not the barn or the area but on walking down the lane that would be the start of our days foraging the scent of wild pineapple weed, at the time Liz did not know what the “weed” was.
We all remember this from childhood and it has both culinary and medicinal uses, you can add the flower heads to salads, infuse in a syrup to make cordials, it is an excellent insect repellent and was used by Native Americans to line their children’s beds for that very reason. This was the first step of our days foraging and Liz had a cordial she had made and shared around among us in our tin cups from the day before, the cordial was made using various wild ingredients that she uses for flu and cold treatment wild pineapple weed can help to lower temperatures.
The format of the forage was to treat going down the drovers lane and hill as a walk and use coming back up the steep hillside as the forage and have stops looking at various things as an excuse to catch our breath. Not long after entering the field we came across a patch of mushrooms and stopped to look, they were growing close to an oak tree and Mark talked about the fungi could be working with the oak and the mycelium be spreading out from that, they could not be definitively identified and were placed in a basket to be checked off in a book later.
A little further down the field I came across a very small mushroom that I was pretty sure on the identity of, my disclaimer here is that I have seen on TV etc etc.
Shrooms, Philosopher’s Stone, Mushies, Magics, Liberty Cap, Liberties are just a few of the names of this mushroom, section 21 of the Drugs Act 2005 made fresh psychedelic mushrooms(“fungi containing psilocybin”), a Class A drug. Prior to these laws being passed, possession and use of psilocybin and psilocin is prohibited. There is research into the use of psilocybin in the treatment of mental health issues but that is another post on my other blog.
Though day two of the course was to predominantly focusing on the hedgerow and plant side of foraging we had found various fungi the next to be found was a large specimen of bracket fungi growing on a gate post, The Chicken of the Wood.
Another edible fungi but not in this late condition. The young Chicken of the Woods is “succulent” and has a mild flavor. Older specimens tend to change color as they develop, as well as become brittle. The young mushrooms have bright yellows and oranges; in age they dull to yellow and then pure white.
We all tend to walk along looking straight ahead and not observing our surroundings, it is only 10,000 years since our ancestors became growers and not hunter gatherers, they would not have stayed long in a place and would have gathered as they migrated from place to place, we import and store so many herbs and spices when with just a little effort we could be collecting native alternatives, common hogweed seeds are an amazing spice, we had parkin with the seeds in the seeds have a ginger, cinnamon back note to them, the green seed pods have a real kick to them and Mark collected some that we would use later in the day with supper. Picking hogweed should be done with caution as chemicals in the sap can cause phytophotodermititus – especially in strong sunlight. And never mix it up with its big brother Giant Hogweed which is inedible.
At the bottom of one field which was to be the end of the “walk” we stopped and gathered around what looked like just any other part of the field, nettles and dock two plants that everyone knows grew to one side, on a fallen tree hairy bittercress grew at the base. We played nettle roulette, the secret is to pick the top young leaves with confidence, take a piece of dock fold this and the nettle and place between the molars and chew, contrary to popular belief the dock leaf is not the best remedy for nettle stings, plantain which was also growing nearby is far better and a poultice made from nettles themselves is a lot better than the dock.
Stinging nettle has shown promise in reducing sneezing and itching as results from hay fever. This use as an herbal remedy for hay fever is successful due to the nettles ability to reduce the body’s production of histamines in relation to the allergen.
Used as a medicinal herb to treat respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and allergies. Stinging nettle is thought to be an effective histamine blocker as well as an inflammation reducer, and it has been used to treat allergic rhinitis without the side effects of popular allergy medications. If you have access to fresh plants, you can simply dry nettle leaves in the sun for your cup of nettle tea. Each cup of nettle tea contains vitamins A, B, and K, riboflavin, niacin, folate, carbohydrates (71.33%), fat (2.36%) and proteins (25.8%). It is also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, copper and magnesium.
As we started the journey back up Merlin’s hill and upper brooks we started making stops along the way to look at and learn about various things we had passed on the walk down.
On the banks of the gully were 2 different fungi growing on the bank, one a coral fungi the other surprised Mark with its habitat choice as it was a meadow wax cap.
Quite why a meadow wax cap was growing in a shaded gully was a bit confusing.
Along side the brook was one of the foragers most common choices an elderflower tree. Elder has many uses for the wild food gatherer one of which has been mentioned several times already and that is elderflower champagne. The recipe below is from Marks website where there are many more fantastic wild food recipes.
4 Elderflower heads in full bloom – if you can pick them on a sunny morning, so much the better. Shake them free of insects or other bits but don’t wash them.
4.5 litres (1 gallon) cold water
1 Lemon – it’s juice plus it’s skin quartered. A really nice variation is to add 5 tablespoons of sea buckthorn juice instead. It gives a slightly tropical tang to the affair.
650g (1.5lb) white sugar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Dissolve the sugar in a little of the water – it will help if you warm it then allow it to cool. Then simply mix it with all the other ingredients in a large jug or basin. Leave covered for 4 days (preferably somewhere cool or you run the risk of the lemon going mouldy). Strain and pour into clean screw-top bottles – plastic fizzy drink bottles are ideal. Leave at an ambient temperature for 4-10 days, testing after 6 to make sure it doesn’t get too fizzy. Its quite important to check the bottles regularly as they will explode if you you forget about them. Gently unscrew the lid every few days to decompress. In cooler places it may need another week or so to get going, so be patient – the natural yeast in the flowers is doing the work and can take a wee while to get going. he longer you leave it fermenting, the stronger it will be in alcohol. Once you are happy with it, keep it in the fridge to slow down fermentation.
Another fantastic elder recipe is elderberry vinegar, take 500 ml of white vinegar and 350 g of elderberries( stripped from stalks ) Add the berries to the vinegar and leave for 5 days, shaking or stirring occasionally. After 5 days strain the liquid and add 350 g of sugar to every 260 ml of liquid, bring to boil to dissolve the sugar simmer for ten minutes, then leave to cool before bottling, this makes a great alternative to balsamic and at a fraction of the cost.
Eldberry has a substance that in recent studies has been shown to more effective in the treatment of flu than tamiflu. The substance in question is Sambucol, extensive trials have taken place in Norway and Israel where the symptoms of two strains of flu were cured in two days where as tamiflu took four days.
On a warm sunny day pick a few kilos of elder berries, take home and place in a large pan and just cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until the berries are soft ( around 30 mins ), strain through a sieve to remove the seeds though harmless they have a bitter taste. For each 600 ml of liquid add 450 g of sugar the juice of a lemon and 10 cloves, return to heat and add a 2cm piece of ginger, simmer until the sugar has dissolved, boli hard for ten minutes, once cool take out the ginger and cloves. An excellent way to store is in ice cube trays, a few ice cubes melted in hot water make an excellent hot toddy. I am going to investigate alternatives to the ginger and lemon, maybe fir needles for the citrus and hogweed seeds for the ginger.
As we moved further up the hill and admired the stunning views across the valley the sun broke through the clouds and lit the valley.
The next stop on the journey was along side the humble hawthorn a favourite of the birds at this time of year, when the Hawthorn, Ash and Oak grow close to it is said to be steeped in fairy lore and since we are on Merlin’s Hill who am I to argue. The young leaves can be used in salads and from the book the Hedgerow Handbook they are said to be exceptional in a new potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing, the leaves can also lower cholesterol. The berries are a great source of vitamin C and Haw syrup is a great way to use the berries, take 1 kg of haws and mash in a pestle and mortar do not use a metal tool as this will lower the vitamin C and this is what we are looking to extract, place the mashed haws in a large fireproof pot, earthenware if you have one, cover with 3 litres of boiling water, simmer for 20 minutes, strain the liquid and discard the haws. Pour the liquid back into the pot and add 450 g of sugar bring to boil until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is a syrupy consistency. Pour into sterilised jars or bottles. If you have a cold dilute 1 part syrup with one part hot water add a squeeze of lemon ( douglas fir tip syrup could be an alternative ) add a tot of brandy for a great hot toddy. In the book hedgerow handbook there is a hawberry brandy recipe. Another fantastic hawberry recipe is hawberry ketchup and Liz makes an amazing version of this, I will definitely be having a go at making some this autumn.
Talking of alcoholic drinks without doubt the most famous foragers drink is sloe gin. Of the people on the days foraging over half had made sloe gin in the past.
I will point you to another post by Mark for all things sloe gin related as his sample I had on the weekend was simply sublime. This brought the actual foraging to a great conclusion, a short walk back up the field to Liz’s home where a feast was awaiting us and where Mark would create the drink of the walk, during the walk mark had collected berries, seeds and many edible plants that he would infuse to make our own bespoke drink of the day, mark added the various edibles into a cream whipper topped with gin and infused, our very own wild cocktail to toast what had been a fantastic weekend. While we had been out on Merlin’s Hill collecting various magical wild things Liz’s husband had cooked us muntjac deer, served with this was a fantastic dhal cooked by Liz’s friend Emily, to which we would add various wild things we had collected during the forage, to mine I added nettle leaves, fermented wild garlic, and green hogweed seeds, the main was followed by a pear and acorn crumble that was stunning.
Well that brings to a close what I had intended on being a quick post on my foraging weekend. We as people in general have the majority of our food in packets from the supermarket and have lost touch with the abundance that surrounds us, we can not possibly continue to live and eat as we are, factory farming and gmo food is not in any way sustainable or ethical. I have posted, tweeted ranted and raved that we must change and getting back to nature is the first step, we are surrounded by our own native herbs and spices, fruits and seeds, the sooner we make use of these resources the better. When foraging there are some basics to take in mind there are various laws that you need to keep in mind and you should check with the landowner where you are foraging.
Guidelines for responsible foraging (taken from www.woodlandtrust.org.uk)
Seek permission from the landowner
We allow foraging for personal use on in our woods, but there are areas where foraging is not permitted, particularly on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) or nature reserves. Always check before setting out.
Never consume a wild plant unless you are absolutely certain of its identification and that’s its safe to consume. Use reference books to identify. Fungi can be notoriously difficult to identify, so if you’re unsure it’s best to leave alone.
Only collect from plentiful populations
Only collect flowers, leaves, fruits and seeds where they are in abundance. For fungi, only take mushrooms that have opened their caps (so are likely to have dropped their spores). Do not collect small ‘button’ mushrooms.
Leave plenty behind for others and for wildlife
Wild food is vital for the survival of the UK’s wildlife and it is important to forage sustainably to ensure there is enough left for birds and others, and to allow the plant or fungus itself to produce seeds and spores that grow into the next generation.
Beware poisonous species
Make sure you know what you are collecting before setting out.
Do not collect rare species
Only take plants and fungi where you are certain you know what they are. Take a good field guide to confirm species in the field and avoid confusion. Some species are protected by law, so know what not to collect. Ancient woodlands in particular can contain many rare species so take special care.
Minimise damage to the nearby habitat and species
Do not just collect everything you see and sort it out later, and take care not to trample down areas you are collecting from.
Take no more than those you plan to eat
Uprooting plants is harmful so pick leaves or berries with care and moderation and avoid damaging the plant’s roots.
Wild plants and the law
All wild plants are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is illegal to dig up or remove a plant (including algae, lichens and fungi) from the land on which it is growing without permission from the landowner or occupier. Some species are specially protected against picking, uprooting, damage and sale. A list of these can be found on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
It is that time of year and to make a change from cold turkey sandwiches, cold meat and pickles and the obvious of turkey curry which I have nothing against this year I am doing something different with the legs off my bird. If you are getting your turkey from your local butcher get them to remove the legs for you if not there are plenty of videos on you tube showing how to remove the legs which is really very easy to do. Cooking the legs in this way will give you what resembles pulled pork in a rich Smokey sauce with a nice bite to it, will lift any boxing day meal to another level.
2 turkey legs, skin removed
1 large onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves of garlic minced or grated finely
1 tbl spoon chilli powder of choice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
125 ml tomato sauce
75 ml cider vinegar
2 chopped chipotle chillis (these are dried chillis soak in hot water for 20 minutes to hydrate, keep the juice)
2 finely chopped jalapeños
1 tbl spoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tbl spoon molasses or honey
125 ml water
Sea salt and pepper to season
This can be cooked in a slow cooker, cast iron casserole or an oven proof dish. Can also be done in your BBQ or smoker, I will be doing this in the wood fired oven on boxing day and making up some special Christmas pizzas.
Sauté onion until soft and golden roughly ten minutes, add the garlic and spices and cook for a further minute. Stir in the tomato sauce, cider vinegar, chillis, Worcestershire sauce the honey or molasses and add the water. Stir well and cook through for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the skinned turkey legs either whole or as thighs and drumsticks cover with the sauce and cook for around 3 hours until the turkey is soft and tender. If cooking in a slow cooker either cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours until as above.
Once cooked transfer to a bowl and allow to cool so that either with your hands or two forks shred the meat into long shreds just like pulled pork. Stir the shredded meat into the remaining sauce and serve with good bread rolls, coleslaw, pickles and all your other boxing day sides.
The only fast food I have really eaten and one that since I started to eat only free range meat that I actually miss is fried chicken, everyone loves fried chicken with that crispy crunchy coating and moist tender chicken inside, picking the bones to get the last morsels of meat from them. For one reason or another it is not something I have cooked that often in the past, this is my method and recipe for making southern fried chicken, you can adjust the flour mix with various herbs and spices to get your own personal taste.
To get the most of this recipe you need to plan it in advance as you need to marinade the chicken in buttermilk for 24 hours minimum. The enzymes in the butter milk help tenderise the chicken and keep it moist when frying, I also find you get a crisper end result. Most supermarkets stock buttermilk. I used 8 chicken thighs and 500 ml of buttermilk.
After the chicken has been marinated for 24 hours it is ready to be dredged in your flour mix.
The easiest way to coat your chicken is in a large food bag with your flour mix in, this is far less messy than a bowl with the mix in.
My mix for this recipe was.
100g/3½oz rice flour
4 tbsp cornflour
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp baking powder
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and add to the bag containing the flour, shake well coating each piece with your flour mix. Pre heat a deep fat fryer to 165-170c, fry until golden and cooked through roughly 8 minutes for thigh joints. I always use a temperature probe when cooking and test the core temp chicken should reach 165f or 73c to be safe.
Another visit to my favourite farm shop and another gift off Dillys, two large pieces of flank steak the last flank I had from them I flash fried and it was amazing. The idea for this comes from Marcus Bawdon another outdoor cooking lover and an inspiration on the BBQ and Smoking side of it. It is always good to visit the farm shop and see the actual cows in the field or sheds that supply just great meat.
flank steak chilli
The recipe is not very different to my usual chilli, I used the same mix of chillis being ancho, chipotle, cascabel and jalapeno. The one difference in this was I used beer in the sauce rather than just stock.
Place the dried chillis in a bowl and cover with hot water to rehydrate. Finely chop onions and mince garlic fry until softened in olive oil.
Blend the chillis with the liquid they were re-hydrated in and add to the onion and garlic, finely chop the oregano and stir in. Add the chopped tomatoes, beef stock cube and beer and bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Use either a hand blender or food mixer to blend the sauce, add the flank steak and beans to the sauce in an oven proof casserole, if you can not get flank brisket, shin or some braising steak will be a good substitute.
Place in a preheated oven at 140c for 6-8 hours, this could also be cooked in a slow cooker placed on before you go to work in the morning.
Well not being one to do things by half I though I know an easy way to raise a few quid for charity I will have a BBQ and have a few mates over.
What was planned as a”BBQ” turned in to a cooking marathon with 16 hour smoked beef brisket, 18 hour pulled pork shoulder, 16 hour smoked rolled beef brisket that was turned in to pulled beef. add to that lot frankfurters, pickles, coleslaw a mixed bean BBQ chilli, pastrami and wood fired Pizza and you can see that it was not your run of the mill BBQ
Pork, Beef, Charcuterie, Bread and Pickles that are amongst the best that you can get anywhere.
With such great produce you have to pay it respect and create what is simply stunning food.
Along with the food we had a raffle to raise a few extra quid for our chosen charities Pilgrim Bandits, Talking2Minds and Hope GB.
All in all we raised over £500 and fed people what in their own words was some of the best food they have ever had, to hear people praise your food is all you wish for and to hear people say I never thought it would be this good makes me happy.