Category Archives: Flowers

Elderflower cheesecake with goat curd

This elderflower cheesecake was a bit of an experiment but tasted delicious so thought I’d blog the recipe.

BUT… I  warn you..  this was fine  when we ate it immediately but the cordial seeped out overnight. So I suspect the elderflower (or another cordial) may work better in a baked cheesecake with a bit of gelatine or agar flakes to help hold it all together. It was very tasty but this recipe does need adapting.. unless you are going to scoff the lot straight away!

I had a trip up to Hawes recently to visit Iona and Stu at Ribblesdale Cheese to talk about cheese waxing (yes really!) – when I left, Iona gave me a little cheese parcel of goat curd and some sheeps cheese.

BqaJZdXIUAArj1JThe goat curd was mild and creamy so I thought it would make a lovely cheesecake – I have gone a bit overboard with the elderflower cordial this year and have loads of it.. so seemed an idea to put the two together. I realise goat curd is not easy to get hold of – it is very similar in texture and taste to cream cheese so you could just use that.

I have never actually made cheesecake – hubby is an excellent cook and does the fancy stuff like cheesecake in our house so this was a bit of trial and error but I’m very pleased with the result. I discovered after I made this that hubby usually uses two 200g pots of low fat soft cheese and a 200g tub of marscapone and 200g double cream for his cheesecake mix.

Base

half a packet of digestives and half a packet of ginger nuts

50 g butter

Cheesecake bit

250 g goat curd

200g tub low fat soft cheese

100ml double cream

250ml elderflower cordial

Juice and zest of 1 lime

2 dessert spoons castor sugar

To make the base – bash the biscuits or cheat and whizz them in a blender to turn to crumbs.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the crumbs, stirring til they are coated and the mix just looks a bit crumbly

Get a spring form tin and press biscuit mix down firmly with the back of a spoon. If you don’t have one of these tins and want to buy one – be warned – you really do get what you pay for – cheap ones often have dodgy springs and/or they rust easily. The best tins are the really old fashioned ones so ask your granny if she has one or have a rummage in your local charity shop! I remembered afterwards that these work best when you line them with greaseproof paper and then can easily lift out the goodies when you release the spring!

WP_20140620_006[1]Pop the base and tin in the fridge to chill while you get on with the cheesecake mix.

To make the cheesecake bit I started off with goat curd, cream cheese and cream then mixed it up and added lime and elderflower gradually to get the right consistency. I did it by hand with an egg whisk and in a very inappropriate pyrex dish as I made it at my dads house and he doesn’t have any big mixing bowls!

WP_20140620_007[1] It tasted a bit sharp with the lime so I added a bit of castor sugar at the end. However, I think if you left the lime out there would be enough sugar in the cordial so wouldn’t actually need it.

Spoon this mix onto the chilled biscuit base and level off with the back of a spoon. Chill in the fridge for about an hour.

WP_20140620_008[1]And now for the tricky bit… getting it out of the tin. Depending on how good your tin is.. the bottom may just fall out when you release the spring.. so be prepared. When you release the spring you will need to lift the cake up to get it out as the spring will not open enough to let the cake drop out downwards.. hope that makes sense.

Always have your hand flat under the base when you release the spring and be prepared to lift it up (or down) gently.

WP_20140620_010[1]Slide it onto a large flat plate or chopping board and you are ready to tuck in.. Enjoy 🙂

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wild food bhajis

Wild Food Bhajis

I did these bhajis at a cookery demo in Leeds yesterday using nettles and they were very popular.  This is a wonderful, cheap and easy recipe for a wide range of foraged, grown or bought food. Bhajis are gluten free and dairy free so if you’re stuck with recipe ideas for ‘intolerant’ friends this is a tasty solution.

You can use pretty much any wild food in these bhajis so have fun and experiment!
Nettles, comfrey, borage, ground elder, cleavers, dandelion leaves and/or petals, ox eye daisies, wild garlic, sorrel, sea beet, mushrooms or any bought or foraged leafy greens like spinach or kale and much more. See pictures at the bottom of this post if you aren’t sure what some of those look like.

Nettles, comfrey, borage and cleavers are hairy things but you don’t need to precook them – a couple of minutes in hot oil will get rid of the hairs but always wear gloves if handling nettles.

Some leaves will shrink quite a bit with cooking so I usually add some thinly sliced onion to bulk things up a bit.

Ingredients
4 rounded tablespoons gram flour (chick pea flour)
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

I often add a teaspoon of either black onion, cumin or fennel seeds but this is optional

wild food bhaji recipePictures are from a batch of dandelion petal and ground elder bhajis

Mix up the gram flour and spices then add enough water to make a consistency like a thick pancake batter
Chop or shred whatever you plan to use and then add to the bhaji mix and stir around so ingredients are covered in the paste. I tend to use scissors to snip leaves and just drop them straight into the mix
Take a small dessert spoon of the mixture and drop into hot vegetable oil in a deep pan or a wok, you may need another spoon to scrape the mixture off
Cook 3 or 4 bhajis at once – they will need a couple of minutes cooking on each side until they start to brown.
Drain on some kitchen roll or keep warm in a low oven until you are ready to eat.
Depending on the bulk of things you add this amount should make between 6-8 good size bhajis or 10-12 smaller ones.

nasturtium dip and bhajis

These bhajis are lovely with a salad and some yoghurt or raita and go beautifully with a nasturtium dip see my blog on nasturtium recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

Some suggestions to try

ground elder dandelion cleavers sticky willy goosegrassGround elder, dandelions, nettles and cleavers (also called sticky willy or goosegrass)

comfrey mustard ground elderComfrey, wild mustard, close up of ground elder

 

Elderflower Sorbet

Elderflowers are a distinctive summer sight and many people make a cordial from the flowers – this is a refreshing sorbet which is very simple to make. There are many recipes out there for elderflower cordial – here is one from my chum Rachel the Vagabond Baker – Summer in a Bottle. Her blog is a fantastic mix of great recipes, photos and her extensive travels so well worth a look anyway!

Elder has very distinctive fragrant flowers and most people are able to confidently identify them but here are some pictures just in case you aren’t sure.

WP_20140531_004[1]I love the tenactity of elder and the fact it grows everywhere. I spotted this growing very happily in a drain cover!

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Elderflower Sorbet

10 elderflower heads (can leave them on the stalks)

1 litre water

750g sugar

2 lemons juice and zest

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat. Add elderflowers and lemon juice and zest. Stir, cover and leave overnight then strain through muslin or a fine sieve.

Pour the strained elderflower liquid into a plastic tub with a lid and put in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove and whisk vigorously with a fork or hand whisk. Return to freezer and whisk again after an hour. Return again to freezer and whisk once more after another hour. By now it should look like sorbet but if it still is a bit mushy just keep freezing and whisking until it does.

Serve as it is or with raspberries or mint leaves and enjoy!

This can be made anytime of the year by cheating and using elderflower cordial. 500ml cordial, 1 litre water and 400g sugar. Dissolve sugar in water over a low heat, remove from heat and add cordial and cool. Follow freezing instructions as above.

 

My elderflower sorbet was featured in a book Recipes Down the Line which is a collection of recipes from a wide range of farmers, food producers, cafés, restaurants and local people based along the route of the Settle-Carlise Railway. It is available online or can be bought from stations along the railway or Tourist Information offices.

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Some Thoughts on Comfrey

If you are new to the idea of foraging then comfrey is something that can be a bit confusing. It has white, pink or purple flowers, can be used as fertiliser and compost accelerator and is much loved by organic gardeners. The leaves and sometimes roots are mentioned in older wild food and medicinal herb books but newer ones tend to go on at length about the potential dangers and talk of toxic components.

See this article from Monica Wilde which goes into the research, history, pros and cons of comfrey.. it is long but well worth reading.  http://monicawilde.com/is-comfrey-edible/

Comfrey

Personally.. I do eat comfrey and have no problem at all with it. Like most things, I believe moderation is the key. The vast majority of people who do eat it are unlikely to have more than a few leaves a month (unlike the poorly rats in the study who ate it constantly for weeks .. and rats don’t normally even eat it).. but it is your choice.

Comfrey is used widely in herbal medicine and homeopathy for its wound healing and bone setting qualities. If you decide to make any medicinal creams or concoctions then symphytum officianale is the one that you need which is the one with white flowers. Most wild comfrey is crossed with other varieties, usually the purple Russian variety, so I suggest you get some ‘proper’ dried comfrey or tincture from a reputable medicinal herbal supplier like Baldwins so you make sure you have the right stuff.

 

Some Wild Food Books

I am often asked about best wild food and foraging books and the basic answer is.. there are loads out there and most people end up with quite a collection. If you do decide to delve into the world of foraging you’ll probably end up with a few favourites you use a lot. See Forage Kent blog for another take on foraging books.. we only have one in common!

Depending on your interests or where you live you may also want some more specialised foraging books. I love making simple medicinal lotions and potions so Hedgerow Medicine is one of my favourites. I live miles from the sea but if you are close by you might want to invest in the excellent Edible Seashore from the lovely River Cottage folk.

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One of the huge problems with wild food books is that some are good for identifying things, some have great recipes but there are very few that do both. So.. I suggest you have a rummage in a charity shop or get a couple second hand to get you started.

A common problem with both wild food and herb books is that the plants are often listed under their latin names, the common names will always be in the index but it can be quite off-putting if you aren’t really sure what you are looking for.

Food For Free by Richard Mabey is a great basic book for identifying things and has been around for over 40 years in various editions. We have a normal size and a pocket size one which is handy for foraging trips. I also suggest you get a good herb book. These often have much better photos which makes identifying plants clearer. Many herb books also have recipes, simple medicines, dyes and even things like hand creams so have a nose and see what you like the look of.

A recent addition to my bookshelf is The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals which I absolutely love. A bit of mythology, some interesting recipes, plants listed by their common names which are all great .. but the best part is the wonderful plant pictures which highlight some key features so makes identification easier.

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I have a books page on this website which links to Amazon but other books and booksellers are available.. these below are ones that I really like for a range of reasons. Some have good pictures, some have good recipes and other have some quirky folklore and stories in them. Many books on Amazon now have a few pages you can look at in a preview.. so if you like the look of one you can browse the first chapter or so and get a feel for whether it might be for you. I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris which is full of independent booksellers.