Category Archives: Recipes

Fruit Leather

This post originally appeared on my homeopathy website but feel it deserves repeating on here.

There is a huge amount of fruit around this year and if you are getting sick of making crumble or jam  (or still have some of last years goodies in the freezer)  then this is a great solution.

Fruit leather is effectively a kind of fruit jerky and a healthy chewy treat. I don’t add sugar but you can if you want. It is very easy to make and, if properly dried, will keep for several weeks in the fridge. In my experience it never lasts long enough to go bad!

What follows is a general guideline to making fruit leather, there is no set recipe so just see how you get on and experiment.

I used 12 pears and a baking tray approx 30cm x 50cm so you can see from the pictures how much that makes.

Ingredients

  • Fresh fruit  such as apples, pears, grapes, apricots, peaches, plums, berries
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar (if needed)
  • Optional spices – cinnamon and nutmeg work well with apples and pears

Method

1 Rinse the fruit. If you use stoned fruit such as plums or apricots, remove the stones and chop the fruit. If you are using apples or pears, peel and core them, then chop.

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2 Taste the fruit before proceeding and think about how sweet it is. If it is a little sharp, you may want to add some sugar in the next step.

3 Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add about half a cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher or hand blender to mash up the fruit in the pan. Add sugar or lemon juice in small amounts at this stage and keep tasting until you are happy with the flavour. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices if you wish.

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4 Continue to simmer for around 10 minutes and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has thickened. A lot of the moisture will have gone by now and it should be more of a thick paste at this stage. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary.

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5 Line a baking sheet with cling film (the kind that is microwave safe). Do NOT be tempted to try aluminium foil or greaseproof paper.. trust me.. the fruit leather will weld itself to anything but cling film! Leave the purée to cool for a few minutes then pour into the lined baking sheet to about 0.5cm thickness.

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5 Place the baking sheet in the oven and make sure the cling film hasn’t folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won’t dry out. Heat the oven to 200°F or about 95°C. A fan oven will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes, there really is no set time as each mix will be different but 6-8 hours is probably a good guess. We usually keep it in the oven overnight for about 8-10 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, tap it with your finger to check and it will be very clear when it is done. It will darken considerably and shrink quite a bit but that is fine.

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If you have a food dehydrator you can use that.  If you live somewhere warm (not Yorkshire!) you can cover the tray with some cheesecloth or one of the mesh ‘cake cosies’ and leave it outside in the sun on a hot day.

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6 When the fruit leather is ready, you can just roll it up with the cling film and store in the fridge if you want. I prefer to peel the cling film off and use scissors to cut it into squares for easy bite-sized snacks. These can be stored in a plastic tub in the fridge and will keep for several weeks but usually get eaten pretty quickly.

Enjoy :)

Lavender scones

This is a simple and tasty recipe for lavender scones from my friend Karen. They really are delicious and taste lovely simply spread with butter.

All lavender flowers are edible and you can use fresh or dried ones for this recipe. There really is no need to buy culinary lavender but do think about where it has come from if you are picking some for cooking – don’t use flowers that have been sprayed with chemicals or might have been weed on by dogs! Just a couple of flower heads is enough for this recipe.

 

Ingredients

12 oz self raising flour

4 oz caster sugar

3 oz butter or margarine

4 fluid oz buttermilk (or full fat milk)

Beaten egg to brush on top

2 big pinches lavender

Adding 1tsp baking powder gives a lighter texture but is optional

 Method

Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar and rub in butter/margarine.

Tip in buttermilk and lavender and combine.

This mixture will look very dry and crumbly to start with but do not be tempted to add more liquid. It should have a consistency like pastry. If the mixture is too moist it spreads when cooking and come out more like biscuits.. but will still be delicious!

Roll out to about an inch thick and cut into rounds, brush with beaten egg and bake 12-15 mins gas mark 7 or 220c

Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy these with butter.

lavender scones

Meadowsweet flowers on railway embankmant

Meadowsweet – cordial and medicine

Meadowsweet is a common flower which grows to about 4 feet high and has very distinctive fluffy cream flowers.  The latin name is Filipendula ulmaria or may be in older books as Spiraea ulmaria. It is usually found in wet or boggy ground in places like edges of fields,  grass verges, canal or riverbanks or railway embankments.

The scent of flowers is a bit like honey with a hint of marzipan. The leaves have tiny leaves between the larger ones and when scrunched up give off a smell a bit like old fashioned antiseptic.

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In traditional herbalism meadowsweet has a wide range of uses for digestive troubles, headaches and pain and can be used as a tea – just add a teaspoon of dried or fresh flowers to a cup of hot water and leave to brew for about 5 minutes. Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid which is what aspirin was originally synthesised from.

However if you are pregnant, asthmatic, taking warfarin or have a known allergy to aspiring then it is best avoided.

Napiers Herbalists page on meadowsweet says :-

As with all medicines, this one isn’t always going to be suitable for everyone; people with known allergy or intolerance in relation to aspirin should be cautious when trying this herb as should those suffering from asthma. Salicylic acid also helps to reduce platelet activity in the blood, which is good news in terms of avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but to be avoided if taking drugs such as warfarin or heparin and for the few days immediately prior to any kind of surgery. It should also be avoided in pregnancy.

You would have to take a lot of Meadowsweet to amount to the equivalent of a tablet; on the other hand, due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects it is a gentle but powerful medicine and works without the caustic side-effects of its pharmaceutical cousin.

In this short video Monica Wilde of Napiers the Herbalists talks about  how to identify meadowsweet and its historic and medicinal uses.

In this next video Monica shows you how to make Meadowsweet Cordial. Use about 250g of sugar and 1 litre of water for 30-40 heads of open flowers.

Monica also has an excellent wild food and medicine blog Wilde in the Woods with loads of useful recipes, great photos and clear instructions. She also tweets as @monicawilde.

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 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.