Tag Archives: gluten free

sweet chestnut

Sweet Chestnuts .. and Parakeets!

Sweet Chestnuts are very commonly found in parks in the UK.  Their latin name is Castanea sativa. These photos were taken in Hyde Park in London on a recent visit to the big city. When we saw this tree there were several parakeets nibbling away at the chestnuts.chestnuts

There are many flocks of parakeets in parts of London that have escaped and adapted to their new found freedom and numbers have grown massively since the 1990’s. There are quite a few parrots too. I never quite get used to seeing parakeets and parrots in the in-laws garden in Croydon!


Ringnecked Parakeet eating sweet chestnuts in Kew Gardens © Copyright Christine Matthews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In the autumn and winter in France the aroma of roasting chestnuts seems to be everywhere. Marrons are the cultivated version of wild sweet chestnuts and usually have one or two large chestnuts in each whereas wild ones may have one or two nuts but usually some smaller flat ones too.

Sweet chestnuts have a pointed end and conkers or horse chestnuts are rounded and have larger spikes on the shell casing ..birds will eat both but conkers are not edible for us.

sweetchestnut2In October the casings of sweet chestnuts will go brown and fall on the ground when they are ready – just tread on them to get at the nuts and collect the larger ones and not the flat ones. They do need to be cooked before eating but are very tasty, versatile and gluten free too.. will post more recipes soon but I love them just roasted.

The easiest way to cook them is slit the skins with a sharp knife and throw them in an open fire.. leave one chestnut whole and when it goes pop the others are cooked. If you don’t have an open fire just slit the skins with a knife and boil them up for  about 15 minutes, the shell will peel off easily  but the inner membrane is a bit trickier to remove. You can either just eat them as they are or save them in an airtight container in the fridge and use in a recipe later.sweetchestnut1

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.

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