Archive for ‘wild food’

September 5, 2013

Blackberry cock – An Irish twist of an east Finnish classic

by Ciaran Burke
The baked pie... anybody for some blackberry cock?

The baked pie… anybody for some blackberry cock?

When I was first offered a fish cock in Kuopio, the capital of the eastern Finnish province of Savo, I did not know how to respond. One does not wish to be rude and impolite to the natives, but the prospect did not sound too promising. The look on my face must have betrayed my fear, it was explained to me that the fish cock was indeed a fish pie. Mustikkakukko, blueberry cock, is a blue berry pie made with a delicious rye pastry. Such pies are also called rättänä in Savo, Finland. The Finnish blueberry is Vaccinium myrtillus, what we call bilberry or froachan. The bilberry season has passed us, it is now prime blackberry season. Along the hedgerows and roads the black fruits of Rubus fruticosus, hang inviting us to pick them, and so the blackberry cock was created!

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Blackberry Cock (pie made with rye pastry)

INGREDIENTS

For the pastry

  • 250ml Rye flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g light muscavado sugar, sieved
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling

  • 700ml blackberries (about 0.5kg)
  • 50ml sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon corn flour
Crumbling the butter with the rye flour

Crumbling the butter with the rye flour

METHOD

  1. Mix together the rye flour with sieved sugar and baking powder
  2. Crumble in the butter
  3. Wrap in greaseproof paper and put in the fridge for at least an hour
  4. Mix the blackberries, sugar and corn flour
  5. Line a ceramic dish with a little more than half of the rye pastry, saving some for the top
  6. Fill in the blackberry mix and then top off with the rye pastry. Working with rye pastry is more difficult than wheat or spelt pastry, it is very difficult to roll. So don’t worry if it does not hold together.
  7. Place in a pre-heated oven to 200 degrees Celcius and bake for 30 minutes.

The soft texture of the sweet rye pastry is delicious with blackberries. In Finland the blueberry cock is often served with vanilla custard, that would also be perfect for the blackberry version. Serve the pie warm or cold.

A delicious slice of black berry cock.. yum!

A delicious slice of black berry cock.. yum!

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July 7, 2013

Foraged Food Indian Style – Creamy Buttered Nettle Panir

by Ciaran Burke

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When I mention foraging to people, one of the first remarks made is often in relation to nettle soup… It seems that it is probably the best known foraged food, and while nettle soup can be tasty and delicious, it is a pity to limit the experience of harvesting wild food to the same old recipes. Nettles are delicious and tasty, and can be cooked in a number od ways as a vegetable, steamed and eaten with melted butter and freshly ground black pepper, saured in rape seed oil and eaten with new potatoes or even raw in a salad! If you rub nellte leaves roughly between the palms of your hands you remove the stinging hairs. It must be done firmly and with confidence, as the old saying about grasping the nettles says…

Nettle pesto is also delicious, used as a topping for potatoes or crostini, and of course, mixed with pasta and some finely grated cheese, I like a hard goats cheese with my nettle pesto. One of the most delicious ways that I have cookeed nettles this yerar though, is replacing spinach in the classic Indiam Saag Panir recipe.

While nettles are usually used as young shoots in the spring, older nettle clumps can be chopped back now and the new growths can be harvested in afe weeks time.

Creamy Buttered Nettle Panir – Recipe

Panir is a soft cheese that is easy to make at home. Bring one litre of milk to the boil then add about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, to make the milk curdle. Then pour the curdled milk through a muslin cloth. Squeeze the cheese in the cloth to emove remaining fluid and then shape into a flat block, like whenyou buy feta. Place the cheese in the cloth on a plate and cover with a chopping board weighed down with a tin of beans or a bag of sugar. Leave for two hours and then either refrigarate or use.

Homem ade panir cheese cut into cubes

Home made panir cheese cut into cubes

Ingredients:

  • About 30 young nettle shoots
  • block of panir cut into cubes
  • 125 butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion seeds (nigella seeds)- nothing to do with onions nor Nigella damsecena
  • 4 curry leaves
  • clove of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 150ml of cream
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 red chilli choped (optional)
mixing the panir and wilted nettles

Mixing the panir and wilted nettles

Method

  1. Put nettle leaves in a steamer and cok until wilted. then cool and set aside
  2. Melt 25g of butter in a large saucepan and slowly fry the panir cubes until browned, then remove and place on some kitchen paper
  3. Melt the rest of the butter, add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juive and chillies. Stir for a few minutes.
  4. Mix the spinach and panir cubes and then add to the mix.
  5. Add the lemon juice and sprinkle the chillies on top.
  6. Serve with brown basmati rice or home made Naan bread- delicious!
Creamy buttered nettle panir

Creamy buttered nettle panir

July 3, 2013

Back in Blog… still foraging, still cooking, still gardening…

by Ciaran Burke

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Oh how time has flown… it has been quite a while since I last posted a blog on this site. Its not that I have lost interest in gardening,  foraging and cooking, I still vey much have a passion for blooms and food.

Over the last months I have been taking my foraging activities to a new degree and have started a new food business called NjAM Foods. utilizing nature’s bounty I have been busy developing a range of wild flower cordials, ketchups and jams.

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This is an exciting venture. I travel around the quiet roads in our locality and harvest flowers from flowering currant, gorse, dandelion and lately elder. I love the idea of using the wild plants to produce a food product which is uniue and delicious and really captures a true taste of the Irish countryside. Apart from the harvesting, there is the cooking, bottling, labelling, marketing and deliveries, it takes quite a bit of work to convert a flower in the hedgerow to a product on the shelf of a shop, but it is a fun new challenge.

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So far a number of outlets are stocking NjAM Foods products:

Cafe Rua, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Dew C Fruit & Veg, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Kate’s Place, Oranmore Town Centre, Orenmore, Co. Galway

Brid Tiernan at the Carrick on Shannon, Longford and Boyle Farmers Markets

and

Brogans’s Health Food Store in Bioyle.

The products we have made include Beetroot ketchup, Carrot Ketchup and Beer Ketchup. The wild flower cordials include Elderflower, Gorse, Flowering Currant, Danelion and soon it will be time to pick meadowsweet blossoms.

I have also been making jams; gorse flower, elderflower and meadowsweet from the wild flowers. Pina Colada, Rose and Apple are a bit more unusal but we are also making rhubarb and Vvanilla and delicious strawberry jam.

For some of our clients we supply the products labelled specifically for our suppliers as we do for Kate’s Place and our gorse flower jam for Cafe Rua.

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We have a website, a Facebook Page and Twitter account too…

www.njamfoods.com

Njam Facebook page

Njam on twitter

www.njamfoods.com

I have also been busy with our Scoodoos www.scoodoos.com, ancient tree spirits helping to save the planet, and my one tree photogrpahy project www.onetree365.com

I have also had time to forage for dinner and have been using foraged wild plants to give a wild twist to a couple of indian recipes… next blog will feature Saag Nettle Panir… and it wont be 4 months, promise…

January 7, 2013

The First Weeds Are The First Harvest- Chickweed Soup Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
Chickweed soup... will warm you up on a cold day

Chickweed soup… will warm you up on a cold day

Happy New Year!

the weather here in the west of Ireland has been unusually mild, which is great in some respects; I can look forward to inhaling the sweet fragrance of Daphne bholua flowers in the next few days, the gorse bushes are about to flower and I can soon enjoy some sweet gorse flower cordial, about 2 months earlier than last year! The downside of the mildness is that weeds keep growing, some have not stopped at all. One that has kept a year round presence in our garden is Stellaria media, known as chickweed or mouse eared chickweed. Luckily it is a tasty plant that can be made into a delicious soup or included in a pesto. So the year’s first weeding session can also be this years first harvest!

Chickweed -Stellaria media

Chickweed -Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media, is an annual weed which can germinate at any time of year. Its botanical name refers to the starry white flowers that are produced at the ends of the lush green growth. Chickweed often grows in abundance in recently disturbed ground, the seeds are stimulated into growth by light. So when you have done a hard days work getting the flower beds all neat and tidy or sown some vegetable seeds in a carefully prepared seed bed, the first thing you can expect to see is a fresh crop of chickweed starting into growth.

Every one of its flowers is self fertile and each seed pod can produce 2500 seeds. These seeds can lie dormant in the soil for up to four years. When growing well they can re-seed within 6 weeks of germinating. Chickweeds foliage is rampant and can easily swamp out slower growing seedlings and young plants.

Chickweed -Stellaria media foliage

Chickweed -Stellaria media foliage

Chickweed is easy to remove by hand or by hoeing in dry weather. Disturbance of the soil does however encourage a new batch of seeds to grow. A troublesome weed for all gardeners, so what better way to exact your revenge than to eat it, turn it into to lunch or dinner and make a nice soup, it is easy.

Only collect chickweed from ground that has not been treated with weed killers, never collect from busy roadsides or  public places. Make sure you know the plant you collect is definitely chickweed, if you are not sure, never take a chance!

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CHICKWEED SOUP RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

  1. •1 Medium onion
  2. •2 Small potatoes
  3. •1 Litre of chicken or vegetable stock
  4. •2 Good handfulls of chickweed  pulled from the garden, only use fresh green growth which has not flowered.
  5. •Water
  6. •A good knob of butter and some olive oil
  7. •Salt and Black pepper
Diced onion, diced potato and chickweed - wash the chickweed well.

Diced onion, diced potato and chickweed – wash the chickweed well.

Preparation

  1. 1.Peel and finely dice the onion
  2. 2.Peel and finely dice the potatoes
  3. 3.Remove big stalks from the chickweed and wash well

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Cooking

  1. Melt the butter in some olive oil in a large saucepan
  2. Saute the onion until soft and golden but do not let it burn.
  3. Add the diced potatoes and stir in the oil for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add a little water, enough to cover the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Then add the chicken stock and cook until it is boiling.

    When onions are soft pour in the chicken or vegetable stock

    When onions are soft pour in the chicken or vegetable stock

  6. Throw in the chickweed leaves and simmer for about ten minutes.

    Cook until the potato is soft then add the fresh chickweed and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before blending with a hand blender

    Cook until the potato is soft then add the fresh chickweed and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before blending with a hand blender

  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove pan from the heat and use a hand blender to blend the soup.
Chickweed soup... chickweed has its own unique flavour...surprisingly delicious

Chickweed soup… chickweed has its own unique flavour…surprisingly delicious

Now serve and enjoy.

From the summer... Chickweed soup, seakale florets and sour thistle salad, a foraged meal...

From the summer, a foraged and home grown meal: Chickweed soup, seakale florets, sautéd nettle shoots and sour thistle salad with new potatoes from the garden,

November 1, 2012

Hawthorn Tapanade Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Hawthorn, whitethorn, May bush; Crataegus monogyna. You see it all around the Irish countryside, sometimes old rings of the gnarled and spiny trees are left untouched in rings in the middle of fields. For generations they have been treated with respect and superstition, this is where the fairies live.

Hawthorn tree with berries after the leaves have fallen

In our garden we have wild hawthorns growing, a couple of them are old and twisted. Their branches twine around themselves, imbued with a mystical quality it is easy to see how the superstitions arose.

In May, their branches are festooned with white flowers, in times past children went knocking on their neighbours doors with a flowering branch, “a penny for the May bush?” their request. When I lived in Sallynoggin, in Dublin, a number of years ago, some children called to my door with a flowering branch. They asked for a penny. Although the branch they held was a blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, and we had already converted to euro currency, I donated a small sum to their appeal, after coaxing from them a song for their reward.

Hawthorn flowers – Crataegus monogyna

Now in autumn, the flower have turned to dark red fruits, abundant but usually redundant. Few people will harvest these berries, often called haws. I read in one book that the berries were only ever used in times of famine. The berries are quite tasteless when eaten raw, and only a thin covering of flesh surrounds the stone. However, with so many berries in the hedgerows, there must be a use for them, I was determined to find some.

In a second hand book sale a couple of years ago I purchased a publication on wild food, in it a recipe for hawthorn chutney. While I was cooking hawthorn chutney, Hanna experimented with some of the berries and created a delicious hawthorn tapenade. This resulted in another foray along the lanes and narrow roads in the Mayo countryside picking ripe haws from the trees. Hanna reckons they are like Irish olives.

Further developments have led to a range of flavours: lemon and coriander, sweet chilli and garlic. I cannot pick a favourite, all are great. The chilli hawthorn tapenade was superb with organic pork sausages from Irish Organic Meats, which we buy with all our meat, vegetables and fruit from the market in Boyle each Saturday.

Cleaning the berries

Here is Hanna’s Lemon and Coriander Hawthorn  Tapenade recipe:

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 litre Hawthorn berries
  • Organic Cider Vinegar
  • Irish Rapeseed Oil
  • Whole Coriander Seeds
  • Organic Lemon
  • Salt

Press the cooked hawthorn through a sieve

Method

  1. Clean and rinse ripe haws.
  2. Place in a saucepan and cover with the cider vinegar. Simmer berries for twenty minutes or  until the berries break up.
  3. Sieve away the vinegar.
  4. Push the berries through a sieve to remove stones
  5. Mix berries with lemon rind, coriander and a goo quality rapeseed oil or olive oil
  6.  Then put pulp in a sterilized jar to store.

Filling the tapenade into sterilized jars using jam funnel

Enjoy with cheeses, meats and salads.

For garlic variation replace lemon and coriander with freshly pressed garlic. For chili use dried chillis instead of lemon and coriander and stir in honey after sieving. When we first made these tapenades a two years ago we found that they kept perfectly for well over a year.

Foliage of Crataegus monogyna – hawthorn leaves

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