Blackberry and sloe gin posset with rosemary shortbread

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It’s a dark, damp, wintery Sunday here at the cottage. The fire is lit, the cats are all snoozing contently and I’m feeling the need for something zingy, boozy and comforting to brighten the day, step up the winter posset.

Possets are ridiculously easy to create – back when I was a chef I always used to put lemon posset on the dessert menu, it’s delicious, very cheap to make and ready in no time at all which is an all round win for the kitchen.

I love, love LOVE sloe gin. It’s a hip flask staple on a winter walk through frosty fields and so easy to throw together in the last days of autumn. I have bottles of sloe gin in my cupboard dating back to 2010, they have outlasted several relationships and I ration them out as if they were made using the tears of unicorns. I anticipate feeling a great aching loss when the last of the 2010 batch is gone. If you are lucky enough to try some one day then know that you are indeed very special to me! If you don’t have any homemade to hand then you can easily buy a bottle, Sipsmith do a good one.

Now I love shortbread, according to my boyfriend I don’t make enough of it. He’s not a fan of adding any flavours to it mind, he’s a shortbread purist you see – plain, straight down the line, no fucking about shortbread or not at all. I, on there other hand, love lemon shortbread, vanilla shortbread and this wonderfully aromatic rosemary shortbread which goes so well with the rich posset.

If you fancy listening to me make this then click here (you will need iPlayer access as it’s on the BBC).

I’m using blackberries foraged last year that have been in the freezer, but there are plenty to be found on supermarket shelves even at this time of year.

Blackberry and sloe gin posset with rosemary shortbread

Ingredients:

For the posset:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g blackberries
  • Pinch freshly ground pepper
  • Sloe gin (for quantity see recipe instructions)

Method:

  1.  Heat the cream and sugar together over a medium heat, stir frequently.
  2.  Bash the berries to release the juice then strain into a measuring jug, get all the juice out of the berries.
  3. Measure the juice and add enough sloe gin to bring the liquid up to 250ml.
  4. Once the cream mix is just simmering, remove from heat and stir in the blackberry mix.
  5. Pour into dessert glasses, leave to cool for 20mins then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  6.  To serve, simply dust with icing sugar and garnish with a few blackberries.

Rosemary shortbread:

  • 225g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 110g cornflour
  • 1 tsp fresh finely chopped rosemary

Method:

  1.  Heat oven to 160C.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Sift in flours and add rosemary.
  4. Stir, then use hands to bring it together to resemble crumble mixture.
  5. Turn onto baking parchment. Knead a few times to form rough dough. Cover with another sheet of parchment and use a rolling pin to roll out a slab around 15mm thick.
  6. Cut into rounds with a cutter or whatever shape you prefer then refrigerate for 30mins.
  7. Bake for around 12-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on them as you don’t want them to burn.
  8. Remove from oven, sprinkle with caster sugar. Leave for 2 mins then transfer to a cooling rack.
nettle and wild garlic quiche

Wild greens quiche

nettle and wild garlic quiche

Super simple and hugely flavourful

Another of the recipes from my wild food in the kitchen talk at Old Dalby WI, this is a really simple quiche that you can chuck all your green bounty into.

Now once I’d admitted that I hadn’t made the pastry for this myself I thought I would have been politely escorted from the village hall by the WI ladies but they very generously did not revoke my speaker’s pass and allowed me to continue!

The amount of pastry from one block of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry makes enough for one large quiche and 3 mini ones, just saying 🙂

Wild greens quiche:

a kitchen full of foraged wild garlic, nettles, goose grass and chickweed

Assorted wild greens from a gentle forage

  • A few handfuls of assorted gathered young green shoots. I used: nettle tops, chickweed, dandelion, wild garlic and goose grass, they will shrink right down.
  • 40g butter
  • half a white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 200ml double cream
  • 80 ml milk
  • plenty of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 pack Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry (or a batch of your own properly made, wonderful shortcrust pastry 🙂  )

1: Wash your greens and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, squeeze out any excess liquid and roughly chop.

blanched wild greens in a bowl

Blanched wild leaves and shoots

2: Roll out your pastry and put into a tart tin with removable bottom, use a bit of pastry to push the sides and base down. Cover with some baking parchment and fill with baking beans and bake in an oven heated to 180C for about 15 minutes.

3: Remove the parchment and beans, gently prick the base with a fork and return to the oven for about 7-10 minutes.

4: Fry the onion in the butter occur a low heat until soft but not coloured, allow to cool.

5: Mix the flour together with one egg and a little of the milk to form a paste, add the remaining eggs, cream and milk and mix really well.

6:Add the cooled onions and butter and season generously, add nutmeg if using.

7: Arrange the greens over the tart base and then pour over the mixture,

Arrange a few nettle leaves on the top, use gloves!

Arrange a few nettle leaves on the top, use gloves!

8: Reduce the oven temperature to 170C and bake the tart for around 35-40 minutes.

souffle/quiche!

souffle/quiche!

9: Once the tart is baked, trim off the pastry edges to tidy it up ( I haven’t yet done this in the pic above) and serve either warm straight away of allow to cool.

Wild garlic pesto ciabatta rolls

Crunchy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside

Crunchy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside

Last night I was in Old Dalby giving a talk and cookery demo to the lovely ladies of their WI about incorporating wild food into the kitchen. Regular readers of this blog and those who follow my Twitter account will know I am a huge fan of raiding the wild larder for my recipes so it was wonderful to see so many people in the village hall who were keen to know more about it.

I brought along plenty of things to try and will be popping the recipes up on here over with the tag “Old Dalby WI” if anyone wants to find them all.

First up are these little wild garlic pesto ciabatta rolls.  I always make a HUGE batch of wild garlic pesto when the season hits, I put plenty into jars and store in the fridge and the rest I portion off into ziplock bags and freeze flat allowing me to break some off throughout the year and stir into pasta, make more bread, serve with lamb, make hummus, basically I use it in most things!

wild garlic pesto

Late night and with little light for the phone to take the pic but you get the idea 🙂

Wild garlic pesto:

  • several handfuls wild garlic, washed and roughly chopped
  • enough olive oil or rapeseed oil to make a good paste
  • 100g chopped toasted hazelnuts (Morrisons sell these in 100g packets)
  • a couple of handfuls of freshly grated grand padano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the leaves in a food processor and blitz, they will stick to the sides so start to slowly pour in the oil as the blades spin, you can add more leaves as they break down. Keep adding leaves and oil until you get a consistency you are happy with.
  2. Add the nuts and cheese and season, blitz some more and add a little more oil to loosen.
  3. Decant intio sterilised jars and cover with a layer of oil.

Wild garlic pesto ciabatta bread rolls: (makes 12)

wild garlic pesto ciabatta bread rolls

 

  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 350ml warm water
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for brushing)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a few tablespoons of wild garlic pesto
  • blue poppy seeds (optional)

1: Put your flour and salt into a mixer, give it a stir and make a well in the centre.

2: Add the honey to the warm water and stir to dissolve, add the yeast and stir then the oil. Pour into the flour.

3: Have the bread hook attached to your mixer, start the machine on slow speed then increase to medium high, mix for a good 10-15 minutes or until the dough has formed a soft, smooth ball (my mixer is a bit rubbish so it took a while but just keep an eye on it).

4: Put the dough in an oiled bowl (the mixer bowl is fine) and cover, allow to rise until doubled in size.

wild garlic pesto bread4: Tip the dough onto a floured surface and divide into  two more manageable halves.

5: Roll and stretch the dough into as close to a rectangle as possible then cover with a layer of pesto.

wild garlic pesto bread-1-2

6: Roll lengthways from bottom to top, stretching as you go to make a swiss roll kinda thing then slice into rounds and place these into an oiled muffin tin.

wild garlic pesto bread-1-3

7: Cover and allow to rise for an hour or so in a warm place.

8:  Sprinkle with some blue poppy seeds and bake in an oven heated to 180C for around 25-30 minutes, during the last 5 minutes brush the tops with more olive oil. The rolls are ready when you tap on the base of one and it sounds hollow.

SOOOOOO good

SOOOOOO good

 

Ink cap mushroom pasta with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato

ink cap pasta with kale and pistachio pangrattato-1

 

It’s my favourite time of the year, mushrooms, fruits and berries are plentiful around our countryside and for the happy forager it’s most definitely a bountiful harvest this year.

When it comes to mushroom foraging you really do need to know what you are doing as it can be a dangerous game of fungi roulette if you don’t. This is why I really love the ink cap mushroom as it’s so distinct in its appearance. The only thing you need to be careful with when eating ink caps is not to consume alcohol with them as sometimes they can have quite an extreme and vomity effect. I’ve gotten away with adding sherry to mine on a few occasions but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it just to be on the safe side.

I’ve also got hugely into roasting kale recently and sprinkling it with homemade dukkah and basically just munching away on it or its also really kickass when combined with green tomatoes and  a duck egg.

I’ve been away for a few days working on some pieces for Metro down in Cornwall and Somerset so didn’t have much in the cupboards upon my return. I found some ink caps growing near my sister’s house so picked them before heading home and this is the resulting dish:

Ink cap rigatoni with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato

For the pesto:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 50g fresh basil plus stalks
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • 50 grana padano cheese, finely grated
  • few good glugs extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 8 ink caps, brushed to remove dirt and checked for slugs (they like to crawl inside them)
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • drizzle of oil
  • rigatoni pasta

For the Pangrattato

  • few handfuls chopped kale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • two handfuls of chunks of stale sourdough bread
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • seasoning if it needs it
  • glug of oil for frying

Method:

  1. Whizz up all your pesto ingredients in a food processor, loosen with oil until you are happy with the consistency and seasoning. Set aside (This will keep happily in the fridge beneath a layer of oil for at least a week).
  2. Put your aubergines and mushrooms on a roasting tray, scatter with the cilli and roast in a hot oven until cooked them remove and set aside.
  3. Make sure the kale is bone dry then roast in the oven for a few minutes until the edges are crispy but there is still a bit of softness in the centre.
  4. Blitz the pangrattato ingredients together until it is like breadcrumbs then heat some oil in a frying pan and fry until crunchy.
  5. To assemble simply stir the aubergine, mushroom and pest into the drained rigatoni and to with some of the pangrattato.
  6. Cook your rigatoni in salted boiling water until al dente.

 

Wild hare and blackberry pie

Autumn's harvest in a pie

Autumn’s harvest in a pie

Well its’ been quite some time since I last posted anything, I’ve been really busy with my photography and doing bits with Radio Leicester (click to hear most recent recipe of chorizo sausage rolls and green tomato ketchup) and writing for Metro and then I acquired a stalker so this blog kind of took a back seat for a couple of months. But I’m back, and its Autumn so I’ve been busy foraging the hedgerows to make amazing blackberry and vanilla vodka and now this blackberry and hare pie.

We are very lucky here in Melton Mowbray to have a proper Farmer’s market, you can buy anything from a herd of sheep, a prize winning bull, a few ferrets, some shot game, foraged mushrooms, homemade butter and antiques and collectables. Its all there every Tuesday morning and costs very little indeed, except the prize winning bull that is.

I headed over on Tuesday morning with the intention of seeing what the game auction was like that day, its very hit and miss depending on what’s in season and what the weather was like for the shoots over the weekend. You can normally expect to see a couple of deer, plenty of pigeons, pheasants, partridge, rabbits, hares and wild boar plus mallards, geese, woodcocks and squirrels. This week though it was very quite, there were a lot of pigeon but they weren’t in top condition so I left those (they went at 20p/brace) and hung about for the mallard and hares. I was bidding against an old boy for the mallard but had set my max at £3.50/brace and it went on his bid at that so I came home with a couple of beautiful hares at just £5.

Skinning hares is very easy, if you fancy watching a brilliant video clip then I totally fell in love with this guy being all masterful with an axe in the woods:

You just need to be really careful whilst gutting them not to pierce anything as the smell is really pretty nasty. Go for hares with head shots so your meat is nice and clean and none of the internals have been punctured.

skinning hare

 

Two large hares left me with a great deal of meat that I butchered into legs and fillets and froze most of. I instantly fried off a bit of fillet nice and pink for a bit of a cook’s perk then got to work on this simple pie for tea.

Wild hare and blackberry mini pie  (makes 2 mini pies that each serve one person)

Ingredients:

  • about 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 hare fillets, sliced into bite sized pieces
  • a few tablespoons of seasoned flour
  • about 150g smoked pancetta cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • about 200ml of full bodied red wine
  • 2 handfuls fresh blackberries
  • a bit of sugar if the blackberries are not sweet
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • About 60ml hare blood (optional)
  • 175g puff pastry
  • 1 egg beaten
  • a few ladles of stock made from simmering the hare bones for a couple of hours

Method:

  1. Dredge the hare in the seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the hare, cook over a medium heat to brown and add the pancetta, cook for another 3 minutes then add the diced veg, garlic and herbs. Cook gently for about 5 minutes whist stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red wine, bring to just boiling then reduce heat to a simmer,add the blackberries and some of the stock until everything is well covered, add the blood also if using and put a well fitting lid on, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hrs or until the hare has softened to meltingly tender.
  3. If the stew seems a little thick simply loosen with some more stock, season with salt and pepper and add a touch of sugar if it needs it, cook uncovered until you are happy with the thickness of the gravy then divide between two small pie trays.
  4. Preheat your oven to 200C. Roll out your puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut into two pieces big enough to cover your pies. Seal the sides and brush with the beaten egg. Make a little hole for steam to come out of then put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden.

 

 

Wild Garlic and Pistachio Pesto Stuffed Roast Pork Belly with Cider

wild garlic stuffed pork belly

Yes more ace wild garlic praise in the form of this wonderfully easy roast pork belly recipe. Pork belly is probably my favourite cut of meat when it comes to cooking for a crowd as it’s layers of tasty fat keep it moist during cooking and the skin crisps up to crackled piggy perfection.

Last year I made this for my friend Jess whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years, I basically rocked up with a crate of cooking gear at her gorgeous farmhouse in Dorset and we got hammered on wine, reminisced about our time at school in Colwyn Bay and cooked together, it was heaven. Jess has a big Aga which is perfect for cooking this in, just whack it in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until the skin crisps up then add the cider, cover and move to the gentler oven and leave for about 5 or 6 hours whilst you drink lots of wine. You can pretty much forget about it as it pootles along doing its own thing. I think I cooked for about 12 that night, none apart from Jess I had met before and we had the most fabulous boozy feast that lasted until dawn when Jess accidentally picked up a tube of Veet hair remover cream instead of toothpaste and brushed her teeth, OUCH (you can read more about Jess’s escapades in Dorset in her column for Dorset Life or on her the uncensored versions on her hilarious blog The Dorset Chronicles- Diary of a Farmer’s Wife).  The pork however was triumphant, it was an Oxford Sandy & Black pig reared by Jess and her husband Jasper, my god it was without a doubt the best pork I’ve ever eaten, I’ll never forget it.

Tilly, fox, bandit and frog hanging out by the Aga

Everyone gets to hang out by the Aga at Jess’s house, dogs, ponies and foxes…

You could use my recipe for wild garlic, hazelnut and smoky chipotle pesto for this, it would be all kinds of wonderful….

Ingredients: (serves 8)

  • 2kg pork belly (if you buy on the bone then remove the bone and use it as a trivet during cooking)
  • Sea salt flakes
  • bottle of good cider

For the Wild Garlic Pistachio Pesto:

  • 100g fresh wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 70g shelled pistachio nuts
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons good olive or rapeseed oil
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, grated finely on a microplane
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 100g freshly grated grana padano
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its highest temperature (around 230C). Using a sharp blade score the skin making sure you don’t go right through to the meat as it will cause the meat will dry out during the cooking process.  Pour a kettle of boiling water over the skin of your pork belly then dab dry with kitchen roll, rub in a good pinch of sea salt flakes and leave whilst you make your pesto.
  2. For the pesto simply pop everything into your food processor and blend until the pesto has a coarse but well mixed consistency.
  3. Lay your pork belly skin side down then spread your pesto over the meat. Roll and tie tightly using butchers string every 2 inches.
  4. Lay your joint in a roasting tin (on the bone trivet if you have it) and roast for 20-30 minutes to get the crackling nice and crispy then turn your oven down to 150C, pour the cider around the joint, cover with foil and continue to gently cook for a further 3 hours. If your crackling needs crisping up a bit just whack the oven back up to full for the last 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the joint from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Bubble the pan juices on the hob to reduce and concentrate, season if need be then pour into a jug be served with dinner.

Wild garlic, hazelnut and smoky chipotle “pesto”

wild garlic hazelnut chipotle chilli pesto

 

I don’t think that there is any season that I look forward to more than wild garlic season, and this year’s bitterly cold weather and delayed arrival has made it all the more eagerly awaited and welcomed with pretty much fanatic gusto.

This wild garlic recipe is not only a brilliant way to celebrate it’s arrival but it also freezes really well so I make plenty and divide it between freezer bags and lie them on top of one another in the freezer so I can defrost a portion at a time.

You could add some hard cheese to this if you fancy, a good hard British goat’s cheese finely grated in would be delicious but I like to keep it very simple and then I can always grate some over the finished dish. I had a big bunch of parsley so threw some of that in too, it’s said that eating parsley after garlic kills and bad breath but I happily honked of garlic for the rest of the evening.

Use this stirred into pasta, smear all over the inside of a  joint of pork belly and roll and roast, stir it through some creme fraiche or mayo for a dip or just eat it with a spoon, this is in your face ace.

wild garlic chipotle homemade pappardelle

Stirred through homemade duck egg pappardelle and garnished with the petals from violas I was dead-heading in the garden

Ingredients:

  • 200g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 100g parsley (mellows the garlic slightly)
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 3 chipotle chillies (Edible Ornamentals are British grown and kick ass)
  • big pinch sea salt flakes
  • big pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • enough good oil to get a good consistency (around 100ml ish, I use Cotswold Gold E.V rapeseed oil as it’s wonderfully nutty

Method:

  1. Just put everything in a food processor except the oil and blitz, as the machine goes drizzle in the oil until you are happy with the consistency, taste and adjust seasoning if need be. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before using so that the flavours develop.