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.

 

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Cobnut, Pistachio and Mung Bean “Pesto”

Mung bean pesto, are you mad? Well, perhaps a bit but this makes sense. This morning I took a lovely joint of Welsh salt marsh lamb out of the freezer for dinner later then headed to my cupboard. I’ve been cultivating a few jars of sprouting mung beans for about 4 days now, and as I was giving them all a bit of a drink this morning I had a nibble. As I munched away I looked at my joint of lamb and a thought occurred to me: the mung beans tasted very similar to the fresh cobnuts that I’ve neen nibbling on for the last week. I’d basically nibbled away pretty much the whole lot that was destined for a lovely pesto to go with the lamb.

Along with a distinct nuttiness, mung beans have a grassiness to them that would really bring out the flavour of the meat. That was it, the food processor was out and the tasting began. Bits of this and bits of that were grabbed from the garden and what resulted was an incredible green sauce that not only made my Welsh lamb sing like Côr-y-Traeth but will be making tomorrow’s pasta dish swoon.

Ingredients:

  • 4 handfuls sprouting mung beans
  • 1 handful rocket leaves
  • 2 handfuls parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red and 1 green chilli and seeds
  • 1 handful fresh cobnuts
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 handful pistachio nuts
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • Halen Môn smoked salt flakes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of half a lime
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Just throw everything into a food processor and blitz, loosen with the olive oil until you get a consistency you are happy with. Serve spooned over lamb or stir into pasta with a raw fresh egg yolk and top with grated Grana Padano cheese.

Smoked Mackerel Sourdough with Fried Green Tomatoes and Green Tomato & Grape Ketchup

This weekend is perfect for making my Green Tomato and Grape Ketchup. It’s so versatile, use it as you would your regular ketchup (excellent in a bacon sandwich) and perfect with smoked mackerel. Give this really quick and simple dish a go for a healthy lunch or quick supper.

Ingredients:

  • 1 green tomato
  • coarse polenta for dusting
  • salt and pepper
  • glug of oil
  • slice of sourdough bread
  • butter
  • rocket
  • smoked peppered mackerel fillet
  • green tomato and grape ketchup

Method:

  1. Slice the tomato, dust the slices in seasoned polenta and fry gently until soft and starting to brown, drain on kitchen paper.
  2. Toast the sourdough, slather in butter, top with rocket leaves then your fried tomato. Break your fillet into pieces and place on top of the rocket then drizzle with the ketchup.

Green Tomato and Grape Ketchup

I get really excited at this time of year because it’s when I get to make my ketchups for the coming months. You can get red tomatoes all year round but for me its their younger, tarter selves that I crave.

This ketchup is so easy to make. I was given a big bag of seedless grapes so decided to throw them in too and it turned out to be a brilliant addition. I stuck to green fruit and veg for this one in order to get a nice green ketchup.

Ingredients: (I made about 3L)

  • big glug of olive oil
  • 7 white onions
  • 2 kg green tomatoes
  • 100g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1.5 kg green seedless grapes
  • 4 green chillies
  • big bunch parsley and stalks
  • 1 handful coriander seeds
  • 2 handfuls fennel seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 7 crushed green cardamon inner pods
  • 2 big pinches salt
  • 400ml vinegar ( a mix of cider & white wine)
  • 400g sugar
  • ground pepper

Method:

  1. Put your oil, chopped veg and spices in a giant heavy based pot and cook until softened.
  2. Blitz using a stick blender or food processor then sieve twice to get it all lovely and smooth.
  3. Add your vinegar and sugar to the sieved ketchup and return to the heat, reduce until you reach a nice thick consistency( do remember though it will get even thicker as it cools), adjust seasoning then decant into sterilised bottles.

Rose and Meadowsweet Syrup

I always feel quite sad at the end of the Elderflower season as for several weeks my kitchen is filled with their heady scent as they are steeped, dried, fried and crystallised. The beauty of seasons though is that as one ends another is just getting underway and just as the last Elderflowers disappear from our hedgerows the creamy sprays of Meadowsweet appear and last all the way through to September.

As the name suggests it’s flavour is naturally sweet, it has hints of vanilla and almond about it and makes the most beautiful syrup. The addition of rose makes for a warming exotic tasting drink when combined with soda water, and a wonderful cocktail addition.

The creamy flowers of Meadowsweet

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag meadowsweet flowers, stalks removed (about 800g)
  • 3 kg sugar
  • 2L water
  • rosewater (to taste, I added about 150ml)

Method:

  1. Combine your sugar and water in a big pot and heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add your meadowsweet flowers, stir then leave to steep for 2-3 days.
  3. Line a colander with muslin then strain your syrup.
  4. Taste the syrup, you can reduce it over a gentle heat to concentrate the flavour if you like otherwise if you are happy then add your rosewater bit by bit until you are happy with the flavour then decant into sterilised bottles. I buy cheap 500ml water bottles and fill them 3/4 full before putting them in the freezer, that way my syrup lasts all through the year until the next season comes around.

** From WikipediaAbout one in five people with asthma has Samter’s triad,[3] in which aspirin induces asthma symptoms. Therefore, asthmatics should be aware of the possibility that meadowsweet, with its similar biochemistry, will also induce symptoms of asthma.

Quick Kelp Noodles and Fermented Coconut Nectar

Having lived in both Hong Kong and Japan and spent many months in the Philippines, it surprises me that whilst Chinese and Japanese food is widely eaten in the UK, Filipino food has never really caught on. It’s a shame as Filipino culture really is centred around food and family and if you haven’t tried it then you really are missing out on a feast of culinary delights.

I’m going to write a separate blog post all about Philippine food but for now this is my favourite quick noodle dish that incorporates Chinese, Japanese and Filipino products beautifully and is amazing at using up leftover salad leaves and veg.

My cupboards are full of sauces, condiments and pickles from around the world. This noodle dish uses dried kelp and Japanese noodles called Demae Ramen made by Nissin and they have been my favourite noodles since I was about 10 years old.  We had them for breakfast most days before school in Hong Kong and their chicken noodles remain my favourite breakfast and, when called for, most reliable hangover remedy to date! Spiced fermented coconut water is not for the feint hearted.  The coconut water has been fermented with chillies, garlic, ginger, salt and sweet peppers to produce a potent sweet-spicy vinegar that is completely addictive (well for me anyway).

Just take a handful of dried kelp strands and add them to water that has had the noodle flavour sachet added and cook for a few minutes before adding your noodles.  Chuck in any leftover bits of veg – broccoli, peas, cabbage, whatever is floating in the bottom of your fridge really.  Cook for a minute then tip into a big bowl, cover with leftover salad, pour over your spiced fermented coconut water, some Chinese chillies preserved in oil and some dried garlic slivers and you have an amazing bowl of loveliness.

Raw Milk – homemade mozzarella, ricotta and lots of other things!

People are divided over raw milk but I am a big fan and I am lucky enough to live near to Lubcloud Organic Dairy who not only sell raw milk but also have chosesn not to homogenise any of their products.  When I was little I had to be quick in the mornings getting to the milk bottles on the doorstep. The birds were wise to the sight of Malcolm, our milkman back on Anglesey, and would peck through the foil lids to get to the cream that had risen to the top of the bottle.  I always used to sneakily pour a glass of that amazing creamy milk before putting it back in the fridge as a reward for being good and bringing the bottles in!

These days milk is homogenised as standard, so the fat is evenly distributed and not only don’t you get that wonderful creamy layer at the top of your pint but you also don’t get those glorious little dots of fat on the inside of your glass.  Personally I think that the taste really suffers as a result of both pasteurisation and homogenisation so it’s no contest for me when it comes to flavour.

tiny dots of loveliness around the inside of the glass

Raw milk from an organic herd really can’t be beaten for flavour so I decided to see how many things I could make from 2 litres of the stuff.  I started with mozzarella…

A quick look around the internet and I found Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe for mozzarella and set to work.

The curds and whey quickly separated once the citric acid and rennet were added and the curds removed and left to drain. I should point out that this really does make your house smell like baby sick and it left me feeling quite dubious that something nice could be made from something that smelt so awful.  Nevertheless the curds were removed with a slotted spoon and left to drain for a bit in a sieve.

I wanted smallish balls of cheese, so the mozzarella curd was thickly sliced, put back into the hot whey then stretched and folded back on itself a few times before being rolled into balls and plunged into ice water.

Mozzarella on whey bread

still can't believe I made mozzarella so easily!

A quick shout out on Twitter for suggestions for the leftover whey brought a resounding call for ricotta.  Another quick look online for a really simple method resulted in me finding this method which seemed by far the easiest.

The remaining whey was strained through a coffee filter and left to drip in the fridge before being turned out onto a board.

I really couldn’t wait to try the ricotta, I wasn’t disappointed. I guess I’m used to bland, mass produced stuff because the flavour really took me by surprise – there was so much of it!  I was now really excited about my bumbling foray into the world of home cheese making.

So now I had my beautiful cheeses I needed some pizza dough to showcase them on.  I made a batch of plain and polenta flour dough using 650ml of the leftover whey.  I hadn’t intended to use polenta flour but I hardly had any other flour so substituted it in and from now on I will always do this as it was amazing!  It was about 1/3 polenta and made for a beautiful golden dough with great texture.  Fingers were crossed whilst the pizzas cooked that the mozzarella behaved as it should…

It worked perfectly! The mozzarella melted and oozed and developed a lovely brown crust and most importantly it tasted wonderful, I was so happy!

I then made a polenta and bread flour whey loaf…

This loaf was eaten almost immediately topped with salsa verde from The Good Fork’s deli box and was seriously good!

So what to do with the rest of the whey? I still had about 2 pints of it left.  Another shout out on Twitter went out.  I was told by @pukkapaki that whey is wonderful for the skin and hair so I made a homemade face pack and added a ladle of whey.

Whey facepack/cleanser or as Glen calls it "that hippy shit in a bowl"

Soothing/moisturising facepack:

  •  porridge oats
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 Detox tea bag (milk thistle, dandelion & green tea – tastes like crap but great in a facepack)
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1 ladle whey

Just mix them all and add more oats until you get a consistency you like then apply to a clean face and leave on for 10 – 15 minutes then remove with a warm cloth.  I’ve been so impressed with the effect that its had on my skin that I’m also using this as a cleanser morning and night as the porridge oats gently exfoliate the skin.  All of these wonderful beauty tips fall on deaf ears for my fella though who just calls it “that hippy shit in a bowl”.

*Update: from this morning (3 days later)

Glen: I wish you’d stop washing your face with porridge the bits get everywhere.

Me: It’s not porridge its a homemade face pack and cleanser dear.

Glen: It’s porridge with tea bags in it, you are essentially washing your face with breakfast.

Well he does have a point there but my skin is so soft and my rosacea is clearing up so breakfast face-washing will continue!*

I still had some more whey left so I decided to try Carl Legge’s suggestion of using it to lacto ferment vegetables and I gave Kimchee making a go.  It’s still fermenting away though so I’ll do a separate post on this when it’s ready.  The final bit of whey has gone to my chickens as a bit of a treat as it helps keep their eggshells hard and is a good all round tonic for poultry.

So from 2 litres of raw milk (which cost £2.40 delivered to my door) I made the most meltingly wonderful mozzarella, the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted, 2 wonderful pizzas, a loaf of delicious bread, lots of face pack/skin cleanser, Kimchee and a special dinner for the chickens, not bad going really.

*Thanks for all the lovely messages on Twitter/Facebook/here about raw milk, I am updating this post with a list of dairies (cow,sheep,goat) that offer raw milk, if you know any please let me know so I can add them*

Raw Milk Dairies:

East Midlands

Lubcloud Orgainic Dairy (cow) www.lubclouddairy.co.uk

The South East

Ellie’s Dairy (goat) www.elliesdairy.blogspot.co.uk

Preserved Lemon Pickle

One thing I have learnt is that when you have a glut of something, be that money, veg, meat or whatever, always plan for when it’s not going to be around.  I’m pretty good at doing that with everything except money!  Quite often on the market you will see big bowls of fruit or veg for £1.  It’s reduced because it needs to be eaten quickly so I buy them and preserve them for another day.

This really quick pickle uses a few of the jars stored away in the pantry and is amazing with curry (I quite often have it just simply stirred through cooked rice).

Ingredients:

  • 1 large preserved lemon (flesh removed & discarded and skin rinsed thoroughly then chopped)
  • pickled red cabbage
  • pickled cornichons
  • bunch of mint
  • finely chopped red onion
  • teaspoon black onion seeds
  • good pinch black pepper

 

Rose and Cardamom Membrillo

I finally managed to visit the wonderful Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire the other day, what a great place! Among their fantastically stocked Farm Shop goodies were some of their own Quinces. I’m a huge fan of Membrillo (or Quince Cheese as its also known) but had never got around to making it so bought 3 large and 3 smallish quinces for this very purpose. It was only a flying visit as I was on my way to pick my other half up from hospital so will write more about this amazing place soon. Anyway, back to the Membrillo…

Having had a browse online for the various Membrillo recipes I figured the principle was simple: rinse and chop the quinces (skins, stones and all as this is where the pectin is) and put in a pan and just cover with water. I then added a cinnamon stick and wanting to add a vanilla pod, but finding that way too extravagant for this experiment (and my pocket), I added a cap of really good vanilla extract then brought the concoction to the boil and simmered for about 40mins until everything was mushy.  I tasted a spoonful of the water whilst this was going on- it was amazing so I had a hot cup of that whilst waiting. The smell of this quince mixture simmering away made the house smell far more Christmassy than I was prepared for and immediately prompted a quick Sherry. Once I was happy with the mushiness I got out my trusty stick blender and blended it to within an inch of its sticky life, pushed it through a sieve to get rid of the stones then popped it back in the pan with about a kilo of sugar (I tried weighing the mix as you should add roughly the same amount of sugar but my scales are rubbish,I never use them, so just guessed).

This then bubbled away for about 45mins and reduced until it was quite dense. I also managed to sustain a couple of vicious molten lava spits of sugary quince goo during this so just be aware of this and turn the heat down a bit rather than drinking too much Sherry and coating your hob, walls and self with orange burning splodge.

It was right about this point that I decided I would form a splinter pot of Rose and Cardamom Membrillo as it just seemed to make sense, so put a few ladles of the orange goop into a smaller saucepan, added a capful of rosewater, crushed a few cardamom pods and added the crushed black seeds to the mix. It instantly smelt amazing! I had a Sherry to celebrate my ingenuity.

This Sherry further inspired a third splinter goop pot.  Ages ago I had tried a baked fig ball and decided that this seemed like a great cheese accompaniment so raided the pantry and found figs, pistachios, some flaked almonds, walnuts and a few hazelnuts too.  I chopped up the figs then this all went into the mortar and was pestled until just broken up. Then I found a bottle of Ameretto and a glug of that went in, just because.

Splinter group nut and fig mix

So Quince Goop 1 was reducing and bubbling away nicely, spitting fiery venom around the kitchen, so I took a ladle full of this and mixed it in with the figgy mix and then squashed the mixture into a silicone mould that I had oiled. 1 down.

The Rose and Cardamom mix was getting really sticky so poured that into little silicone moulds too. 2 down. Had a Sherry to congratulate self.

I left the original mix to bubble away a little more. I was on a creative roll now and decided to sprinkle some edible glitter and a few walnut halves in the bottom of a few of the remaining silicone cups as I was feeling oh so Fabulous after all.

Once I thought things seemed OK-ish in went the bubbling quince paste and I left them to set overnight.  I would love to say the following morning that they were all beautifully set but my slapdash sugar antics meant that they were still a bit soft so I decided to just pop them out of their moulds back into the pan, add another half bag of sugar and bubble them away.  This is what I love about stuff like this, if you get it wrong it really doesn’t matter, just fix it. It did mean however, that the edible glitter was now scattered throughout the quince paste which I actually kind of liked.This then carried on gently bubbling for 30minutes then I poured the mix back into the cleaned and oiled moulds and this time they set perfectly. Phew. Sherry?

Mini Membrillos

So, I am left with 3 wonderful batches of quince goodies, The Figgy Quince Amaretto Nut Loaf which is not just great on a cheeseboard but I’m pretty sure you could probably survive on it if ever stuck on a mountain somewhere and its a lot nicer than Kendal Mint Cake.

The wonderful Rose and Cardamon Membrillo:

Figgy goodies and Rose Cardamon Membrillo

And the plain Membrillo ones are staying in their moulds until tomorrow when I wrap them and give them to my neighbours for Christmas. I’m nice like that.

The Plain Membrillo

Preserved Lemons

All you need is a sterilised jar, unwaxed lemons, rock salt and whatever seasoning you fancy. I used a few bay leaves, peppercorns and a few juniper berries. Just slice the lemons into quarters but don’t cut all the way down to the bottom. Squeeze it open and put some rock salt inside. Pack into the jar squashing as you go and adding your salt and seasonings, as you squash the juice will come out. Once the jar is full top up with extra lemon juice and salt and seal.  Leave at room temp and gently agitate for a few days then leave for about 6 weeks. Dead easy.  When you come to use them discard everything but the pith and skin which will be lovely and soft, rinse really well then chop and add to your dishes. They are wonderful in taffies and also make a really great instant pickle to accompany your curry.

the salt will do all the work now