Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Spring Baked Fritters with Nettles and Apple Mint

Marrowfat pea bhajis - P1070486

These are simple, very tasty fritters made with nettles*, apple mint, plantain and sorrel (but you can use many edible spring ‘greens’). They need little time to prepare and bake and you can eat them as a snack, for lunch, or as a starter before a main meal. They can also be fried.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2 – 3)

Bunch of nettle tops* (4 or 5)
Bunch of apple mint tops (4 or 5)
A few ribwort plantain leaves
A few sorrel* leaves
3 or so tablespoons of pea flour (I use Hodmedod’s Organic Marrowfat Pea Flour for this, but you can also use organic chick pea (gram) flour and experiment with others)
1 tablespoon rice flour, preferably organic (optional)
Olive oil (or sunflower)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
Pinch baking powder
Water

Make a slightly sloppy but not runny batter with the pea flour, rice flour (if using), baking powder, water and salt, and a tablespoon of oil. Mix together well. The ratio of pea flour to rice flour should be 3:1 or 4:1.

Add the roughly chopped nettles, mint, plantain and sorrel and stir well until the greens are thoroughly covered.

Spoon out the mixture to make about nine or ten fritters onto an oiled baking tray, then bake at 180°C for 15 minutes, turning once.

Serve hot with mango chutney, tomato ketchup and/or mayonnaise – or just eat as is.

* Nettle tops (like cleavers and sorrel) should be eaten when young in spring and before flowering.

Spicy ‘curtido’ – a Central American delight

Curtido P1070449‘Curtido’ is a ferment popular in Central America, similar to (but not the same as) European sauerkraut or Korean kimchi. I’ve been making jars of it over the past few months, mostly based on red cabbage along with onions and carrots, chiles and herbs. Like other ferments, this one never comes out the same way twice, but it always tastes delicious, and can be ready within three days for a fabulous, gut-friendly relish!

There are some tasty commercial ‘curtidos’  available in the UK, but in case you’d like to have a go at it yourself (highly recommended), here’s how I made today’s jar:

Ingredients
1 medium white cabbage (one of the denser varieies)
1 carrot, julienned
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 level teaspoon chipotle chile flakes
1 level teaspoon jalapeño chile flakes
1 tsp of Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) Note: Mexican oregano is in the verbena rather than the mint family, and is stronger than the regular oregano we’re used to in the UK, but you can substitute this for two teaspoons of regular oregano)
2 teaspons freshly ground cumin (I heated the seeds in a dry frying pan before I ground them)
2 teaspons sea salt
1/2 cup of lightly salted water and apple juice mix (50/50)

Method
In a bowl mix the cabbage, carrot, onion, salt, chile flakes, oregano and cumin until evenly distributed.
(You can massage the cabbage first if you want to)
Pour in the apple/water mix.

In a 1 litre Kilner/Mason jar press the vegetables down hard. I use the end of a rolling pin for this, and that gets the juices flowing. You can also use a few whole cabbage leaves to cover the vegetables.
You need to make sure make sure the curtido is covered with liquid, so if necessary, use the cabbage heart to hold the vegetables down firmly when you close the Kilner jar.

Keep in a warm place out of the sunlight (in the winter I used the airing cupboard) and place the jar in a bowl to catch any of the liquid that might (and probably will) escape. These ferments can get fizzy quite quickly. Open the lid once (at least) or twice a day to burp the jar.

This ferment can be enjoyed after as few as three to five days. After about five days I generally place it in a new jar and keep it in the fridge, where it doesn’t remain long!

Is it Kimchi, A Slaw, Both Or Neither? I Don’t Know But It’s Delicious

I originally posted this on 28th December 2014, but after making the most delicious batch of ‘kimchi slaw’ just recently, I thought I’d repost here for anyone who’d like to try out the recipe. A lot more people are familiar with fermentation here in the UK now than they were in December 2014, but most of those I speak to who have tried one of the various new products on the market have yet to make their own. All I can say is, have a go… it’ll be worth it. If you’re a bit nervous about the microbes, take a look at the interview I did with Eva Bakkeslett in 2018. And happy fermenting!

P1020654 800x600It’s a ferment; it’s alive; it’s a revelation; it’s a meditation; it’s raw veg in brine; it’s part of a movement; it’s inspired by a dish that’s a national treasure; it’s fizzy; a few days later it’s not so fizzy; it’s radical; it’s an addiction.

It’s cabbage and carrot and radish and onion and garlic and chilli and ginger.
And a pear and/or apple, and honey, tamari and sea kelp and chives and salt water.

It’s also shitake mushroom water but that didn’t scan in the verse.

Anyway I’ve been making this pickle for a few months now, based on Korean kimchi and inspired and aided by fermentation revivalist Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, and the recipes by Garden Betty in California and Holly in Argentina, which I came upon on their blogs.

I’ve introduced my version of ‘kimchi slaw’ to people in the Raw Food Demos I’ve been giving at Giddens and Thompsons local greengrocers in Bungay, and talking about it to everyone else! Fermentation is something that really seems to excite people. It’s certainly got me going lately.

photo 4

The recipe here is my version as it stands now. It appears everyone does it differently. And the ‘kimchi’ never comes out the same twice. It must be the influence of all those shapeshifting microorganisms!

A Red Cabbage Kimchi ‘Slaw

INGREDIENTS (Organic, local and home grown vegetables are always my first choice)

1 small red cabbage or ½ large one
1 large carrot
1/2 red onion
Japanese or daikon radish (mooli), equivalent size to carrot. Sometimes I leave this out if it’s not available and just use cabbage and carrot as the main vegetables.
handful chives or small bunch spring onions
½ cup sea salt (not table salt)
5 cups filtered water (ratio = 1 part salt to 10 parts water)

1 small or ½ large pear, peeled, seeded, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thumb ginger, peeled & cut into small chunks
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded if too hot
1 tablespoon raw organic cane sugar OR 1 tablespoon RAW honey
½ – 1 small cup stock: liquid from 5-6 shitake mushrooms soaked in warm water plus 1 level teaspoon kelp powder
Dessert spoon Korean red pepper flakes/chilli flakes OR level teaspoon smoked paprika powder

Note: for the most recent ferment I omitted the red pepper flakes/paprika, as I used two homegrown Ring of Fire chillis in the sauce – mainly deseeded but with just a few seeds left in. It was just the right heat, definitely pretty hot but without going into overburn!

METHOD
Chop/shred red cabbage. Remove hard centre and keep intact for use as plug in the jar.

Place shredded cabbage in a bowl with water and sea salt. Stir and put plate on top of the bowl so all cabbage is submerged. Weight plate down with something heavy. Soak for 1½ – 2 hours or more, stirring and turning the cabbage thoroughly at least once or twice during this time.

Meanwhile soak five or six shitake mushrooms in warm water for 20 mins.

Julienne carrot and daikon/mooli. (I soaked the carrots with the cabbage in the salt water for the latest batch, but you don’t need to).

Rinse cabbage 3 times and let drain in a colander.

In a liquidiser/food processor place peeled, seeded and diced pear, roughly chopped garlic, red onion, sugar/raw honey, chives/spring onions, ginger and mushroom & kelp stock (without the mushrooms). Blend to smooth sauce.

Place prepared vegetables in a bowl, pour the sauce on top and add red pepper flakes/smoked papriika. Gently and thoroughly mix in all the ingredients.

Place ‘kimchi slaw’ in a clean jar (mason jars are great) and push down firmly. Fold a few outer leaves of the cabbage and cover the slaw. At this point you can put the cabbage heart on top to hold the vegetables down further. The vegetables should be submerged under the sauce.

Keep in a cool visible place. Burp the jar frequently if you’ve closed the lid (see cautionary note below)*. You can start to eat this delicious ‘slaw’ within three days. And mine never last much longer than a week before they are eaten up!

*A Word of Caution – take note but don’t let it put you off! If you are fermenting vegetable in glass jars with the lids on, you should keep them in a place where you can see them easily, because you will need to ‘burp the jar’ frequently whilst they are first fermenting. Even in a cold kitchen (like mine!) in the winter gas can build up in the jar quite vigorously. You do not want the jar to explode! The trick is to keep the lid on loosely so trapped gas can be released.

Kimchi ferment 2 [smaller]

I ferment my ‘kimchi pickle slaw’ in a mason or kilner jar. After pushing down the vegetables with the folded outer leaves of the cabbage and then with a weight if necessary to keep them submerged (the fermentation process is anaerobic), I place the the lid with the rubber seal on top of the jar leaving the metal clasp off (see pictures). This means the lid sits loosely on the jar, which can then burp itself and release the potentially explosive CO2 safely.

The picture above shows my latest pickle, bubbling happily and tasting great! (It was a full jar the day before yesterday!)

For an update (February 2015), see: ‘Kimchi Slaw’ Variations and a Jar of Smreka

Kimchi & Squash

Sources and inspirations:
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green Publishing) for detailed kimchi recipes and methods (and everything else about fermentation). Just makes you want to try everything in the book from dosa flat breads to herbal meads. Excellent. Sandor’s book Wild Fermentation is brilliant too. Check out his website here.
Korean cook and blogger Holly at Beyond Kimchee. Lovely, very friendly and informative blog by a Korean cook living in Argentina (written in English).
Another great blog is from Garden Betty aka Linda in California. Again very friendly and informative with great pictures. The first kimchi recipe I tried was the red cabbage kimchi from Garden Betty’s blog.

Text and Images by Mark Watson under Creative Commons with Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license: Fermenting ‘Kimchi Slaw’ with lid on (see *note above); Raw Food Demo at Giddens and Thompson Dec 2014, me (left) and glam-fab assistant Simon Thompson (right); keeping the lid loose with fermenting vegetables* and fizzy (delish!) kimchi slaw; red cabbage ‘kimchi slaw’ & cha-cha or bom-bom squash with sage in brine fermenting (see recipe on Cultures for Health website).

A Quick Run Round The Dandelion Field

A dandelion post from 2014. There are so many reasons to be a good dandelion friend…

P4110006 - detail“Can I have some of your weeds?” I said to Malcolm as we picked up our weekly veg box from his smallholding.
“How much is it worth?” he laughed. “Yes, of course you can.”
“Do you reckon I can pick 100 dandelion heads in five minutes?” I said.
“No chance,” he replied.

But that is in fact what I did. Or it may have been six minutes. Whilst Charlotte picked up the box and chatted with Malcolm, I moved swiftly round the field picking fresh flowers for the ‘dandelion beer’ recipe I’d found in Hedgerow Medicine.

Got home, shook out the small black beetles, boiled a few litres of water with 100g of sugar, let cool to blood temperature, poured into a large bowl along with a whole finely sliced lemon, covered with a clean dishcloth and that’s it. I’ll give it an occasional stir over the next few days, then on Monday or Tuesday I’ll pour the lot through a sieve into a couple of bottles and it should be ready to drink by Thursday or Friday.

P4110013 - detail

Hedgerow Medicine is a great book by Julie Bruton Seal and Matthew Seal, full of simple recipes like this, all clearly written, which can be followed by anyone, herbal old timers and novices alike. I’ve written here (and elsewhere!) about the book, which continues to be one of my favourites.

And dandelions are one of my favourite spring tonic plants. A herbal treasure chest, rich in potassium and other nutrients, and a strong but gentle cleanser for the urinary system, the leaves and flowers are also great in salads. Plus goldfinches love the seeds. And they are just plain joyous spring sunshine plants!

And if they can get me moving so quickly around a field, there must be no end to their extraordinary qualities!

P4160009 Dandelion beer detail 1Postscript 29th April
Made two delicious, refreshing litres from this first batch. It’s really good value too, the cost of one organic lemon, 100g sugar and the heat to boil the water. Batch no. 2 is now on the go.

PPS Remember to leave plenty of blooms to mature into their clocks for the birds too.

PPPS Become a dandelion ambassador!

More Baked Onion Bhajis – with Potato and Beetroot

This is a variation on the bhaji dish I posted here a few months back. I made them today for a late lunch, and they came out a treat. The beetroot adds a vibrant colour whilst the potato lightens everything up (just remember to rinse it a few times through a sieve after grating, and squeeze the excess water out).

As ever, they are disappearing fast from the plate…

Ingredients:

3oz/80g Hodmedod’s yellow (or green) pea flour (you can use the more traditional gram flour, but I love the lightness and taste of the ones using the pea flour).
1oz/28g brown rice flour
1 medium onion, sliced finely
1 small beetroot grated
1 small/medium potato, grated and rinsed through a sieve 3 times with excess water pressed out

1/2 to 1 Ring of Fire chili chopped up very finely (Note: these are very hot. If you can’t stand the heat, stay in the kitchen, but use one or two milder chilis).
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves (chopped roughly)
2 tablespoons tender kale leaves, destemmed

2 tsp roughly ground organic cumin seeds
2 tsp organic coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp ground tumeric (plus 1 tsp grated fresh turmeric – optional)
1 tsp sea salt, ground

up to 75ml water (or equal parts tomato passata and water up to 75ml)
olive oil

Method:

In a bowl mix the flours and the salt together, making sure they’re evenly distributed.

Heat the cumin, coriander and ajwain seeds in a pan to release the flavours, then ground with a pestle and mortar (or a Mexican molcajete if you have one). Add to the flour and salt.

Now add everything else except the water (but including a tablespoon of olive oil) and mix together. Then add up to 75ml water (or a mix of water and tomato passata), bit by bit, and keep mixing until you have a slightly wet (but not at all sloppy), sticky mixture, with all the ingredients evenly distributed.

Using a tablespoon of mixture for each bhaji (this should make at least 10 decent-sized ones), place on a baking tray greased with olive oil, and bake in the oven at 180C. After 10 – 15 minutes, take the bhajis out, turn them over and drizzle each one with olive oil. This is key, as it gives the bhajis a deep-fried texture (but without using so much oil). Bake for another 10 minutes or so.

The ones I made today were delicious on their own, though you can eat them either hot or cold with pickles and chutneys.

Note: Bhajis are a versatile dish and you can add or subtract spices according to taste. I often add a teaspoon of paprika, and today I substituted Thai chili flakes for the fresh chili, and added some freshly popped black mustard seeds.

Delicious Vanilla Biscuits with British Quinoa Flour (gluten-free)

Love peanut biscuits but can’t eat peanuts? Then try this biscuit recipe made with Hodmedod’s Essex-grown organic quinoa flour and organic butter.* They are simple to make, delicious to eat, and really taste like peanut biscuits. They’re also gluten-free.

INGREDIENTS
75g organic butter (or 50g organic butter + 25g organic coconut oil)
40g sugar
100g Hodmedod’s quinoa flour (or 75g Hodmedod’s quinoa flour and 25g organic brown rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tablespoons Hodmedod’s organic puffed quinoa (optional)

METHOD
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar.
Mix the flour(s) and baking powder, sieve if necessary and stir into creamed butter and sugar.
Mix in the vanilla essence and optional puffed quinoa.
Lightly knead the mixture into a soft dough, then roll into balls.
Bake at 190°C on a greaseproof (but ungreased) tin in the oven for 20 minutes.
Leave to cool before eating.

*Adapted from a recipe for rich vanilla biscuits by Rose Elliot (from her book Simply Delicious).

Growing Out Of The Wall

Passing by the wall of an old Suffolk church today, we were called to attention by an amazing display of St. John’s wort growing out of the cracks, so we stopped to pay a visit…

and found a whole array of burgeoning wild blooms, including harebells,

and yarrow,

along with the more familiar kinds of wall plants, like ivy-leaved toadflax,

and pellitory of the wall itself:

Let more wild plants cheer up old walls!