So word is getting around that I am very interested in plants and cooking with wild food, I have currently three books on the go all about wild cooking and a mountain of ideas! I was told there was some wild garlic growing in the garden which apart from the initial idea of soup I didn’t really know what else I should do with it, so I had a little research for some cool dishes! I did a little research on the plant too and was very suprised to find out how this plant can be mixed up with another poisonous plant called Lily-of-the-Valley. This can happen when the flowers aren’t in bloom which being at the beginning of spring they aren’t. The main thing that distinguishes this plant from anything else is that it smells very strongly of onion and garlic! Their leaves are also formed differently I noticed after researching, but to be on the safe side I double checked with the garden owner. Pesto seemed to be the most simple, popular recipe with just a few basic ingredients that we already had in the cupboard so I thought why not give it a go.
Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) also known as Ramsons have beautiful long green leaves and you can usually smell them before you spot them as they have a very strong onion/garlic scent. When raw they are quite strong to eat that are similar to chives, cooking them helps reduce the flavour. You will find Wild Garlic in woodland areas and damp places.
TOP TIPS FOR PICKING WILD GARLIC
- Make sure you can identify wild garlic by an experienced forager, they can be identified by their leaves and distinct smell but can potentially be mixed up with similar looking poisonous plants.
- Ask permission to pick and do not remove bulbs from the ground as they will not grow back.
- Thoroughly wash leaves thoroughly before use
- You can eat all of the plant including the flowers when in bloom.
- Cook leaves and treat like spinach if you prefer a milder flavour.
WILD GARLIC PESTO
100g Raw Wild Garlic leaves
50g Cashews (Pine nuts or whatever you prefer)
100ml Olive Oil
- Chop up the washed Wild Garlic leaves into relatively small pieces.
- Place the nuts and parmesan with the leaves and use a blender to break it all down.
- Introduce olive oil gradually until you have your preferred consistency.
- Add some black pepper to finish.
- Use as a sauce or as to add a bit of flavour to your dish.
- Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
I really love finding new ways of making the things we love to make, like cupcakes for instance. I told April we would make some more cupcakes during the holidays together so thought this would be a good way to combine some foraging as well as baking…..I first discovered Gorse in the South West of England although they grow well up here in Scotland just a little bit later. I have read about foragers using gorse flowers for wine and beer and I decided to see what else I could make out of these and if possible to store for the future. Researching, the most common theme in recipes seemed to be making a gorse syrup to add to things such as cakes, pancakes, cordials etc so I thought this would be a good start and we set out for some gorse bushes that we have spotted on our daily walk.
Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a very common shrub that can be found in heaths and cliffs and is noticeable by it’s beautiful yellow flowers with very green prickly leaves. If you have not come upon a gorse bush, you will be pleasantly surprised by not only their vivid yellow beauty but when you get up close or crush the petals in your fingers it smells just like coconut. If you eat them raw also they have the slight taste of grassy almonds.
TOP TIPS FOR GORSE PICKING
- Pick Gorse flowers in Spring time and only where there are many to pick, leave the rest for the wildlife!
- Be prepared to walk, gorse bushes tend to grow in places that are hard to get to.
- Be patient, Gorse bushes are very prickly and you cannot quickly pick them…you can try to wear gloves but you may struggle to get at them.
- Try pick the whole flower and not squash them too much.
- Take a good basket or tub to catch them to make quicker work.
- Once collected make sure you rinse the flowers thoroughly to get rid of any little creatures!
WILD GORSE SYRUP
100g Gorse Flowers
300g Caster Sugar
- Put the sugar and water into a medium pan and bring to the boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place the clean gorse flowers into the pan and boil for a couple minutes more, take off the heat and set aside overnight or for 6 hours at least.
- Bring the mixture to boil once more for 10 minutes for a stronger flavour and then set aside to cool.
- Use a muslin or fine sieve to drain the syrup into a sealed container, this can be used straight away or stored in the fridge for up to a month.
WILD GORSE AND COCONUT CUPCAKES
2 x Eggs
110g Golden Caster Sugar
110g Self Raising Flour
2 tbsp Gorse Syrup
25g Desiccated Coconut
Pinch of Salt
200g Icing Sugar
2 tsp Gorse Syrup
Gorse Flowers for topping
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees and fill a cupcake tray with 12 cases (this recipe may make more!)
- Beat the butter and sugar together, you can do this by hand but it’s easier with an electric whisk.
- Add the eggs in slowly so not to curdle until the mixture is even and soft.
- Sieve the flour and bit of salt to the mixture stirring it constantly.
- Add the gorse syrup (I added 2 tbsp but you can add more or less!) and the dessicated coconut until even.
- Using two spoons, spoon the mixture evenly into the cases probably around half way giving them space to rise in the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes in the middle of the oven until golden brown and use a tooth pick/skewer to check they’re cooked evenly (it should come out clean!)
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- To make the icing sugar, pour the icing into a bowl and gradually introduce some water, the consistency is key for topping. If you add too much water in you will flood the cupcakes, you need the consistency to be thick that gradually moulds over the top. Add some more Gorse syrup for flavouring if desired.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled down, place a small amount of icing onto the top of the cupcake and circle it around in your hand to let the icing drip evenly, place a small gorse flower in the middle and set them set.
WILD GORSE GIN COCKTAIL
Indian Tonic Water/Lemonade
- Fill an ice tray with some gorse petals and add water only half way, let this freeze. Once fully frozen, repeat and fill to the top with more petals and water so the flower petals are even throughout the cube.
- Fill up your glass with petal ice cubes, your favourite gin and around 5 tbsp of gorse syrup (or as much as you like!)
- Add either Indian tonic water or lemonade if you prefer something sweeter…
- Add some lemon to finish…enjoy!
I love having the time to cook, I have such a busy life with my two girls that I don’t often get to cook what I like let alone experiment with different ingredients. Being in Scotland with family at the moment is just amazing and because Hazel’s daddy (Alex) is just like me, he is very open minded about my crazy creative ideas! He is a wild Scot and lives for the outdoors, which I love. He is also very skilled at foraging and cooking…another bonus. After our plans have gone out the window to go all over Scotland during these holidays, we got planning things to keep us all entertained as well as me keeping busy staying creative. Alex is always spotting some amazing wild things on our walks and tells us lots of random facts and about the outdoors and what is edible and more importantly free, there is literally more than you would believe!
So, we have decided to combine my passion of lifestyle photography, simple living and styling with Alex’s wild nature, making us a great team to share some of our wild recipe creations…
Nettles (Urtica dioica) are a very common plant and are actually packed with vitamins. They have been used in recipes and remedies for thousands of years despite having a bad name for themselves! They are an underrated plant that most people associate with being stung, but actually are very complimentary in dishes. We decided to go hunting yesterday for some nettles around the local farm, as they are just starting to emerge around certain areas. Nettles tend to grow in woodland areas and places where the soil is rich, especially around ruins; you can always spot a nettle by their distinct hair and spiky leaves which makes them hard to mix up with other plants.
TOP TIPS FOR NETTLE PICKING
- Pick nettles in spring time before flowering
- Make sure you use gloves for picking
- Pick the greener leaves rather than the purple tinged ones as these are more bitter
- Remove all the stalks and only use the top leaves of the plant
- Wash nettles thoroughly before prepping
- Blanch nettles with boiling water for 1-2 minutes to get rid of the sting
Here are a couple of recipes we made today. Nettles can be used in all sorts of dishes once cooked and should be treated like spinach once blanched.
WILD NETTLE SOUP
150g Nettle Heads
1 x Onion
2 x Small leeks
1 x Celery sticks
1 x Garlic clove
1 x Medium Potato
1 x Large Carrot
1 Litre Vegetable stock
200ml Double Cream (optional or use a low fat yoghurt alternative)
Salt and Pepper
- Cook the barley in a medium pan according to packaging instructions (this usually takes 1 hour) start chopping up the garlic, celery, leek, potato and carrots into relatively small chunks.
- Melt the butter in a large pan and soften all of the vegetables for about 10 minutes without overly browning the veggies. Add the drained/cooked barley and vegetable stock and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the nettles and cook for another 2-3 minutes, take off of the heat add salt and pepper to taste and add the double cream, blend until smooth.
- Serve with snipped chives and crusty bread (or wild nettle bread below!)
WILD NETTLE BREAD ROLLS
1 1/2 tsp Yeast
300g (11oz) Strong Wholemeal Flour
300g Strong White Flour
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Oil
1 1/2 tsp Salt
50g Chopped Blanched Nettles
Small bunch of Chives
For decorating rolls
1 x Egg
Salt and Pepper
Nettle Heads (1 leaf per roll)
- Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl, add the yeast, sugar, oil and mix well. Gradually introduce the water until well mixed, add the chives and chopped nettles and mix evenly throughout.
- Sprinkle flour onto your work surface and knead dough until soft and smooth, this can take a good 30 minutes) you will then need to cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size.
- Grease a baking tray and shape into equal balls, space them apart and slightly flatten them, cover with cling film and leave to prove again in a warm place for another 25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Gas Mark 7.
- Once the rolls have doubled, top each roll with some egg, sprinkle some salt and pepper and garnish with a single nettle leaf on each. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until risen/cooked through.
- Split open when warm and serve alongside some yummy soup (Wild Nettle soup!) x