Saturday, 29 March 2014

Wild Food Weekends : Stinging Nettle Soup


Stinging nettles are probably one of the best known plants in the UK due to the painful sting you get from their jagged leaves. They can be found throughout the countryside, on waste grounds and on river and stream banks due to their love of damp and nutrient-rich soils! I always notice them under apple trees where apples have fallen or on building sites where those 'caught short' provide nutrients to the soil through their wee (although I think most reputable builders use portaloo's now!)

In Dorset, The 16th Century Bottle Inn is home to the world nettle eating championships, which this year takes place on Saturday, the 7th June 2014. Brave souls compete to eat the most leaves - owch! 


My children love picking nettles as they have an element of danger! Will they get stung through their gardening gloves? We carefully pick the tops of the fresh young plants in spring, and never pick from anywhere that could be a local 'dog wee' place or roadside.


Once we have picked the nettles we make them into a lovely green coloured soup, which is full of calcium, protein and vitamin C and is really tasty served with fresh crusty bread and some bacon croutons, here's our recipe:-

Stinging nettle soup

serves 4 

ingredients
olive oil
1 large onion
1 large potato
2 diced parsnips
300g washed stinging nettle leaves - the stalks are too stringy
(or 250g nettles and 50g wild garlic)
1 litre of vegetable stock
75g butter
50ml of double cream

method
  • heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan
  • add the onion, potato and carrot to the pan
  • cook until the vegetables become soft
  • add in the vegetable stock and cook for 10 minutes on a moderate heat
  • once all the vegetables are soft add the nettles and then blend the soup
  • take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and cream before seasoning and serving
*don't eat an excessive amount as nettles can cause kidney problems if eaten in bulk.

*don't forget to follow the foragers code

Friday, 28 March 2014

Into the wild


This weekend we are:

  • Picking stinging nettles for a delicious new recipe
  • Planning to make fairy cakes for grandma on Mothering Sunday
  • Going for a woodland walk
  • Nervously watching the oldest boy play in a football final
  • Baking our weekly loaf of bread
  • Planting edible and cutting flower seeds 
How about you? 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

escape

In just 24 hours I've had three large bills hit me out of the blue! Every time I've saved up enough money for a new oven something goes wrong, breaks or in the case of a dry stone wall, falls down! So to console myself I'm hiding on Pinterest - looking at beautiful images of beautiful people doing beautiful things, sometimes I hate being a grown up!
Follow Emma Bradshaw's board escape on Pinterest.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Wild Food Weekends : Wild Garlic



As featured on Cerys Matthews 6 Music Sunday morning radio show on the 23rd March, 2014, here's our favourite recipe to make wild garlic pesto that originally featured on this blog back in April 2011

Wild garlic pesto based on this River Cottage recipe, we replace the walnuts with pine nuts. The recipe was quick and easy and made up a potent little jar of the most intense green coloured pesto, that I am going to spread on some lovely crusty fresh bread.

You just blitz it all in a food processor and store in sterilised jars!

Ingredients


  • 100g freshly picked wild garlic leaves (approx. 40/50 young leaves)
  • 50g shallot
  • 50g pinenuts
  • 200 ml olive oil, sunflower oil or rapeseed oil
  • 50-60g mature hard cheese (Quick’s goats cheese , Parmesan or similar hard, mature cheese), finely grated
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar

Recipe adapted from a River Cottage Recipe. 

Please read the foragers code before setting out to pick wild garlic. 

Pizza making from scratch


A Saturday night sleepover was an excuse for some pizza making mayhem with four boys! Using half the dough from this weeks loaf we shared it out into six balls, then carefully rolled it out as flat and circular as we could adding our favourite toppings. There was chorizo and tomato, wild garlic and goats cheese, ham and cheese, mushroom and just plain old cheese and tomato - all delicious and gobbled up quickly.

Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Buzzing Boston Tea Party Launch


Sometimes there are places that I just want to keep secret and not let anyone know about as they're just too good to share and last night I was invited to the launch party of one such place, the Boston Tea Party cafe in Cheltenham!

Boston Tea Party, for those of you who have never visited is a small chain of family owned cafes that stretch from Birmingham down to Honiton and the latest in Cheltenham is opening on Monday, 24th March. It seats 100 in comfy seats, tables and booths in a spacious layout, and oozes rustic charm with recycled wood cladding on the walls, large metal factory lights, repurposed tables and the now uniform enamelware. The slightly quirky layout really lends itself well to creating different 'rooms' with easy chairs in one part, long banquettes in others, a concrete 'bar' in front of large windows that will fold back in the summer and cosy booths for those wanting a little privacy.


I love how they created a Pinterest board of interior inspiration for their cafe too, and whoever took on their brief has got it pretty spot on. When I went to Uni in Cheltenham a few *ahem* years ago, at the time when the TV series Friends was popular, we would have loved to have somewhere cool and trendy like this to hangout and probably work in too. Now living in the country, I sometimes consider living back in town just to be in walking distance of places like this.


The new cafe is next door to the refurbished Museum and Art Gallery, The Wilson, in Clarence Street, and opening times are from 7am - 9pm (7am - 6pm on Sundays) with a real emphasis on breakfasts. I love breakfasts and would far rather eat out for breakfast than any other meal to be honest. When the children were babies and we had been awake since an ungodly hour, we would often meet friends for breakfast, it seemed like a lovely leisurely way to start the day and children seem to be at their best earlier on too.


At the party we were treated to never-ending samples of food and drink from the menu, with smiley lovely staff proudly detailing all the ingredients and supplier information, notably local too, from Hobbs House bread and Yeo Valley milk to Bristol Beer. I was also pleased to see that the eggs and meat are also 100% free range from the West Country. The menu has been crafted to be affordable yet with an air of rustic simplicity that showcases the quality ingredients, which will certainly set the bar a lot higher for similar establishments in the town. I took my most fussy-eater with me, who loved the lamb burger so much he decided to hang out near the kitchen to be first in-line! I personally loved the scotch eggs, the side dish of courgette fritters in buttermilk batter and the brownies of course, which we washed down with glass jars of the most delicious homemade lemonade and freshly squeezed orange juice.


I seem to be raving about this place, maybe it was the infectious enthusiasm of the staff, maybe it was the great menu with loads of things that I'd like to try or maybe just the relaxed family friendliness of the place. One thing's for sure, there's a buzz around this new cafe opening and we will be back and very soon too!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Daytime naps


Sometimes when it's just me and the babe, I'll lie in bed with him as he naps and just watch him sleep. I'll listen to him breathe knowing all too soon he'll have grown out of his day time naps. It seems only yesterday that my eldest was this small, I can't believe how quickly time is flying with these boys, please make it stop.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kitchen capers


We are busy bees at the moment trying to finish all those jobs around the house that we have put off for the past ten years! I've never believed that the house we live in now is our 'forever home' so have always been loathed to spend any money on it, wanting instead to sell it. I have *finally* come around to the fact that if we did spend a little bit we would actually create a beautiful home and although I can't do anything about the small garden and the fact that its shell is pure 1980's utilitarian architecture, it is in a brilliant location and we can't find anything better that we can afford that is worth the upheaval of moving for right now!

So armed with a very long list of things I want to get done I have started with the kitchen and just had a new cooker hood fitted that was a bargain in the John Lewis sale and I found these shelves for £20 on ebay. I have also bought some white metro tiles with some grey grout, also reduced in the January sales, after admiring all the cool kids kitchens on Pinterest! Of course as soon as the cooker hood was fitted the kettle stopped working and as I went online to look at buying a new oven, the freezer packed up too and I had to make an emergency run around the village to friends freezers to save our meat - such is life!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Wild food on BBC Radio 6 Music


I am extremely excited that the lovely Cerys Matthews asked if I'd put together a few wild food foraging recipes for her award winning radio show on BBC 6 Music on Sunday mornings. Of course I said yes and yesterday she read out my wild garlic focaccia recipe - you can listen to the show again

I have featured loads of different wild food recipes on this blog over the years and I'm really looking forward to pulling them all together over the next few months for the award winning radio show, from stinging nettle soup to elderflower champagne, wild strawberry salad to dandelion sorbet. I'll post them all again on this blog of course and I'm planning to test a few new ones too. It's a really fun project and I'm looking forward to learning to identify new edible plants and testing lots of new recipes with the boys. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Wild garlic focaccia


This week I'm combining my love of foraging with the 52 loaves project, to make a wild garlic focaccia. I used the basic bread recipe from the River Cottage Bread Handbook to make the focaccia, following the instructions all the way through to the baking bit.


To make the focaccia we picked a handful of young wild garlic leaves and blended them with approx. 200 ml of rapeseed oil, you can also use olive oil. It makes the most amazing green coloured oil!

Wild garlic has a more mild and gentle taste than bulb garlic you buy from the shops and the early shoots taste really green and fresh.

Then taking your bread dough that has already proved, you press it gently into a well-oiled tin, leaving the dimples from your fingers! Drizzle the bread with the green wild garlic oil and sprinkle sea salt flakes lightly over the top.

Bake in a hot oven, 200oC/Gas mark 6 for 10 - 20 minutes or until the top has browned slightly. Serve warm straight from the oven.


Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

Friday, 14 March 2014

Spring is in the air


Margaret Atwood wrote, 'In Spring, at the end of the day you should smell like dirt'. With this sunny weather I am inclined to agree with her! Spring sees the start of our foraging year as the tender shoots of wild garlic starts to push their way through the sweet smelling soil.

Where we live wild garlic also known as ramsons grows abundantly in woodlands and on roadsides, you often smell it before you see it. It starts emerging around this time of year as small green shoots and by April the shoots has formed green carpets with white flowers, like in the picture above. It's worth noting that when picking anything from the wild it's really important to get the landowners permission and to follow the foragers code (below).

Wild garlic has a milder more gentle flavour than the farmed garlic bulbs we buy in supermarkets today and is incredibly versatile to cook with. We usually pick a handful of leaves and blend it with pine nuts and olive oil to make pesto that we store in jars in the fridge. Last year the boys made 'green' spaghetti by blending some wild garlic leaves and adding it to the ingredients to make home made pasta. They love using the pasta machine to roll it out, and to make it bright green gives it an added fun element too.

If I can find any wild garlic this week, I'm going to try and make a wild garlic focaccia. Using a simple white bread recipe and following all the instructions, before baking I'll push down the dough into a square or oblong oiled baking tray, so there are a lot of fingerprint dimples all over. Then I'll blend five or six leaves with a really good glug of olive oil and pour all over before baking. Focaccia is delicious eaten warm straight from the oven!

* A Foragers Code *


  • English law is complicated, you can take 'fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi' but nothing dug up, from public rights of way for your own consumption only, if there is no national protection of the site or species or local bylaw. 
  • Always get the landowners permission first. 
  • Foraging on protected land such as SSSI's and nature reserves can cause damage beyond repair and can be illegal. 
  • Do not collect rare or red list species or those protected by law. 
  • Follow the Countryside Code. 
  • Take reputable field guides with you and fully identify species before picking them. 
  • Minimise damage to vegetation, leaf litter and soil. 
  • Respect and protect other species, including poisonous ones. 
  • Ancient woodland and permement pasture often contain a rich variety of species including rarities.
  • Avoid removing dead wood. 
  • Do not collect species you don't intend to eat. 
  • Be aware that some species may make you unwell and that some are deadly!
  • Some species are only edible in certain seasons or at different stages of its growth, or after cooking. 
  • For fungi, pick no more than 1.5 kg of fungi total per visit, many species other than humans eat fungi. 
  • Don't collect 'buttons' (mushrooms that haven't expanded), giving them time to expand will help identification, allow spores to be discharged and give you more to eat. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pyjama party


We were asked to review a pair of pyjamas for vintage inspired clothing designers Their Nibs. I hadn't heard of Their Nibs before, I must be really behind the times, as looking on their website they've been around since 2003! My middle son was sent a pair of Their Nibs sports two piece pyjamas, and he was delighted as he gets fed up of hand-me-downs from his older brother, so to have something new was really quite exciting! He suffers with eczema from time to time, especially at the moment, and gets quite hot and itchy in bed, so sometimes he just wears pants to bed! The pyjamas are lovely and soft and he loves them and worn them every night since they were sent almost a week ago, he told me he liked the cuffs as they keep the pyjamas in place when he wriggles in bed.


I personally like the print the best, I find it so difficult to find nice clothes for boys that both they and I like. They remind me of the old ladybird books I used to read as a child, but aren't too old fashioned that the boys turn their noses up. They wash beautifully too, which I have discovered after I found them to my horror in the swimming bag, having been taken for 'wearing clothes in the pool' swimming practice at school (why did I let him pack his own bag!) Of course he wanted to show off his new pyjamas, so they have survived a chlorine dip, which I wouldn't recommend. 


Thank you for sending us such beautiful pyjamas Their Nibs, now we know about you, we'll be certainly shopping with you again.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

the mothership called!








My son had a football game 25 miles away today in the Forest of Dean, it would have been a chore but it meant if I volunteered to take him, we could take a quick detour to the 'mothership' also know as Baileys Home. My husband was initially confused with my enthusiasm to A. get up on a Saturday morning and B. watch a game of football, until he saw straight through my cunning plan! I easily persuaded the boy to come, with the promise of cake in the Tin Tabernacle tearoom which is only open at the weekends.

I've wanted a light above the kitchen sink, but couldn't decide between a jam jar light (above) or an enamel light (below), so I made do with a few other little goodies! I still can't decide, I think I prefer the black enamel shade below? Shucks, I'll have to go back!

Friday, 7 March 2014

use your loaf!


This weeks loaf is a plain white split tin loaf and is a gift for grandma who helps us with childcare, mending, cooking and cleaning. We couldn't do without her, so a little bread gift is in order!

Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

St. Piran's Day


Happy St. Piran's Day to all of you lucky people that live in pastyland! Our Cornish friends at Forever Cornwall are celebrating today by tweeting a whole range of offers throughout the day, so get over to Twitter and follow them on Facebook too, as they're lovely people.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A woodland walk to the Woolpack


Yesterday was such a gorgeous sunny Saturday so we escaped for a woodland walk to our favourite pub the Woolpack. It was so busy, I think everyone had the same idea, even Heston Blumenthal was enjoying a pub lunch there! 




We fashioned bows and arrows from the wood we found along the way - the whittling kept the boys entertained long enough that we could enjoy a drink in the sunshine!


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Bread with homemade butter


Our 52 loaves project loaf went a little wrong this week as I didn't notice that the babe pressed the button on the digital scales to turn measurements to ml instead of grams, so quantities of the flour were inconsistent! It turned out OK though, a usual white loaf with some of the white flour substituted for wholemeal, so a sort of half and half!

We thought we'd make some butter too this week to eat with our loaf and the last of our hedgerow jam. It is really easy and fun to make.


How to make butter

You need a jam jar with a lid that will firmly close and some double cream, that's it!


Fill the jar about a third full with the cream and start shaking it up and down!


at first the consistency resembles whipping cream, but don't worry and don't stop!


keep shaking, depending how fresh your cream is it could take around 20 minutes to turn into butter.


You'll know when it's changed as you'll feel a lump shaking up and down rather than liquid sloshing.


You now have buttermilk and butter!


Ideally, strain out the buttermilk in a muslin - we couldn't wait so just used a sieve!


Enjoy with your fresh bread straight out of the oven and a big dollop of homemade jam - perfect!

Playing along with Little Green Shed by baking a loaf a week and sharing a picture of it on Instagram with the #52loavesproject

In like a lion, out like a lamb...


March they say, comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb. Last year I took the picture above of a pregnant ewe in mid-March (sheep really aren't that white are they?) Already here there is blossom on the trees and buds on the branches, spring is on the way.

This March we're going to...
  • join a circus school
  • find the perfect sofa!
  • discover what 'big' school number 1 son will go to
  • learn to bake bread at Hobbs House Cookery School
  • flip pancakes
  • plan our cutting and vegetable garden & start sowing seeds indoors
  • make grandma a fabulous birthday cake 
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