Spring is springing! More and more edibles are appearing in the woods, hedgerows and fields. Although a lot of the new growth is still quite small some are at the perfect size to eat. Wintercress, Barbarea vulgaris has been at the top of our menu over the last week.
This hardy biennial overwinters as a rosette of leaves and it can be harvested from November to April, afterwards it becomes a bit too bitter and tough to cook. You can find this plant along stream banks, cultivated fields, ditches and disturbed ground. The leaves are a glossy deep green with 4-6 opposite lobes ending with a large lobe. The leaves look quite like watercress but are tougher and not so easily snapped.
This Saturday, for our first foraging day course, we wanted to make the most of this tasty plant as its harvesting season will soon be over. After spending a fun day experimenting in our kitchen, we came up with some great dishes and chose these two delicious and easy to make recipes: Wintercress soup and Wintercress and nettles momos. The plant has quite a pungent mustardy cabbage taste and can be used in many styles of cooking. Think of what you might use watercress for and adapt your recipe for this tasty treat of a wild ingredient.
Wintercress is not the only thing out there! Despite all appearances and to some people surprise, we found 30 wild edibles for the course. We brought in some other plants (bittercress, coltsfoot flowers, red valerian, hawthorn leaves, crow garlic and hedge garlic) that grow in different habitat from our woods. We created a wonderful spring salad and here is the beautiful result.
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 15g fresh root ginger finely chopped
- 200g wintercress washed
- 120g cooked or tinned chickpeas (1/2 a tin)
- 600ml vegetable stock
- 1tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Rose water (optional)
In a large pan gently sauté the onion and ginger in the olive oil for 10 minutes, until it isvery soft and golden. Meanwhile blanch the wintercress in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute, then drain it well and chop. Add the chickpeas, stock, chopped wintercress, sugar and 1/2tsp of salt to the pan with stir well and bring to the boil. Cook for a few minutes, then blitz in a food processor until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and add the rose water if you like.
- 140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 25ml warm water
- 1tsp fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 handful of jelly ear mushroom finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped or grated
- 1 head pak choi finely chopped.
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 handful wintercress
- 1 handful stinging nettles
- Black pepper
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp fresh ginger
- 1 tsp sugar
Pour the flour into a bowl and stir the warm water gradually into it. Mix well with a chop sticks or fork until the water is completely absorbed. Add more water if the mixture seems dry and more flour is it’s too wet.Tip the dough mixture onto a clean work surface and knead it until it is smooth for about 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rest while you prepare your filling.
Pour the olive oil into a pan and gently heat it up. Grate the fresh ginger and garlic and fry them in a pan after about 1 minute, add your pak choi and carrot then continue to fry for 2 minutes. In the meantime, blanch your Wintercress and nettles for one minute in some boiling water. Drain, chop them finely and add them to the pan as well as the finely sliced jelly ear mushrooms. Pour some sauce soy and black cracked pepper on top and fry for few minutes until all the moisture is evaporated. Set aside.
Grate the ginger, pour over the soy sauce add the sugar and mix well until the sugar is dissolved. Taste it and adjust to your taste. Set aside in the fridge.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it again for few minutes, dusting with a little bit of flour if necessary. Using a rolling pin, roll it quite fine about 1mm and use a cutter to cut out circles. Fill them with your mixture and seal using any style you fancy (momo, tortellini or Chinese dumpling… be creative!). Then steam them 9 minutes in bamboo or a regular steamer. Serve them hot dipped in your sauce.