Rhubarb, Gorse Flower and Mascarpone Cake

3 Rhubarb and Gorse flower cake

If you’ve never tasted Gorse flowers and you see some, pick a couple of handfuls and celebrate Spring with this fabulous cake

This is a Victoria sponge made extra special by the addition of fruit, flowers and cream cheese. A decadent indulgence for a special occasion. Gorse flowers have a fragrant, almost tropical taste that really complements the acidity of rhubarb.

      Cake

  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250g softened butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour (sifted)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt

Filling

  • 500g rhubarb
  • 100g sugar
  • 15g butter
  • 250g softened butter
  • 280g cream cheese
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g icing sugar

Decoration

  • 2 hand-fulls of Gorse flowers
  • 1 egg white
  • Caster sugar

First wash the Gorse flowers if necessary, gently pat dry and lay them out on a tray so that any insects fly away.

2 Rhubarb and Gorse flowers

Then start making the cake. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C, then grease and line 2 x 20cm round cake tins. Sieve the flour in to a bowl with the salt and mix together. In a separate bowl or food mixer beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy (about 5 mins). Beat in the eggs one at a time adding a tablespoon of flour with each egg. Add the rest of the flour and vanilla extract and fold in with a metal spoon. Add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff then divide it between the tins. Bake for 25 minutes or until springy on top. Leave to cool in the tins.

Wash and cut the rhubarb in to 5cm lengths. Put it in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water, 100g sugar and 15g butter. Heat very gently to poach the rhubarb, carefully turning it occasionally, after about 20 minutes it will be tender. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool and drain. Save the poaching syrup to serve with the cake.

To crystalize the Gorse flowers, first prepare 2 drying trays by laying greaseproof paper on to baking sheets and pour some caster sugar in to shallow dish. Now put the egg white and a teaspoon full of water in to a bowl, mix with a fork to loosen then add the flowers. Mix well in the egg white, then remove the flowers squeezing well to remove excess egg. Coat the flowers as thoroughly as possible in caster sugar then lay them out on the drying trays. Dry the flowers in the oven on the coolest setting or in another warm airy place. They take around 2 hours in the oven. When you think they are dry squeeze one to check that is not moist in the middle. When dry store in an air tight container.

1 Crystalizing Gorse flowers

To decorate the cake

Beat the softened butter then add the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract   mix well then the sieved icing sugar and mix again. This filling will go inside the cake and coat the sides and top. Assemble the cake spreading some filling inside and half the rhubarb. Then coat the sides and top with the remaining mix and top with rhubarb. Blitz up most of the Gorse flowers in a spice grinder or food processor (saving some for decoration) Just before serving sprinkle the Gorse powder on the top and sides of the cake and put the whole flowers on the top.

 

Bilberry mousse, Meadowsweet crumb and Heather flowers.

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It has been such a busy summer so far and we have been having a great time running our foraging and cooking courses and meeting some incredible people from around the country. With all this outdoor activity going on I have been neglecting both my cooking and blogging duties.   Sorry….

It was my birthday last week and Rose and I spent the morning on the moors picking our favourite berry… the Bilberry.
Despite Bilberry pie being, in my opinion anyway, the best fruit pie in the world! I thought that as I had a bit of free time I should come up with something a bit different to do with our beautiful blue bounty. I have paired up the delicious berries with a couple of choice Summer flower flavours and a bit of crunch.

Hope you like it!

Bilberry mousse, Meadowsweet crumb and Heather flowers.

Serves 2 (quite generously)

For the mousse.
50g Bilberries. Plus a few more to decorate.
50g Caster sugar.
2 leaves of Gelatin
1/2 pint Double cream.
1 tsp Heather flowers.

For the crumb.
50g Doves farm gluten free plain flour  (or plain flour)
30g Butter.
2 tsp Caster sugar.
1 tsp Ground flax seed (optional, but does give a great nutiness and earthyness that works well with the sweet berries).
1 level tsp Dried Meadowsweet flowers pulled off the stems and crumbled..

To make the mousse. Put the berries and sugar in a the cup of a stick blender and blend to a loose puree. Soak the gelatin sheets as per the packet instructions. Scrape the puree into a small pan and put over a low heat to warm through, stirring constantly. When the sugar has all dissolved in the berry mix, squeeze all the water from the soaking gelatin and add to the warm pan. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved and set aside. Whip the cream to very soft peaks and then fold in the berry mix until you have a good even consistency with no lumps of cream. Pour/scrape this mixture into a shallow dish and put into the fridge for 1 hour to set.

While the mousse is setting make the crumb.
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C.
Put the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and ground flax seed and mix well. Grease a baking tin and spread the crumb out on it. Bake for 10 mins then remove from the oven and stir the crumbs around, return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes, then stir again. Do this once more and after 20-25 mins the crumble will be pale golden and ready. Leave to cool completely then add the Meadowsweet flowers. You could scale this up and make a whole jar full of the crumb as it stores well and can be used with all sorts of Summer fruit.

To serve, spoon the mousse onto a bed of the crumb, add some fresh berries and a sprinkling of heather flowers.

***

Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus

bilberries

A woody little shrub 20-50cm tall, the mid green leaves are 1-3cm long and are a pointed oval shape. They have very tiny serrations around the edge and have reddish tints towards the end of summer. The greenish pink bell shaped flowers open in early summer, to be followed by green berries. These ripen through red to a purplish black. By late summer they are about 8mm across, blue/black and often with a grey bloom. The flat top of the berry has a raised circle around it with a dot in the middle.
Look for these on acid moorland and heathland, often with Heather.

Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria

meadowsweet flower1

A perennial plant up to 1.2m tall. The leaf is made up of several pairs of dark green leaflets that have sharply toothed edges. At the end of the leaf rib three are fused together. Along the leaf there are also very tiny leaflets in opposite pairs. The leaves are coarse textured, slightly shiny on top and pale underneath. Leaf ribs and flowering stems are often coloured reddish. The flower is actually a mass of creamy coloured tiny flowers they usually reach about 1m tall, they have a distinctive scent which smells like honey and almond if mild or, if strong, like antiseptic!
Flowering time June – September.

Heather Calluna vulgaris

heather

A native small shrub that grows up to 60cm tall. It has very woody old stems that are dark brown in colour. The old wood branches into lots of softer top growth. The leaves are hard and tiny, they grow along small branches giving the impression of green twigs. Pinky purple flowers open along the top section of the stems in late summer.

Barberry and Chocolate flapjack.

This weeks blog recipe is here by popular demand.  I made these flapjacks for our one day foraging courses last weekend, (photos below), using the tart barberries to cut through the intense sweetness of a classic flapjack.  The bitter dark chocolate makes them all the more luxurious without getting too sweet. Everyone loved them and asked for the recipe.

The Barberry, Berberis vulgaris, is not a native plant in the UK but is found in many gardens along with a wide variety of other Berberis species.  Although the different species have berries that range from delicious to very average, so far in my research I have not found any that are poisonous.  I would always make sure through good research that garden species are not poisonous before eating. A good resource for this is Plants for a future, www.pfaf.org an excellent online database of plants that we thoroughly recommend.

Berberis-darwinii

Berberis darwinii

There is a very good and edible species, Berberis darwinii, which is flowering at the moment and you cannot fail to notice its vibrant orange blooms.

The most commonly eaten Berberis berry in Europe is Berberis vulgaris and they are used throughout the middle east in both sweet and savoury dishes and can be bought dried from good delicatessens.  For many years the tart berries would have been used as we would commonly now use lemon peel but are used less now we have imported tropical fruit.

If you are interested in other recipe ideas for the berries have a look at persian dishes, their traditional name is zereshk.

Here is our simple recipe to get you started.

Barberry and Chocolate Flapjack

Ingredients
150g Butter
115g Dark Brown sugar
6x 15ml Tablespoons Golden syrup
225g Porridge oats
15g Dried Barberries
100g Dark chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Put the butter,sugar and syrup into a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar into the mix.

Put all the other ingredients into a bowl and pour over the sugar mix. Stir well and press into a well greased baking tin approx. 20cm x 30cm.

bake at 180C for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and when cool, cut into 16 pieces.

Store in a biscuit tin or plastic box.

Goosegrass goujons with Wild Garlic tartar sauce

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Strips of smoked haddock wrapped in Cleavers, deep fried in chickpea batter and served with a creamy gherkin and wild garlic dip.

Cleavers ( Galium aparine) are looking great at the moment and they are just at the stage when they are long enough to wrap things but have not yet become too stringy. They are staple for us at this time of year and an easy plant for budding foragers to identify on our One day foraging courses.

Rose was experimenting with using them  last week and it was a lovely surprise to have this recipe for my dinner as the result of her research.  These could be eaten as part of a bigger meal or would make wonderful tapas as part of a spread of small plates.

By all means try out your own favourite fish in this recipe but the smoked flavour worked really well.

The sauce uses wild garlic puree which is made by blitzing up wild garlic leaves with a little olive oil. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 month.  For id notes on Wild Garlic see previous post here.

Cleavers Galium aparine
Cleavers 1One of the first plants to emerge in spring. This annual plant has a distinctive growth pattern where rings of narrow slightly bristly leaves are borne at regular intervals along the slightly bristly stem. The  leaves are up to 3cm long. Cleavers will generally climb up the plants near it, managing to grow through hedges up to 1.5m. The tiny greenish white flowers open in summer to be followed little hard ball seeds that stick to your socks.
Cleavers has tiny downward facing prickles on the stems which makes them seem sticky.

Goosegrass goujons with wild garlic tartar sauce.

Ingredients

300g Smoked Haddock fillet
100g Chickpea flour
Half a teaspoon of salt
1 handful of Cleavers stems
Water

For the sauce
2 tsp Wild Garlic puree (see above)
2 tblsp Mayonaise
5 Cornichon gherkins, finely chopped
2 tsp Capers, finely chopped

Method

Slice the fish into strips about 2 cm wide across the fillet. Wrap each strip in a couple of Cleavers stems as in the photo below.

fish wrapped with cleavers

Set these wrapped strips aside whilst you make the batter and sauce.

For the batter put the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in approximately 75ml of water, adjusting this to make a batter the consistency of thick cream.

For the sauce just mix all ingredients together in a bowl until you have and even green colour.

To cook your goujons, dip each little parcel into your batter and then deep fry at 180 degrees C until golden brown. Drain on kitchen roll and serve with your tartar sauce.

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A sweet treat for Easter. Chocolate coated Pine creams.

I can imagine there maybe a few people that will be sceptical that you can produce a delicious sweet from the scent of pine, but I can assure you that used cautiously the flavour of Pine is truly delicious.  The flavour is not a million miles away from that of Juniper and like Juniper it is sometimes used as a botanical flavouring in Gin.  If you keep a look out you will find lots of recipes using pine, from teas and cocktails to biscuits and meat dishes. Easy to identify, widely distributed and abundant it is a great wild ingredient.  All the pines are edible, but you may well find that some are not to your taste.

Two words of caution;

  1. Pine can be a very strong flavour and adding too much will turn your delicious recipe into something that smells and tastes more like a cleaning product!
  2. When picking needles Make Sure you do not pick from the Yew tree, which is very poisonous!!  As always do your research and only eat plants that you can positively identify as edible.

Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris

scots pine needles.jpg.png

An evergreen coniferous tree which can grow to 36m. When the tree is young the shoots and pine needles are accessible. The blue, green, needles are approximately 5cm long and are set in pairs they can be identified by snapping them and seeing tiny hairs in the structure. When the tree is larger it can be identified by its distinctively reddish brown bark.

For this recipe I made a tincture of Scots pine that can be easily stored and used as an essence in many recipes both sweet and savoury.

Tincture of Scots Pine

20g Fresh green Scots pine needles, finely chopped
100ml vodka

To make the essence use a stick blender to blend the the needles and vodka together.  Once you have thoroughly blended the mixture, leave it to infuse for 30 minutes and then pass through a fine sieve, reserving the liquid and throwing away the solids.

This liquid is your Pine tincture or essence.  It will have some fine sediment in it which I leave in, but shake it before use.

Chocolate coated Pine creams

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200g icing sugar
1.5 tablespoons Tincture of pine
1 teaspoon glycerine
1 tablespoon water
150g Dark chocolate ( I like a not too sweet high cocoa content chocolate as the Pine cream is very sweet)

Put all the ingredients apart from the chocolate into a bowl and blend until you have a firm dough. Divide the dough into small pieces and roll into balls.  Set these aside on greaseproof paper to begin to dry.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, allow to cool slightly and then coat each pine cream ball.  I did this using a cocktail stick to dip each ball into the chocolate and then put them back onto greaseproof paper to set.

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We made this recipe for our Easter weekend foraging day course and there are some photographs of the day below.

Burdock crisps

We cooked these on our Wildfood weekend course this week as an accompaniment to venison and elderberry sausages, wild herb polenta and rowan gravy. They added great flavour and texture.

Simple to make and completely delicious, the only problem is not to eat them all before dinner time!!

burdock crisps
Burdock  Arctium minus

A native biennial, taking two years to flower. The young leaves are grey/green and hairy, as the leaves get bigger they retain their grey/green colour and rough texture but look less hairy. The pale stalks and leaf ribs often have a purplish hue. The leaves are big and roughly heart shaped, they are longer that they are wide – up to 50cm long. The plant regrows in its second spring and sends up its flowering stalk. This is up to 1.3m tall, with smaller leaves and has round purplish flowers. These become the familiar hooked burrs that catch on clothes.

Make sure you always check local by-laws and get the landowners permission before digging up any root.


Burdock Crisps

Scrub your burdock roots with a stiff brush or scourer in a bowlful of water.

Using a speed peeler, ‘peel’ off ribbons from the cleaned roots, turning between cuts. The resultant ribbons should immediately be submerged in a bowl of water containing 2 teaspoons of vinegar, (this will stop the ribbons turning brown).

IMG_1899

 

To cook the crisps, pat them dry and deep fry in oil at 180 degrees C until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt.

Thank you to all who attended our Wildfood weekend September 2014.

The Elderflower is out!

We’re trying some new recipes this year as well as the old favourites…recipes and pictures below from our last few One foraging day courses.

Elderflower and Apple pudding – serves 4

  • 4 Bramley apples???????????????????????????????
  • 2 Elderflower heads
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g butter
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 20g porridge oats
  • Creme fraiche

 

Peel, core and cut the apples in to medium sized chunks. As soon as they are cut put them in a large pan with a tablespoonful of water and the lemon juice, stir so that the apple comes in contact with the lemon juice and does not go brown. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir well. If you have a straining bag or some muslin put the Elderflowers in it and hang this over the side of the pan – you want the bag to be in the watery juice underneath the apples. If you don’t have a muslin bag put the Elderflowers in the pan and remove them at the end of cooking. Cook gently for 20 minutes stirring occasionally and squashing the bag against the side of the pan to let the flavour come out in to the juice (try not to mash the apples). Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. When ready set aside.

To make the crumble topping pre heat the oven to 190 degrees C, put the flour in to a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and oats and mix well. Grease a baking tin and spread the crumble out on it. Bake for 10 mins then remove from the oven and stir the crumbs around, return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes, then stir again. Do this once more and after 20-25 mins the crumble will be pale golden and ready. Leave to cool completely then store in an airtight container.

Serve the apples warm or cold with crumble and Creme fraiche.

Other Elderflower recipes include Elderflower wine, Elderflower cordial, Elderflower and rose champagne and Elderflower fritters. Click here to explore our Elderflower recipes.