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

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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.

Foraging in the smoke.

You can find wild food almost anywhere. My favourite place to forage is definitely the countryside, but I am always up for a challenge, so when Sally Hurst from the NBC Today programme  called me a month or so ago saying she wanted find some wild food for Thanksgiving without leaving her beloved London, I jumped on the train and headed for the smoke!

We headed out to Hackney marshes, a javelins throw from the Olympic park, to see what we could find.

Here is a couple of links to the results.

http://bites.today.com/_news/2012/11/19/15284995-go-back-to-the-roots-of-thanksgiving-with-a-foraged-feast?lite

http://chefsallyjane.com/2012/11/19/city-girl-meets-country-boy-they-find-food/