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.

 

Mushroom macaroons with truffled ganache filling.

IMG_5785

I had a chocolate covered cep lollipop as a pre-dessert a few weeks ago.

It was really good!

Chocolate with mushroom turns out to be a great, though unusual food combination.
Apparently science backs this up,

“both mushrooms and chocolate contain aldehydes (a compound that imparts nuttiness) and pyrazines (which enhance roasted flavours), says Bernard Lahousse, partner and science director at FoodPairing.com, a Belgium-based site devoted to exploring the chemical underpinnings of flavour combinations. This explains why the two foods, while seemingly dissimilar, work so well together. “The mushrooms also [bring out] umami in the chocolate,” further intensifying its depth of flavour, Lahousse says from his office in Bruges.”       The Globe and Mail.

We had some dried wild mushrooms left over from a great fungi season so I thought I would have a play.

These are the result……and they are good.

Mushroom macaroons with truffled ganache filling
Based on Andre Morton’s plain macaron recipe.

Ingredients:
For the Macaroons.
110g Icing sugar
40g Ground almonds
2 Medium egg whites
40g Caster sugar

For the Ganache.
100g Dark chocolate, chopped finely
100ml Double cream
1 tsp  Truffle oil

Method:

First make the Ganache. Put the cream into a pan over a medium heat until just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and truffle oil to the pan, stirring until completely melted and combined. Pour into a container to cool.

Now for the macaroons.

1. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. This is a different thing to greaseproof paper and is worth the slightly inflated price. In a food processor (or using a blender/stick blender if you don’t have one), grind together the icing sugar and ground almonds until there are no lumps – you want them as powdery as you can.

2. In a large bowl , whisk your egg whites and caster sugar. It helps to own an electric whisk. It might take a while, but they will eventually become filled with air and quite stiff, although it doesn’t matter if you don’t quite reach stiff peaks.

3. Add about half your sugary almond powder to your airy sugary egg whites and very, very carefully fold together with a large metal spoon. This just involves gentle mixing, making sure you scoop from the bottom in order to keep the air in.

4. Add the rest of your powder and  mix everything well. You want to force most of that air you’ve captured out, so that the mixture tumbles from your spoon, gradually but gloopily. Stop when it reaches exactly the consistency of flowing lava – when you drop some into your bowl, the surface should slowly flatten out to leave no visible peak. This might well be looser than you were expecting.

5. If you own a piping bag, great. If not, a freezer or sandwich bag is just as good. Scoop your mixture into your bag and twist the open end to force the mixture into a corner. Cut this corner off using scissors, leaving a hole about 1cm wide. Use this to squeeze little circles onto your prepared baking sheet. You want them anything between 1-2 inches in diameter. Leave plenty of space between each one.

6. Once your macaroons are piped, lift your baking tray about a foot or two above your work surface and drop it so it smashes down dramatically. Repeat 2-3 times – it’s just to remove any big bubbles that might be left in the mixture.

7. This is the most important step. Leave your piped macaroons uncovered and at room temperature for, at the very least, 30 minutes. The longer the better. You want the surface to dry out and a skin to form. At this point, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan – fan is better. Your oven must be properly preheated for at least 30 minutes.

8. Bake for between 10 and 12 minutes, depending on the size you’ve gone for. You must take them out before they begin to go brown. A good tip is to open the oven fully, then quickly close it again, at least twice during cooking. This will remove excess steam.

9. Once baked and cooled, remove from the tray, spread the underside of half of them with Ganache and sandwich together with the other half.

Store in an airtight tin.

 

 

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.

Ground Ivy icecream with candied flowers, crushed pistachios and vanilla tuille

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, sometimes called Alehoof is one of my favourite wild aromatic herbs and we use it in a wide range of savoury dishes.

This recipe is a bit of a change and uses it in a dessert.  A delicately scented herb icecream served with candied purple Ground ivy flowers and a couple of crunchy extras.

Delicious!

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Ground Ivy icecream

  • 4 sprigs of Ground Ivy
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 250ml double cream

Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat gently to just below simmering point.  Put the sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the egg yolks and beat until well blended. Check the milk is just below a simmer and add the ground ivy sprigs, stir and remove from the heat. Allow the herb to infuse for 1 minute then return the pan to the heat..  When the milk is very close to boiling pour it through a sieve onto the egg and sugar mix, whisk it quickly to combine the ingredients. Now add the cream and stir. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge.

If you have an icecream maker churn this mixture per the manufacturers instructions.

You can make the ice cream without an ice cream maker (it will not be quite as smooth but just as tastey) by freezing the liquid ice cream in a freezer proof box for 1 hour then whisking it. Continue freezing and whisking the mix hourly until you are happy with the consistency.

Serve with crushed pistachios, candied Ground ivy flowers and vanilla tuille.

Candied flowers

  • Ground ivy flowers
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tblsp cold water
  • caster sugar

Mix the egg white and water thoroughly and the paint a thin layer on to each flower. Toss the flowers in caster sugar and lay them on baking parchment. Dry them in an airing cupboard or similar warm place. When they are completely dry you can store the flowers in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

Vanilla tuile

  • 1 large egg white
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 30g plain flour
  • 30g butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set the oven to 180°C/ 356°F/Gas Mark 4
Put the egg white in a medium bowl. Whisk it lightly with a fork, then whisk in the sugar to a froth. Sift in the flour and mix in the melted butter and vanilla extract.
Next drop teaspoons of the mixture evenly spaced out on  the lined tray, then using a small palette knife spread the mixture thinly and evenly into ovals about 7cm long.  Bake for 9-10 mins.
Cool and store in an airtight tin.

Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea

A native perennial height to 40cm. As the name suggests it creeps along the ground and can form mats. The leaves are approximately 2 – 3cm across and are the shape of a horses hoof print with a scalloped edge. Ground Ivy has a square stem – it is a member of the mint family. When it flowers the stems grow upright and it bears purple flowers. They are similar to those of a violet but with a larger lower petal. There are often purple tints to the leaves and stalks especially near the flowers. The strong aromatic smell is the most distinctive characteristic of this plant.

Ground ivy flowering beautifully

Ground ivy flowering beautifully

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.

Acorn Pannacotta

You might well of heard of acorn coffee, one of the ersatz coffees of the second world war. It does not taste much like coffee but I love its malty caramel flavours and think that with a little imagination we could use acorns in many dishes.

The great thing about using acorns as flavouring is that they do not need the lengthy processing that we go through when we want to use them as flour or nuts.

acorns and autumn leaves

 

To make acorn coffee you just need to shell the acorns and roast them well, before grinding to a granular powder. (details below)

This recipe is delicious. Serve it with salted caramel sauce and a tuile biscuit….. or two.

 

 

Acorn pannacotta    serves 4

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Ingredients:

2 x 2g leaves of gelatine
30g acorns, shelled
350ml double cream
50ml milk
50g caster sugar

Method:

Place the acorns on a baking tray and roast in an oven preheated to 150°C/Gas Mark 2 until they are deep brown; be careful not to let them burn or they will taste very bitter. Leave to cool, then grind to a coarse powder in a spice mill or coffee grinder.

Put the cream, milk, sugar and ground acorns in a thick-bottomed saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Pull to the side of the stove and leave to infuse for 40 minutes, to extract as much of the acorn flavour as you can.

Soak the gelatine in plenty of cold water. Heat the infused milk, cream and sugar mixture. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeeze to remove excess and add to the pan. Whisk in the gelatin until completely dissolved.  Pour through a sieve into a 4 expresso cups or small ramekins . Refrigerate until set (about 4 hours).

To turn out, dip the ramekins into hot water briefly and turn out onto your serving plates.

Hawthorn blossom pastry dessert – The English hedgerow meets the Lebanese kitchen.

This recipe is inspired by a trip to Yalla Yalla, a great Lebanese restaurant just off Oxford St. in London.  We popped in for supper after running a foraging and fishing evening for Slow food week and had a great range of dishes, all packed with flavour and completely delicious.  The stand out dish of the night was dessert, a type of tart that neither of us had had before called Knefe.  The orange blossom flavours got us thinking and Rose thought we should use some of the amazing Hawthorn blossom that is covering the hedgerows around North Yorkshire to make our own version.

We served the Knefe with Hawthorn blossom ice cream, which is equally good served with a lump of chocolate cake!

knefe tart with hawthorn blossom ice cream

Hawthorn and orange knefe dessert -serves 10

  • 2 large handfuls of well scented hawthorn blossom
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 150ml water
  • 100ml sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 100g cold butter cut in to chunks
  • 200g plain flour
  • 400g block of mozzarella cheese coarsely grated
  • 110g white breadcrumbs
  • 90g ground almonds

Start by making the syrup. To do this gently heat the water, sugar and honey in a pan, when the sugar has dissolved add the hawthorn blossom and orange zest. Stir to make sure all the petals are well coated in syrup and heat just to simmering point, turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes and then strain the syrup into a jug.

For the dessert it’s self you will need a greased 25cm tart tin or pie dish. The pastry is very simple just ‘rub in’ the flour and butter, either with your fingers in a bowl or whizz it up in a food processor. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the mix and it will start to come together. At this point you can line the tart tin, just take little bits of the pastry and press it in to the tin with your fingers. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees C. Now remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and return the tart case to the oven for another 5 minutes. When the case has cooled spread the grated mozzarella evenly in to it. Mix together the breadcrumbs and ground almonds and add to the flan case on top of the cheese. Lightly press down and smooth over the top of the flan. Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C. While the flan is still warm pour over the hawthorn and orange syrup covering the flan completely. Serve warm with Hawthorn blossom or rose ice cream.

Hawthorn Blossom Ice cream -makes 1litre

  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • ½ litre of well scented Hawthorn blossom
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 220g sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Put the milk and cream in a pan with the hawthorn blossom and heat gently for 10 minutes. Meanwhile put the egg yolks, salt and sugar in to a large bowl and mix until pale. Bring the milk mixture nearly to the boil then strain through a sieve on to the egg and sugar. Quickly whisk then set aside to cool. When cool churn in an ice cream maker or put in the freezer and mix with a fork every hour until it turns to ice cream.

One day foraging course 8th and 9th June 2013

Another sunny weekend spent teaching about wild edible plants to some lovely people.  Thank you all for coming – happy foraging!