Wild herb and ricotta pithivier

Rose wanted me to call this a pasty, she thought I was being pretentious but I’m sticking to my guns because I think they are a little more refined than a true pasty.  Of course you could make them much bigger if you wanted to use them for a lunch dish or a picnic but these are perfect for a starter size with nice dressed salad.

I had a walk along the riverbank yesterday morning and collected some lovely young wild greens/herbs. I just needed a few handfuls and fifteen minutes of foraging gave me a lovely selection of Ground elder, Stinging nettles, Common sorrel and Cleavers.

Common Sorrel rumex acetosa

Common sorrel

A perennial plant that grows to 80cm tall when flowering. Outside its flowering season common sorrel has oval dark green leaves up to 12cm long and 4cm wide. The leaves have two pointed lobes that stick back from the leaf stem. The flowers grow on stems up to 80cm tall and are like little red and green beads. The leaves on the flowering stalks are smaller and more pointed than those that grow from the ground. They clasp around the stem.

 

Cleavers galium aparine

Cleavers 2One 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 plants leaves are up to 3cm long. It 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 by little hard ball seeds that stick to your socks.

 

Ground elder  Aegopodium podagraria

ground elderA perennial plant that can spread to form dense patches. The leaves grow to approximately 30cm tall, the flowering stalks to 70cm. The leaves grow straight out of the ground in early spring. They have a grooved stalk which divides into 3 and each of these 3 stalks has 3 leaves on it. These oval leaves have a serrated edge and a pointed end. There are also smaller leaves with fewer leaflets. In early summer the plant sends up a grooved flowering stem. This branches and has umbrellas of white flowers (sometimes pinkish) which smell a bit like celery and aniseed.

 

Wild herb and ricotta pithivier  Makes 6

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Ingredients

500g pack of puff pastry
250g Ricotta cheese
30g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 large leaves of wild garlic
3 Handfuls of wild greens
Salt and pepper
1 egg,  beaten for egg washing

Method

Wash the wild greens very well, blanch them in boiling water for 20 seconds and refresh in very cold water.  Once completely cold, squeeze out as much water as possible from the greens and blend to a paste with the olive oil and Wild garlic in a pestle and mortar or stick blender.

In a bowl, stir together the Ricotta, Parmesan and herb paste until you have a nice even mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set this filling aside and prepare a well floured surface to roll out your pastry. Divide the pastry into two and roll each piece out to about a 2mm thickness, you really need to get the pastry this thin as it will overwhelm the flavours of the filling if it is too thick. Out of one sheet cut out six circles 11cm in diameter put onto baking parchment and set aside. Now cut six 12cm circles from the second sheet, these will form the tops of the pithivier and need to be this slightly bigger size to accommodate the filling.

Lay out the bases (smaller circle) and divide the filling between the discs making sure you leave enough pastry around the edge to seal it, about 1cm should be good. Egg wash this outside ring of pastry and place a larger pastry circle on top , push down the sides and seal the egg washed edges You can then use a larger circular cutter to trim the sealed parcels into a perfect circle if you wish.  I then use a fork to seal the edges further by pressing the tines all around the edge where I have sealed it with my fingers.   Repeat for the other pastry discs. Use a knife to make two holes in the top of of each sealed parcel.

Egg wash the pithivier, place on a lined baking sheet (or two) and bake at 180 centigrade for 20 minutes until golden and puffed up. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving with a dressed salad.

 

Wild garlic and Nettle gnocchi with brown butter and ricotta

This time last year I was scraping snow off my car and worrying if Spring would ever arrive. A week later I had a call about our first foraging course asking if we would be hunting polar bears!

No problems this year though ( I hope I am not speaking too soon) as wonderful wild edibles are popping up all over the place and although they are still quite small, they are at their most succulent.

This is the time of year for old favourites like nettles and wild garlic.

A bit obvious?… Maybe but full of flavour and incredibly versatile these two are so good at this time of year we definitely shouldn’t ignore them just because they are familiar.  Anyway there is more to nettles than soup and tea.

Try this easy and delicious recipe that is so packed full of goodness it works as a tonic!…Well almost.

We had this for dinner last night and these quantities serve 2 massive portions, so probably 3 or 4 normal sized ones.

Wild garlic and Nettle gnocchi with brown butter and ricotta

200g fresh spinach
100g Wild garlic leaves
100g Stinging Nettles
70g freshly grated parmesan
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
400g  SR flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons  butter
Parmesan and ricotta , for serving

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the spinach and nettles until tender , about 3 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Squeeze the mixture to remove most of the water. Wipe out the pot, fill with water and bring to a gentle simmer.
Meanwhile, transfer the spinach and nettles to a food processor. Add  a tablespoon of the reserved cooking liquid, and the wild garlic then puree until very smooth.
Scrape the spinach puree into a large bowl and mix in 70g of grated parmesan cheese, egg, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Stir in the flour a little at a time until you have a wet dough.
Spread the remaining  flour in a pie plate and dust a large rimmed baking sheet with flour. Make sure your hands are well floured as the dough is quite sticky and gently roll the gnocchi dough into 1-inch balls. Carefully roll the gnocchi in the flour, shake off the excess and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Add salt to the simmering water. Add half of the gnocchi to the pot and cook until they rise to the surface, then simmer until cooked through, about 3 minutes (about 5 minutes total cooking time). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a platter. Cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

In a frying pan, cook the butter over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Spoon the brown butter over the gnocchi. Top with Parmesan shavings and small pieces of ricotta  and serve.

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Wild garlic and Nettle gnocchi with brown butter and ricotta

Nettle soda bread

Nettle Soda bread

  • 500g Plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400ml live yoghurt or buttermilk
  • 2 large handfuls of nettles (blanched, drained and chopped)

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the yoghurt and nettles and bring together to form a dough. Do not knead the dough. Oil a dutch oven if you are cooking on a camp fire or a baking tray if you are using a conventional oven. Form the dough in to a dome and  either put it in the dutch oven or on the baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes on the camp fire or half and hour in an oven at 180 degrees / gas mark 4

If you want to make herb soda bread omit the nettles, add herbs of your choice, and a little milk to bind.

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