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 chicken pie!!!

 What a find, three different summer fungi in as many days: Chicken of the woods, Dryads saddle, and St chicken of the woodsGeorge’s mushrooms. We are really lucky to have found them all, and in perfect condition to eat. Below is a recipe using all three, I’ve called it wild chicken pie because the chicken of the woods fungi has a flavour and texture similar to chicken breast. There are also very nice photos from our wild food foraging day course on Saturday 18th May 2013 …we braved the rain!

The warm weather we had a couple of weeks ago has been followed by recent cold nights and rain, this has brought out the fungi. Chicken of the woods or Sulphur polypore is a bracket fungi which usually grows on rotting oak stumps. It can also be found on living trees including oak, chestnut and beech. It is easy to identify by its tiered golden brackets, the underneath of which are sulphur yellow. Although Chicken of the woods is commonly eaten a small minority of people do experience nausea and dizziness after eating it so we advise you to be cautious.

summer fungi and wild garlicThe Dryad’s Saddle often grows on large logs and the stumps of broadleaf trees, particularly sycamore, horse chestnut, beech and ash. The story goes that Dryad’s are little woodland elves and this fungus is the one they use to saddle their mythical horses. This bracket fungus can only be eaten when it is young and soft, by the time it is large and flat it not only looks like a saddle it has the same texture! Look up this fungi in a book you should find it an easy one to identify. With distinctive brown scales on a light brown upper side and creamy white pores underneath.

St George’s mushroom is named after St George’s day when it is meant to be found. Although these mushrooms are usually a week or two after the event they are really quite late this year. It grows in grass often on calcareous soil. It has densely packed white gills under a creamy cap, the stem is also white and it does not have a ring. I could go into great detail but if you are a novice then you should really learn more about fungi before risking a positive identification. There is a similar poisonous mushroom with a brown spore print. The spore print for St George’s mushroom is white.

The fungi courses at our own wood are all full, but we are looking at more locations. We will announce new fungi course dates through our facebook site but if you prefer please email us at info@tastethewild.co.uk and will let you know when new courses are available.

Wild chicken pie – serves 4

  • 1 small onion, skinned and chopped small
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g wild garlic, stalks and leaves chopped separately
  • 275g Chicken of the woods, torn into strips
  • 175g Dryads saddle, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 100g St Georges mushrooms, halved and sliced
  • 250ml double cream
  • 100-200ml milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 200g readymade puff pastry
  • 1 egg

Saute the onion in a good knob of butter for 2-3 minutes until soft but not coloured, add the chopped wild garlic stalks to the pan, cook for another minute then set aside. Now fry each of the wild mushroom types separately in butter with a little oil added (this stops the butter from burning) You need to fry on a high heat to seal the mushroom pieces and get a little colour on to them. They will take about 3-4 minutes for each type and probably use up all the butter in your ingredients list!

Don’t be tempted to put them all in together as cooking times may vary.fungi and garlic in pan

Now put the fried onion and garlic and all the mushrooms back into the pan, add the cream, half of the milk, the chopped wild garlic leaves and salt and pepper to taste, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Add more milk and seasoning if necessary to achieve a nice consistency and flavour to the sauce. Pour in to a suitable pie dish and leave to cool.

Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees C – gas mark 5. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to 5cm larger all the way round than your pie dish. Cut a strip from the outside edge of the pastry, moisten the rim of the pie dish and stick the strip to the rim. Moisten the pastry on the rim and then lay the remaining pastry over the whole pie to form the lid. Trim off any excess and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked. Serve hot with steamed vegetables.

'wild chicken pie'

wild food foraging day course on Saturday 18th May 2013

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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Rose petal icecream

If you love Turkish Delight and you love Ice cream, you’ve got to try this.

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Rose petal Ice cream

  • 2 handfuls of well scented rose petals (I used Rosa rugosa, the Japanese rose)
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 250ml double cream

Make sure the rose petals are free from bugs, chop them a little and put them into a pan. Pour on the milk and vanilla extract, stir and put the lid on the pan. Heat gently, do not boil. While the rose flavour is infusing into the milk prepare the eggs and sugar. 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 and rose infusion and stir occasionally. Keeping the lid on the pan will stop the precious rose fragrance from evaporating. 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. Squeeze the last of the milk from the petals into the mix and put the petals on one side. Now add the cream and stir. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge. If you have an ice cream maker churn the chilled mixture for half and hour. If you want to have little pieces of rose petal in your ice cream chop the squeezed out petals finely and add them to the ice cream just before the end of the freezing process. You can make the ice cream without an ice cream maker 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. As before, add the chopped rose petals just before the ice cream is frozen if you want the texture and colour.