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.

 

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

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