Archive for April, 2012

April 17, 2012

Recipes for nettles

This is perhaps a point at which foraging for food becomes a prickly subject. All those features and TV cookery programmes that see chefs scouring wild landscapes for sea buckthorn or roaming the woods to find edible funghi… all that foraged food can seem ever so exotic, fit for a restaurant such as Noma in Copenhagen or one of its many followers. And yet, there’s a much more common ingredient, which grows in abundance, and which is probably due a revival, and which great so many kinds of recipes. It is, of course, the humble nettle. Why aren’t we all out there picking them?

Down the trail near our house nettles are shooting up all over the place at the moment: their fresh young leaves so green – not like the old deep green and tough-looking leaves found later in the year. But it’s not just about being in the countryside – I used to see nettles peeking through railings and rising up at the edges of the parks and canals of urban East London.

I’ve never picked any, though. Have you? Is it just me that’s been missing out? I had a lovely bowl of nettle soup once, at Petersham Nurseries. It was something of a revelation in its delicate greenness. And then it was forgotten again.

But when this damn rain stops I’m going to head out with some thick gloves and pick some nettles. And I’m going to make something with them. Watch this space.

In the meantime, here are a few ideas that might convince you to do the same.

For those of you who might want to make your own fresh pasta, try Blanche Vaughan’s nettle ravioli here. The Guardian feature is worth a read in any case, to put your mind at rest about how to treat nettles and their avoid their stings.

More recently in the Guardian is Hugh FW and his recipes for a nettle soup, a risotto and a nettle and feta filo pie. They’re here.

Happy foraging. Let us know how it goes!

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April 11, 2012

Today’s lunch: Broad bean, radish and parmesan salad

It hasn’t known whether it was winter, spring or summer today. Today’s delivery of a veg box, however, proclaimed that the sun must shine and brought us broad beans, a luscious lettuce and bright pink radishes among its many treats.

I fully admit that when we receive radishes in a veg box they often wilt for a week in the fridge and get thrown. I don’t know why, because a radish is a lovely little thing that can add a peppery bit of zip, crunch and warmth to many a plate of food. Rather than let them go to waste this week, I decided to use them straight away in a simple salad.

First, de-pod the broad beans and simmer them in a small pan for four minutes. Once drained, let them cool for a couple of minutes before slipping the bright green beans from their tougher outer skins and set aside.

Next, top and tail the radishes with a sharp knife and half them lengthways before giving them a quick rinse. Next, melt a little butter in a large frying pan and add the radishes, turning them once in a while until they just start to brown at the edges. Add the broad beans and cook for one more minute.

While the radishes are cooking, roughly chop some sturdy salad leaves (gem or rocket, for example, will both do fine) and dress them with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. Place the leaves in the bottom of shallow bowls then add the radishes and beans. Top with shavings of a good parmesan or pecorino.

It almost feels like summer.

April 10, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Denis Cotter’s roast garlic and fennel mash with lemon-braised chickpeas and aubergine

Wow. Denis Cotter claims this is an autumnal dish. We had it on a dark April day when a bowl of filling, warming loveliness was called for. The garlic and fennel mash was sublime and a tangy topping of chickpeas was the perfect complement. We made a little too much and still scraped our bowls clean. The recipe is in Cotter’s book For the Love of Food, here. I know we plug this book intermittently, but it’s with good reason. So, no recipe here – go buy!