Archive for ‘Greece’

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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August 4, 2011

Last night’s Dinner: Greek salad

Wednesday 3 August

…yesterday’s lunch, actually, and in contrast to this very wet morning, yesterday the sun was wilting the leaves of the hydrangea we brought from London with us and the skies above the Colne were an unbroken blue. What better for lunch than a Greek salad al fresco?

I’m sure everyone has their own way with a Greek salad. Even we make better ones and worse ones. It really depends on the quality of the ingredients. Ours, here, benefited from a mix of perfectly ripe little cherry, sungold and plum tomatoes from Cansdale Ross & Co, up the road in Wivenhoe. The very essence of a summer lunch.

I halved the smaller tomatoes and kept the larger ones variously chunky to add some range to the look and feel of the salad. Red onion? Yep – slice it finely and soak it for 10 minutes or more in a little red wine vinegar to take the sting from it. I didn’t use olives but did add a few shredded leaves of a little gem lettuce (‘Heresy’ I here you cry). Cucumber should be roughly diced and then all the ingredients mixed together ready to be topped with some large chunks of feta cheese (you can break it up with your fork as you eat). I’ve seen some people add fresh mint to a Greek salad and, don’t get me wrong, mint and feta are a good match, but it feels a somewhat contrived concoction and surely the best – and most traditional – herb to add at the end is a small scattering of dried oregano. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

On such a hot and sunny day we could easily have accompanied this with a refreshing glass of Vinho Verde from the Village Delicatessen (which I saw temptingly described as a good ‘lunchtime wine’). But we had work to do and the wine had to wait.

Need more inspiration? There’s a good account of Greek salads in the Guardian, here.