Along the Grapevine


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A New Year’s Eve Cocktail

Bringing in the New Year is a perfect excuse for a new cocktail concoction – and of course it is only fitting I should make it with some of my foraged hoard. Here I offer you a delectable drink made with my honeysuckle syrup, mixed with bourbon, prosecco and a dash of bitters. So let me drink a toast to all my readers who have encouraged me over the past year, and share with them a little taste of my garden which is now fittingly covered with snow.DSC02821

I first made a syrup with 1 part honeysuckle syrup, 1 1/2 parts bourbon and a few drops of bitters. Mix this half and half with prosecco in individual glasses. It is not sweet, but has a beautiful floral bouquet.

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And as I enjoy my drink on this the last day of 2015, I am again reminded of where we live and our beautiful surroundings by my originally decorated Christmas tree – still fresh and fragrant. Dried hydrangeas, sedums and milkweed pods give it a festive, foraged flavour.

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May 2016 bring you health and happiness, and great foraging!

 

 


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Elk Filet with Highbush Cranberry Wine Sauce

As I continue to learn about the abundance and variety of wild edibles in our area, it is only reasonable that this knowledge should affect my cooking and menu planning. What better time to develop a really special recipe with some of the under-used ingredients than a holiday like Christmas. There’s no rule saying I have to prepare a turkey, or anything else for that matter, so for our celebration I bought elk filets wrapped in elk bacon – an easy option and very elegant. All I needed was a marinade and sauce to make this lean meat worthy of a special occasion.

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While foraging in my freezer, I found some cranberry sauce I made some time ago. I thought the acidity of this sauce would be perfect for a marinade, and the tartness of the berries a perfect accompaniment for wild game of any sort. From there on my task as chef was easy.

For marinading six filets, I combined 1/4 cup oil, 2 tsp. highbush cranberry sauce, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 2 cloves garlic and 1/4 cup red wine.

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Pour the marinade over the meat and allow to stand about three hours, flipping half way through. Meanwhile, for the sauce, melt 1 Tbsp each of butter and olive oil, 1/2 cup red wine, 2 Tbsp highbush cranberry sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture until it has reduced by half, then add 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Heat until cooked through and thickened.

Fry the filets in a hot skillet for about 2 minutes on each side (depending on thickness and how you prefer them) and spoon the sauce over them.

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Served with brussels sprouts roasted with sumac powder, potatoes mashed with olive oil, garlic and parsley, it was a deliciously local and refined mix of flavours.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #100

 


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Foraged Wrappings

The presentation of gifts is an important part of the act of giving at this time of year, but it doesn’t hurt to be mindful of the waste we are creating and the fact that it is not necessary to use non-biodegradable papers and bobbles. This year I am using plain brown wrapping paper which if not reused can at least be composted. I have collected a few sprigs from the garden, and that combined with some ribbons I’ve collected over the years and snippets of disintegrated decorations serve well as wrapping.

If you are mailing and preparing things in advance, a stamp, pencil or a little paint will do well to brighten up the brown wrapping, but if you have the luxury of last-minute preparations, the things you find in the woods or garden are appropriate for the season, especially when you consider that is exactly what all the store-bought items are trying to mimic.

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I have used red dogwood branches, sprigs of pine and cedar, cones, unidentified dried flowers and euonymus. Flowering grasses, silver dollars, nuts and holly, to name just a few, would also be good.

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I did collect some beautiful twine for wrapping and a few other interesting bits, but they somehow got thrown out during a clean-up. Next year I’ll be more careful!

As for any leftovers, especially the evergreen, just pop them in a pot of water along with some spices and bits of citrus, heat on the stove as I did in this post, and you will have a beautiful potpourri to make you house smell super festive.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #99


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G&T Coriander Walleye

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This recipe was inspired by two recent events. First, I had just made the most delicious tonic water ever which I was keen to use in as many ways as possible. The other is that I was the lucky winner of a draw for a fabulous cookbook, Pimp My Rice by Nisha Katona thanks to a lovely blogger, Anjana, author of At the Corner of Happy and Harried. She wrote a very compelling review in this post which will help explain my pure delight in receiving this collection of varied and inspirational recipes using every kind of rice I know of for sweet, savoury and everything in between.

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To add my own thoughts on this book, it appeals to me for two main reasons – its sheer diversity of origins and the use of what I consider to be really good ingredients and flavours. To wit, I have found some of my old favourites, like Indonesian gado gado, Portuguese piri piri and kedgeree from the British raj – all pimped in such a way it is like discovering these dishes for the first time. There are others not so familiar but which I look forward to trying such as Fig Anise Dribbled Pancakes, Hibiscus Lime Sherbet and Tea Steeped Chickpea Pot to name just a few.

As for the ingredients, I was particularly drawn to those I have in abundance in my garden but am still looking for ways to use  – lavender, rose, juniper berries, rhubarb and capers. Also lots of great spices and no shying away from using beer, wine or even the hard stuff for flavouring in a few recipes. Definitely my kind of cookbook!

My original intention was to follow her recipe for Gin and Tonic Coriander Salmon and follow it rigorously, using of course my own tonic water just because I can. However, at this time of year my freezer is pretty full and I try to limit myself to using what I already have, so the one thing I did differently was to use some local walleye (aka pickerel) which I had picked up at a gas station just a week ago. In the recipe I write, I will just refer to fish fillets, and as long as it is a good firm variety, you can pick your own, although the salmon is rather pretty!

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The other change I made in the recipe was to omit the ‘tenting’ in foil. Instead, I baked it in a shallow, covered casserole dish which worked just fine.

G&T Coriander Walley

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 juniper berries, crushed

grated zest and juice of 1 1/2 limes

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to serve

3 tbsp gin

5 tbsp tonic water

1 – 1.5 lbs fish fillets (original recipe calls for 4 x 4 oz salmon fillets)

1 lime, cut into wedges

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the oil, garlic, juniper berries, lime zest and juice, ground coriander and leaves and gin and tonic in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Put the fillets, flesh side down, in the mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (I did about 20)

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 400 F/ or Gas 6.

Select a shallow heatproof casserole. Transfer the fish and the juices to the casserole and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Spoon the cooked basmati rice around the sides of this into the juices. Sprinkle with a few coriander leaves, grind a little black pepper over the top and dot with lime wedges to serve.

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Her recipe for the rice is exactly the way I make it. Rinse and drain 1 cup of rice and put it in a heavy based saucepan with 2 cups of water (a little salt is optional). Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the rice has absorbed almost all the water. Clamp a lid on the pan, remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #97