Along the Grapevine


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From Lawn to Table

Even in times of drought such as we are currently experiencing in this area, the wild greens are flourishing and there for the picking. Our vegetable gardens are still struggling, and as I am not a keen shopper I am happy that our lawn is such a great provider. This recipe is another example of what you can do with some of those nutritious, albeit pesky weeds. And if you don’t have such a lawn, you can find all these in any good foraging spots such as meadows, hedgerows and abandoned areas – even in the city.

The main ingredient for this is lambsquarters. This particular weed is most prolific, and as I tidy up my vegetable plots I still have to throw out the bulk of it. I have taken to drying it for use in the winter – in the dehydrator, the oven (at a very low temperature) and even on the dashboard of any vehicle parked in the sun, the most economical method of all. But be careful – vehicles can get really hot, so I had to stir them every hour or so to prevent from burning.

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I also used young goutweed leaves (top left) to give it a herbal flavour, and some plantain (on the right). The lambsquarters are below the goutweed. At the last minute, after taking this shot, I added dandelion leaves.

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All these mixed with some seasonings and topped with eggs made for an easy, inexpensive and super nutritious meal – and yes, even delicious! You can add more spices and herbs as you choose, and mix and match whichever wild greens you have growing. This is how I did it.

Foraged Greens and Eggs

Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped green chili pepper

1 tsp cumin powder

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups lambsquarters

1/2 cup goutweed leaves (only the young ones from plants which have not yet flowered)

a handful of dandelion leaves

1/2 cup plantain leaves

4 eggs

Method

If using plantain, boil it in water for four minutes, drain and set aside. It is tougher than the other greens and will blend with them better if cooked longer.

Fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and chili and fry another couple of minutes. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. Add enough water to the pan just to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Stir in all the greens and cook at medium heat until they have all wilted completely and the water has evaporated. Break four eggs on top of the mixture, cover the pot with a lid and allow to simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the eggs have cooked sufficiently. Remove from the heat and serve. I sprinkled a little sumac powder on top for garnish.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #129; The Not So Creative Cook and Faith, Hope, Love and Luck.


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Savoury Ramps Pastries

DSC03053This is turning out to be a great year for ramps (aka wild leeks or wild garlic). The cool weather has prolonged the season and I had the good fortune to have access to a bonanza of this seasonal delicacy on the property of a kind and gracious friend. If you don’t have access to them, you are likely to find them at good markets in any area where they are grown. For information on how to identify and pick them refer to this post here.DSC03059.JPG

I used a good bunch of them to ferment, perhaps my favourite use of them, but with so many I had the perfect opportunity to devise a new recipe. Sauteed ramps mixed with eggs and bechamel baked in a puff pastry made a simple yet elegant appetizer. No need for any extraneous ingredients – the ramps work just fine on their own.

Savoury Ramps Pastries

Ingredients

3 Tpsp olive oil

6 cups ramps, chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

4 eggs

1 tsp salt

black pepper to taste

1 pound puff pastry dough

Method

Sautee the ramps in the oil until just cooked – about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and gradually add the milk, continuing to stir and cook over a medium heat until the sauce thickens. Set aside to cool.

Divide the pastry in two and roll out each half on a floured surface to fit a pan measuring 9 x 12 inces (or equivalent). Line the pan with one half. Beat three eggs, then add the cream sauce, sauteed ramps, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture onto the pastry and cover with the second sheet. Secure the top edges to the bottom layer to prevent the top layer from shrinking. Brush the top with 1 beaten egg. Bake in a 400 degree F. oven for about half an hour, until the pastry is puffy and golden.

Cut the pastry in serving size pieces with a sharp knife.

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This can be served warm or at room temperature, as a side, appetizer or main dish. It also freezes well and makes a perfect picnic treat.

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Safari of the Mind and Fabulous Fare Sisters.

 


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Solomon Seal Shoots

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The best thing about foraging is that while all the gardeners are busy planting and fighting the weeds, we foragers are already enjoying some of the best harvest of the season. The dandelion greens are at their sweetest, roots easy to dig, nettles young and not too sting-y, edible flowers blooming and my lawn looks like a veritable smorgasbord. We don’t have to worry too much about what the weather does either – even after a blizzard this week, it only freshened up the wild edibles of the garden.

One of the spring treats I have been anticipating has just made its appearance.  After learning about the edibility and nutritional value of Solomon seal shoots, I was eager to give them a try. Especially as I noticed last summer that my scattered patches of the plant have spread alarmingly, and really do need some control. Their arching branches and drooping white flowers in the early summer are beautiful, and among the most popular with the hummingbirds (who needs feeders!) which is why they grow near the house, so cutting some shoots had to be done carefully, just as a little spring tidying.

Solomon Seal Shoots on Punk Domestics

True Solomon seal or Polygantum biflorum can be a tricky plant to  identify. The edible shoots have similar lookalikes, namely hosta and false solomon seal, both of which are also edible. The mature plant is not edible, except for the root which is used both as food and medicine but best left till autumn to harvest. It grows in shady, wooded areas, but unless you are sure of its identity, better to leave it alone.DSC02997

If you plant it in your garden or somewhere you can track it, there is no problem recognizing it when it first appears in the spring, before any leaves form. I pick them when still tight spears up to about 3 inches in height, and remove the one brownish layer around the base of the spear. Most sites I read referred to boiling them in water for 10 minutes, so I stuck with that advice. The flavour and texture is very much like asparagus, and can be served as a substitute.DSC02999

After harvesting the shoots, I cleaned them and dropped them in boiling water for the suggested 10 minutes. I then sauteed them lightly in a generous amount of butter mixed with ramps and mint. If you don’t have those greens, you can leave them out or substitute them with garlic or other herbs. To this mixture I added some cooked egg noodles. A little shaved parmesan can be added if you like, but for me the richness of the butter was adequate.DSC03003.JPG

And that is one way you can enjoy a delectable spring green long before even the earliest asparagus is up.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday; Frugal Hausfrau; Unwed Housewife

 

 

 

 


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Paneer Tikka Masala

This classic vegetarian North Indian dish made easy can be served as an appetizer or main dish. With a complex blend of spices, mixed vegetables and creamy paneer, it is an ideal dish for experts or novices alike, either to prepare to be served.
DSC02966I undertook the making of this delicious North Indian vegetarian dish in response to a recipe challenge presented by a fellow blogger at Lin’s Recipes. I seldom feature Indian dishes on my blog even though I often do make them, so I was pleased to have an incentive to develop a recipe for my blog with these wonderful flavours. Thanks to Lin and also to Parul  at Gharkepakwan who has graciously offered to act as judge.

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #112 which I am co-hosting with Natalie at Kitchen Uncorked. Feel free to drop by and and see the wonderful recipes, tips and stories contributed by a host of talented bloggers.

The title of this recipe says it all. Paneer is simply a fresh cheese, made from strained and pressed yogurt. Tikka refers to the pieces of meat or, as in this case cheese in the recipe. Masala means mixture and in this case refers to the mixture of spices used.

I based my recipe on this one, but made a few changes according to what I had on hand. For example, as I am not able to buy ready made paneer in my neighbourhood, contrary to all recommendations on any recipe for this you will find, I had to make my own. Home-made paneer tends to be too soft, and therefore is difficult to mix into the sauce and keep its integrity. However, I found that straining the yogurt, pressing it with a weight to squeeze out as much liquid as possible over a mesh strainer, and then setting it in a very low oven (170 degrees F) for about an hour was all it needed to make it firm enough to cook with. In fact, it was the best paneer I had ever had, but if you can buy it, you can skip this step altogether. I also added sumac powder, not a commonly used spice in Indian cooking but one I use regularly to add a lemony flavour and red colour. To stay with the local theme of my blog I served it with rice made with maple sap, the delicate sweetness of which complements the spiciness of the masala beautifully.

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Home-made paneer

Paneer Tikka Masala

Ingredients for the Marinade

250 grams paneer, cut into cubes

2 medium sweet peppers (I used red)

1 small zucchini

5 Tbsp yogurt

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground fresh ginger

1 tsp finely grated fresh garlic

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/4 tsp freshly ground  nutmeg

1/2 tsp cornflour

oil for grilling

Ingredients for the gravy

oil for frying

1 large onion

2 Tbsp thick tomato paste (preferably  home-made)

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp ground garlic

1 Tbsp garam masala

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp sumac powder

1 tsp ground coriander

pinch of methi (dried fenugreek)

1/2 cup water or stock

Method

Mix the yogurt, spices and flour in a bowl. Cut the peppers into roughly 1 inch squares, cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a casserole with the paneer. Pour over this the marinade, stir to coat and allow to sit for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.

Meanwhile, to make the gravy, chop the onion very finely. A food processor is useful for this process. Fry it gently in about 2 Tbsp of oil until it softens. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the mixture is quite dry and is like a thick paste which will come away from the sides of the pan. Add the water and cook a further 2 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick. Set aside until the vegetables and paneer are ready to be added.

Place the marinated vegetables and panner on a grilling sheet and drizzle with a little oil. Place under a broiler and when they start to sizzle, turn them over and broil until they look cooked and slightly browned. The time this takes will depend on your broiler and proximity to the heat. I found it took about 5 minutes per side, but keep a close watch on it.

Mix all this with the gravy, reheat and serve it as an appetizer or a main dish with rice or flatbreads.

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Gravy mixture before adding water

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Grilled vegetables and paneer

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Paneer Tikka Masala with maple sap rice

 

 

 

 

 


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Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

DSC02817I made this steamed pudding for Christmas dinner. We always follow the English tradition of ending the meal with the drama of a flaming dish soaked in rum or brandy. There seems to be no question of abandoning this tradition, but truth be told, no one really likes it that much.

So I decided that by making my own version I could not only satisfy the vegetarian without having to make another dish, I could also make something that was lighter and even tastier. And while I was at it, I thought I could improve on the original just by adding some fruit from my garden.

This turned out to be pretty easy, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of this years ago. In fact, it is such a good dessert that there is no need to have it only at Christmas, although I would save the flambeing part and addition of alcohol for that occasion – otherwise it wouldn’t be so special.

Instead of using any sort of candied fruit, I dried the peel of one organic orange and chopped it along with some fresh ginger, thus giving the mass of mixed fruit a distinctively orange and ginger flavour – hence the name.
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Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

Ingredients

500 g of mixed dried fruit including dates, figs and apricots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cups dried apples, chopped

1/4 cup orange juice, brandy or rum

10 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups bread crumbs

dried zest of 1 orange

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 eggs

4 oz butter

Method

Chop the fruit and pour the juice or alcohol over it and let it sit for about an hour. Mix the softened butter with the sugar, and when thoroughly combined beat the eggs into the mixtures. Add the breadcrumbs, ginger and fruit. Measure the flour and add the baking powder, then gradually stir all the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture.

Pack it into a mould or a pudding dish. Cover it with parchment paper, making a fold in the paper to allow for expansion. Steam it for 2 1/2 hours. It will be easy to invert onto a plate just by running a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen it.

This recipe makes approximately 1 litre of pudding, so you will likely need two pudding bowls.

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Serve with custard or cream. For Christmas I made a simple sauce of butter, maple syrup, rum and cream.

Linked to Fiesta Friday 

 

 

 

 


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Puffball Mushroom Flour

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I considered myself lucky this year when I found a healthy puffball behind my tool shed, and referred to it in a recent post on how to identify and use it in cooking. Now these puffballs are mushrooming all over, and by the number of posts from other blogs on the subject, it’s a good year not just in my garden. I recently found four more good sized balls, one of which I left to help ensure some spores remain for next year.

There is no point finding these gifts if you don’t know what to do with them. Their shelf life when fresh is short. Frying lightly and freezing is one option, and I have dehydrated some as well. But when faced with the quantity I had, I wanted to be able to store them in as efficient way as possible, meaning something that required little work and little space.

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I started to search to see if anyone else had dehydrated them, and if so what they do with them. Forager Chef, one of my favourite foraging blogs gave me the answers I was looking for. He dehydrated them, ground them into a flour, and made a very appetizing looking gravy.

So I set about peeling and slicing my puffballs into thin slices resembling sliced bread. He suggests drying them in an oven with the light on which I tried. I also did some in my dehydrator at a low temperature – about 107 F or 42 C. The dehydrator took only about 12 hours – the oven three times longer. However you do it, the slices should still be white when dry and crisp. If the heat is too high they will brown and will affect the colour of the flour.

A really powerful food processor is all you need to turn them into flour in just a few moments, but lacking that I used a not so powerful processor followed by a few seconds in a coffee grinder for a finer powder. This last step can be done on an as-need basis.

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I can think of several ways this flour can be used but so far have just tried Forager Chef’s mushroom gravy recipe. I adapted it for a small quantity since unlike him I am not cooking for large numbers.

I started by heating 1/2 cup mushroom flour and 1/4 cup of water. You need a good deep pan for this, as initially the flour will puff when stirred. Heat and stir until most of the water is absorbed and it resembles a roux. In another pan, mix 3 Tbsp of fat (i used a mixture of butter and olive oil) with 3 Tbsp of flour. Stir over a low heat, and gradually add 2 cups of stock. I used a vegetable stock which had good colour having prepared it with onion skins among other herbs and vegetables, but any meat, fowl or vegetable stock can be used. When the stock has thickened sufficiently, stir in the mushroom mixture and bring to just below boiling. Season with salt and white pepper.

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This gravy was smooth and flavourful. I served it over some roasted vegetables from the garden.

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Puffball Mushroom Flour on Punk Domestics

Because it is vegetarian, and could easily be vegan by omitting the butter, it is a very useful recipe to have, but good enough that there’s no need to be a vegetarian to enjoy.


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Japanese Knotweed Strata

DSC02041 Foraging for Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum) is not only worthwhile in terms of finding a delicious and nutritious food source. You will also be doing the environment a big favour, as it is arguably the most invasive of all invasives. Initially we tackled a large grove of it growing in our front garden with the lawnmower. We almost succeeded when it occurred to me this might be an interesting wild food, at which point I salvaged a few sprouts, transplanted them to an appropriate area and have just begun to harvest them. DSC02040 If you are not familiar with this plant, here are a few characteristics which should help you identify it. Where to find it: Along roadsides, riverbanks, fields where the earth has been disturbed. Originally from South East Asia it now grows in North America, Europe, Australia and Tasmania. How to identify it: It is usually grown in clumps and resembles bamboo with its hollow stems. The stems are green, spotted with red and divided by joints, or knots. The young shoots are deep red. The leaves are smooth-edged, hairless and broad oval in shape with a pointed tip and hanging from a long stem. Edible parts: The young leaves and stems before they attain a height of about a foot are commonly used. The rhizomes are usually reserved for medicinal purposes. DSC02052 As I contemplated my modest haul, I was wondering how best to prepare them. I must have had a flash from the past, because suddenly the word ‘strata’ popped into my head, a word I have not heard in decades, but am familiar with the dish. That seemed a good place to start, as it involves few ingredients and no strong flavour which might overpower it. Strata is often made to use up old bread, typically with vegetables and sausage (or ham/bacon) and cheese and cooked in a custard. I used a crusty sourdough bread, but any crusty good quality bread will do. I only used cream cheese because a stronger cheese would just be too much flavour, but a hard cheese could be grated on the top if you like. I omitted meat, and pumped up the vegetable content with lots of caramelized onion. Having tasted some raw bits, I thought it tasted like a gentle rhubarb, so used sumac and mustard to pair with the fruity flavour. DSC02049

Japanese Knotweed Strata

Ingredients 2 cups Spanish onions, sliced thin oil for frying 2 cups chopped knowtweed stems 2 cups leaves, tightly packed 4 cups bread cubes 1 cup cream cheese 4 eggs 3/4 cup cream (18%) 1/2 cup milk 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 1 Tbsp sumac powder 1 tsp mustard powder Method Fry the onions in oil gently until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the knotweed stems and continue to fry about five minutes longer, until the stems are cooked. Add the leaves, cover the pot and cook gently until the leaves are wilted. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes in a casserole in a 325 degree oven until they are slightly toasted. Mix together the cheese, eggs, cream, milk, seasoning and spices until they are well blended. To assemble, grease a casserole dish lightly and place the bread and vegetable mixture in it, stirring gently to combine. Pour the cheese mixture evenly on top, making sure that all the bread is soaked. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes until it is brown and crisp on top and cooked through.
DSC02053 This dish lends itself well to all sorts of variations, but I was very pleased with it just as it was. Perhaps if we all made use of this remarkable vegetable, it would not be such a pest.

Japanese Knotweed Strata on Punk Domestics