We're all very grateful for the small things at the moment and getting outdoors is possibly the one thing we all look forward to the most everyday.
Over the next few weeks, head chef Lewis Glanvill will be sharing how to make the extraordinary out of the ordinary, with simple ingredients you might not have known you can cook with, that you can find on your daily walks.
First up is dandelion honey! It's incredibly surprising how much it tastes like the real thing!
3 slices of lemon
60g picked dandelion petals
Lewis used golden caster sugar, but you could use granulated. Any darker sugars like muscavado or light brown sugar will make it a darker colour. Jam sugar may also alter how it sets.
- Soak petals in water for 10 minutes for bugs to leave.
- Strain then simmer for half an hour with lemon and just enough water to cover the dandelion.
- Then steep for 6 hours.
- Strain through muslin cook gently for up to a few hours slowly adding the sugar.
- Keep checking the consistency on a cold spoon or plate in fridge as it will stay watery when hot.
Nettle pesto and cordial
We use nettles a lot in the field kitchen they are a very nutritious food. They have a large amount of many vitamins and minerals, but are particularly high in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. They are easy to identify and shouldn’t be hard to find! Now is a good time to start picking - it’s the young tender shoots at the top of the plant you want before they flower and set seed.
Make sure you wear gloves to avoid getting stung but once cooked the sting goes and you can use like any other green.
Today we will show you how to get two recipes from one nettle harvest, a pesto and a refreshing cordial! Nettle pesto is great for an easy dinner mixed through pasta, on top of a pizza or mixed through roasted veg.
To make the pesto, you will need:
200g nettle leaves/tops
2 ltrs boiling water
150ml olive oil
50g pine nuts, sunflower seeds or hazelnuts
1 lemon juice and zest
1 garlic clove
- Wash the nettle leaves in cold water (still wearing gloves) to remove dirt or insects. Then add the washed nettle to a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
- Strain the nettles but make sure to reserve the nettle tea for our next recipe.
- Squeeze the water from the leaves and place in a blender with the other ingredients. Depending on how you like your pesto you can blend until completely smooth or leave chunkier.
- Season with salt. You can keep in fridge for a couple of weeks.
For the cordial:
1ltr nettle tea
1 lemon sliced
- Place all ingredients in a pan and boil for 2 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour into a bottle and it can be stored in the fridge for months.
This recipe is very quick to make and can be used across loads of dishes both sweet and savoury.
Head chef Lewis Glanvill two favourite ways of eating it recently have been mixing it with wholegrain mustard and marinating whole roasted carrots. As well as drizzled over a crumpet with poached rhubarb - rosemary works very well with rhubarb!
This is a way of flavouring the honey with a rosemary flavour but can be altered to infuse other ingredients such as lilac, lavender, lemon thyme, elderflower, garlic, geranium, blackcurrant leaves and so on!
To make at home:
- Fill a jar of flowers and pour in honey to completely the blossom, the honey will settle for a bit and may take a little while to find its way to the bottom but the blossom will soon float to the top.
- Cap your jar and leave to infuse for a few days to a few weeks, turning every now and then to keep them coated.
- When your ready to use the honey scoop out the mass of flowers from the top and drizzle over your plate of food.
Great to rub over hams, roast lamb leg or a bowl of strawberries and yogurt!
Gorse flower cordial
Make your own refreshing, coconutty flavoured cordial with vibrant gorse flowers. This delicious gorse flower cordial is simple to make and a lovely way to savour the taste of spring.
At this time of year, gorse flowers have the strongest flavour so it’s the best time to pick them. Although it is a labour of love to gather from the spikey plants, it’s well worth it to capture the coconut scent from the golden-yellow flowers.
How to forage it
The gorse bush protects it’s delicate yellow flowers with sharp spikes so it’s well worth wearing gloves to protect your hands! You are looking to pick the flowering buds, pinching them out from their base. Start by collecting 5 big handfuls of gorse flowers.
Then you will need:
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
The delicate, floral flavour of elderflower can add freshness and a lightness to many dishes and it’s a great way to preserve the flavour.
From late May you will see masses of tiny white flowers in woods and hedgerows and they are best picked when the buds are freshly open on a warm sunny day. To pick them, simply slide your fingers up the stalk and snap the flower head off.
We like to use our elderflower vinegar in dressings, but it’s also particularly good with asparagus, courgettes and shaved fennel.
You will need:
1000ml white wine vinegar
8 heads of elderflower
Today we’re cooking with the much forgotten garden herb, Alexander – also known as horse parsley, which grows on cliff tops and in seaside hedgerows. It’s a tall plant up to 1.5m high with yellow flowers in umbrella like clusters and April and May are the perfect months to pick it.
The whole plant is completely edible, from the root, stalk, leaves and fruit. The leaves and stalks can be blanched or steamed to add to soups, broths or stews and taste similar to celery and parsley.
The flowers add a nice spice to salads and the buds can be eaten, pickled or fried.
For this recipe, peel the stalks by cutting away the tough, woody outside layers with a knife. The thicker stalks at the bottom of the plant are the easiest to prepare and most tender.
Once peeled, drop into boiling water for 10 minutes until tender, then scoop out and add to a pan with melted butter and a crushed garlic clove.
Gently fry the alexander, season and take off the heat, squeeze lemon juice over and serve. Decorate with a few of the flowers and smaller leaves.
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