When is a weed not a weed? When its edible? When its really pretty?
Well on my allotment I have a weed that is both – Coltsfoot – its a pernicious weed and it gets everywhere, but its leafless flowers are so pretty that it seems such a shame to eridicate it completely.
Roger Phillips in his Wild Food book advocates using the flowers to make wine, but I think you may need a meadow-full to pick the required 5 pints of flowers!
However, wait until the leaves come through and make some Coltsfoot cream, but chopping and sauteing a couple of handfuls of young leaves, then cover with water and cook until soft. Strain off the water and push the leaves through a course sieve, and beat with a tblsp toasted sesame seeds.
If you wonder what it would taste like – cast your mind back to kids sweets from the 70’s – did you ever have Coltsfoot rock – strangely chalky and a bit aniseed-y http://www.aquarterof.co.uk/coltsfoot-rock-p-271.html
Not very seasonal I know, but I really need to share this with you. I watched the BBC’s final of MasterChef last night – not usually my sort of thing, but a friend was over and they had been following it and asked if we could watch. Beautiful, artistic, creative all of those things. Anyway, one of the finalists created a pudding that had a Acorn Panna Cotta as part of a ‘trio of desserts’.
Acorns, say most of the books, are edible, but its so ‘faffy’ to get rid of the tannins it usually not worth it, but the judge (you know the enthusiastic, bald one) went mad for the wood-y flavour of the acorns.
So this morning I checked the website to see if there was a receipe – and indeed there is http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/acorn_panna_cotta_mocha_93457 is the link, but just in case it disappears from the web before we are picking acorns in the autum I have copied the text below. A bit more complicated than my usual suggestions and one that I (obviously) haven’t road tested.
- For the acorn panna cotta
- 30g/1oz shelled acorns (or hazelnuts)
- 300ml/10fl oz double cream
- 100ml/3½oz full-fat milk
- 50g/2¾oz caster sugar
- 2½ gelatine leaves
- Acorns need to be soaked several times to remove the tannins, which are very bitter and mildly toxic. Place the acorns into a large pan, and cover them with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 15 minutes. The water will turn brown as the tannic acid is extracted from the kernels. Drain the acorns and put them back in the pan with fresh water. Re-boil the acorns, throwing out the brown water several times until the water is clear. The boiling process takes about two or three hours, though the time varies with the amount of tannic acid in the acorns. Then pre-heat the oven to 90C/200F. Place the acorns on a baking tray and roast them for an hour to dry them out. The acorns are now ready to use.
- For the acorn panna cotta, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- Place the acorns, or hazelnuts if using instead, on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes until they are a deep brown colour.
- Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes, before grinding coarsely in a coffee grinder.
- Transfer the ground acorns to a saucepan, and add the cream, milk and sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves for a few minutes in cold water until soft.
- Prepare the panna cotta moulds by lightly greasing either a silicon mould with small rectangular pockets (a financière mould), or four dariole moulds.
- Return the cooled acorn infusion to the heat, and bring up to the boil. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine and whisk into the pan. Once the gelatine has dissolved, strain the mixture into a jug.
- Pour the panna cotta into the prepared moulds and transfer to the fridge to set.
As the trees come into blossom, do enjoy it for is own sake and smile as it brightens your day, but also check it out a bit closer and make a mental note of where it is. Because of course where there are flowers there will later be fruit!
Blossom right now is most likely to be blackthorn which will turn into sharp black sloes, which in turn can be made into Sloe Gin – which reminds me… Ahh that’s better, nothing like a glass of deep red nectar to help the concentation and lubricate the typing fingers!
Anyway, within a couple of weeks we should be seeing plum and damson, then apple and pear, followed swiftly by May blossom (from the Hawthorn tree) and the fantastic finalie of Elderflower by which time it will be June and it won’t be long before the first fruits start to appear and the cycle goes on.
Wild Food Walker checking in again. Collection of Elder flower buds is going slowly but as the speed of buds bursting increases I should get my first pint for pickling.
In a lot of ways foraging the urban fringe is a more interesting challenge than being out and about in the countryside. Today I was wandering round collecting those buds and found myself at the gates of a reclamation yard where some kind individual had dumped a load of mixed rubble and top soil. I did a triple take on the almost iridescent plants sprouting from it and suddenly it dawned. I was looking at a collection of smooth sow thistles. An unexpected find and only identified by one of the plants being a few days older than the others and having the characteristic “tags” on the leaf stem. Far tastier than the related Spiny sow thistle but after a quick nibble, was left where it was, not because it tasted bad, it was fresh and sweet but I had no idea what was in the pile of soil and rubble. Ah well !