An Edible Commute

It’s 7.45am. It’s the middle of August and a gorgeous sunny morning. I’m working from home today, and have decided to do a ‘commute’ to enjoy the early morning before settling at my desk.

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My commute takes in woods, water, fields and, most impressively, hedgerows. I’ve been walking this route every now and then for a few weeks, and gradually noticing all the edible plants growing, flowering and fruiting.

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Rowan trees line the narrow road, with their heavy clusters of berries and their handsome leaves and I get absorbed in the idea of a creative morning of making rowan jelly.

Lower down in between the rowans, plump rosehips shine in the early morning light. More ideas for jams!

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I pass by the old chapel. Feverfew flourishes from the cracks at the bottom of the stone wall. If I had a headache or a cold, perhaps a feverfew tea would be just what I needed.

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As I descend to the lower valley, the blackberry bushes have taken over where the nettles left off, and promise much in the weeks to come. Stained fingers and blackberry pie will be on the menu soon…

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Celebrate Winter with Rosemary

Today the temperature has been close to freezing. There are almost gale force winds and the sky is a determined dark grey, giving the impression of permanent dusk. Despite this meteorological challenge, the rosemary in our allotment is thriving.

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When most of the herb garden has succumbed to the winter temperatures, rosemary remains wonderfully unfazed by even the harshest weather.

Just brush off the snow, and snip off a few sprigs. Rosemary’s savoury flavour and piney aroma adds a welcome freshness to your winter cooking.

As well as providing the perfect seasoning for traditional, hearty dishes like roast lamb and herby dumplings, rosemary also works brilliantly with Mediterranean dishes like homemade pizza with olives, tomatoes and cheese. Rosemary originates from Southern Europe, so it has a natural affinity as well as a long history of being used in Mediterranean cooking.

But don’t limit rosemary to savoury dishes. Its aromatic mintiness adds depth and balance to sweet dishes too. A little chopped, fresh rosemary and a pinch of sea salt added to shortbread dough makes for a lovely marriage of sweet, salty and savoury.

And if you’re looking for a special dish to complete a dinner party – rosemary infused, dark chocolate truffles are simple to make – see my recipe below.

Alternatively, if you’re into your January detox, poach some fruit with a sprig of rosemary and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon – the flavour combination works really well – especially if you include a mix of sweet and sour fruits like apples, grapes and redcurrants.

rosemary fruit saladAnd for a general pick-me-up, make a simple, rosemary tea (recipe below) – its renowned health properties include being used as an antioxident, memory stimulant and antiseptic. rosemary tea  Dark chocolate Rosemary Truffles To make 20 truffles 160ml double cream 10 sprigs fresh rosemary 200g good quality, dark chocolate 20g butter 45ml icing sugar cocoa powder for coating.

  1. Place the rosemary in a pan with the cream, and heat until boiling. Turn off and leave to infuse for 45 mins. Boil the cream again then strain off the rosemary and leave the cream to cool a little.
  2. Gently melt the chocolate (in a bowl over hot water). Add the butter, then once it’s melted into the chocolate, stir in the sugar and the cream. Mix well then remove from the heat.
  3. Cool the mixture then place in the fridge until firm enough to handle.
  4. Form into small truffle shapes (it doesn’t matter how irregular!), and then roll in cocoa.
  5. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them and they’ll keep for about 48 hours.

 Rosemary Tea Add 1 sprig of rosemary per cup of boiling water. Leave to brew for 3 – 5 mins. Strain before drinking.

Borage – a forgotten gem

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“The sprigs of borage in wine are of known virtue to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student”     John Evelyn, Acetaria

Borage had its fans as long ago as Evelyn writing in 1699.

This herb is a bit out of fashion now – you can’t buy a bag of borage – but you can easily grow it and its well worth it. Borage has a very high nutrition content and you can eat both the leaves and flowers.

The young leaves have the freshness of cucumber and the larger leaves can be cooked like spinach. The leaves are hairy, but this slight prickliness is very superficial and dissolves completely in cooking.

The flowers make pretty ice cubes – just place washed borage flowers into an ice cube tray and top up with water. Borage flowers are also perfect to give a bit of glamour and cucumber flavour to your salad.

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In Italy, borage leaves are used to make Borage Pansotti, a delicious, traditional, triangular ravioli filled with borage and ricotta.

Here’s the recipe for the version I made – serve tossed in some lemon butter with a sprinkling of parmesan and a seasonal salad. Mine were more filling than pasta, but tasted wonderful nevertheless!

 

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To make about 25 ravioli

For the pasta:

110g plain flour

42g wheat or spelt flour

1/2 tsp olive oil

50ml cold water

Mix all the ingredients together then knead for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Cover in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for an hour.

For the filling:

275g borage leaves

125g ricotta cheese

1/2 clove chopped garlic

1 beaten egg

pinch nutmeg

pinch salt

pinch pepper

25g finely grated parmesan cheese

 

Whilst the dough is resting, make the filling.

Blanch the washed borage leaves in boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes.

Rinse under cold water, then squeeze out as much moisture as possible – the easiest way is to wrap the cooked, cooled borage in a clean tea towel and squeeze.

Chop the borage very finely in a processer.

Add all the other ingredients, mix well.

Roll out the rested dough very thinly and cut into 2inch squares.

Place a tablespoon of the borage filling in the middle of each square, then fold and seal well.

Cook in boiling, salted water for about 3-5 minutes, until the ravioli float to the top of the pan.

Toss in butter and a tablespoon of lemon juice, or serve with a tomato sauce for a heartier supper.

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