Tag: foraging

Elderberry & Echinacea Tincture

Elder

September has arrived, drawing Summer to a close. Things are slowly starting to change, the temperature is getting that bit cooler, the evenings are drawing in. It’s time to think ahead to those even colder, shorter, darker days when flu rears its head.

Why, you might ask…

… because the elderberries are out and they are well known to help prevent and ease symptoms of colds and flu. So although Summer has barely had a chance to say goodbye, it’s time to prepare for Winter!

Elderberries

At the first sign of a cold or flu many of us run to the pharmacy to buy some concoction of paracetamol and caffeine. But never mind those nonsense chemical lemon sachets, elderberries are readily available (more than likely not very far from your doorstep) and with only a little bit of effort, they make the perfect, natural cold and flu prevention tonic.

Last year I made an elderberry syrup which I froze in ice-cubes but this year I have a new found skill that I want to put to the test, tinctures!

Elderberry-&-Echinacea-Tincture

Tinctures are a way of preserving plants and berries in a way that is longer lasting and more portable than syrups and teas. They are essentially concentrated, alcohol-based extracts or in other words, a natural medicine.

The key with tinctures is to be prepared as although they are incredibly quick and easy to make they take a long time to mature, so bear in mind your medicine won’t be ready for weeks or even months.

Elderberry-stalks Elderberry-tincture

Elderberry & Echinacea Tincture

50g elderberries
20g dried echinacea root
200ml good quality vodka (or to fill jar)

  • Pick the elderberries off the stalk, ensuring all the stalk is completely removed.
  • Place the elderberries into a sterilised jam jar (I place a clean jam jar in an oven for 5 minutes before leaving to cool) with the echinacea root and pour over the vodka. Fill the jar completely with vodka so that no air will remain when you put the lid on as this may cause it to go off, better to over fill and spill a little than ruin your tincture.
  • Shake the jar and top up if necessary on a daily basis to remove any pockets of air.
  • After three weeks, strain the liquid through some muslin and pour into a glass amber bottle. (Amber bottles look pretty but they also help preserve the tincture longer by blocking out light.)
  • Take one teaspoon daily when cold and flu season is rife.

There are so many plants and “weeds” growing in hedgerows, along canal towpaths or around the edges of parks that have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years as natural medicines. With just a little know how we can make use of these plants and lessen our dependancy on pharmaceutical products. Tincture’s are just one easy way we can put these plants to use. I promise it’s super easy, give it a try!

Amy x

Apple & Blackberry Cobbler

I was a little eager with my blackberries this year. I spotted a few on the way to the car park at work and declared to my work buddies that we, “MUST go blackberry picking during our lunch break the next day!” (I work in the countryside). We walked to the field where we had picked them last year, and were bitterly disappointed with the lack of blackberries ripe for picking. We managed to gather a few and I declared a cobbler was in order. It is around now that you should start to find plenty to forage and use to make this delicious apple and blackberry cobbler.

vegan fruit cobbler

There is something much more satisfying about eating your pud when you have picked your own berries, got scratched by the brambles, stung by a couple of nettles and have washed any potential creepy crawlies away! I promise I’m not lying!

I’ve not made a cobbler before and didn’t really know the difference compared to a crumble. My version probably isn’t a traditional cobbler, from what I gather they usually are a bit more scone-like, but I think I prefer this to crumble!

cobbler

vegan apple and blackberry cobbler

Apple & Blackberry Cobbler
400g blackberries
2 apples (I used granny smiths)
A splash of water
1 tbsp xylitol

For the topping
170g spelt flour
60g rice flour
60g oats
115g vegan margarine
60g xylitol
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
70ml oat milk (or any other non dairy milk)
A drizzle of maple syrup

1) In a saucepan stew the apples and blackberries with a splash of water and the xylitol – this will take about 10-15 minutes (until soft). I drained a lot of the liquid to use as juice once served.
2) Whilst the fruit is stewing, in a mixing bowl add the flours, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, xylitol and mix the margarine in (I used my fingers). Add the milk and stir in to create a scone like mixture.
3) In an oven proof dish spoon the stewed fruit and evenly distribute it. Add the cobbler topping and ensure all the fruit is covered. I drizzled a little maple syrup over the top of the cobbler but that is totally optional.
4) Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 180C until golden brown. Serve with the extra juice from the stewed fruit and some vegan ice cream.

So, keep your eyes peeled and some tupperware handy because you never know where you might find an abundance of blackberries.

Enjoy!

Veronica x

Nettle & Wild Garlic, Buckwheat Crêpes

Last month I wrote about the impending hungry gap when I posted a recipe for a tagine using the last of Winter’s root vegetables. We’re now well into April and the hungry gap is definitely upon us. The Winter crops have come to an end and there’s little in the way of new season produce to fill our bellies. But it’s not all doom and gloom, if you happen to be partial to a spot of foraging there is plenty to be had at this time of year and fresh young nettles are just perfect right now.

I’m no foraging expert (so you’ll have look elsewhere for comprehensive guidance) but with a little know how and a little common sense you can find yourself enough to rustle up something resembling a meal in no time.

I managed to find the perfect spot of nettles that had just started to come up in a park where a hollow had been left to go wild. Pinch off just the young tops of the nettles (whilst wearing gardening or rubber gloves obvs!) as these taste better and one the nettles flower and start to go to seed, the leaves can irritate the urinary tract and no-one wants that! I’ve also included wild garlic in this recipe as it’s abundant right now. I’ve been getting lots in my veg bag at the moment so didn’t forage for mine but it’s the perfect time to go and find some whilst you’re out looking for nettles, which lets face it, won’t take long.

I should also mention that I actually wanted to share this recipe with you last year. Unfortunately I hadn’t quite perfected my vegan crêpe recipe. I have since found that buckwheat flour creates the perfect crêpe batter so don’t try substituting it out for another flour because you’ll end up in a right old mess.

Nettle & Wild Garlic Buckwheat Crepes

Vegan Buckwheat Crepes

Nettle and wild garlic, buckwheat crêpes

For the crêpes:

100g Buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1tbsp ground flax seed
3tbsp water
1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
400ml non-dairy milk
Coconut oil for frying

For the filling:

1 small onion
300g young nettles
300g spinach
2-3 wild garlic leaves
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to season

  • Begin by making the crêpe batter. Whisk the ground flax seed with the water and set aside for a few minutes until it become gloopy and gelatinous.
  • Measure out the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
  • Pour in the lemon juice, oil, flax egg and a little of the milk and stir together. Slowly add in the remaining milk a bit at a time, incorporating more flour as you go.
  • Set aside the mixture for 30 minutes whilst you prepare the filling.
  • Wash the nettles thoroughly in  bowl of cold water and pinch off any thick stems. Wearing rubber gloves of course.
  • Wilt them together with the spinach in a large frying pan with a splash of water on a high heat for around 5 minutes until most of the water from them has evaporated.
  • Set aside into a bowl. Add a little oil to the frying pan, lower the heat and fry the onion until soft and brown. Add the nettles and spinach back into the frying pan along with the nutmeg and the fennel seeds after being crushed slightly in a pestle and mortar.
  • Roughly chop the wild garlic and stir in the mixture. Leave the mixture on a very low heat whilst you make the crêpes.
  • Place a medium-sized frying pan on a high heat and add a little coconut.
  • Pour in 1/4 cup of batter and quickly swirl around the pan.
  • Leave for a minute of so until it starts to brown then using one of those super awesome pancake/ crêpe spatulas, loosen the crêpe from the pan and flip over. Leave the other side to brown lightly for another minute and place on a plate and keep warm.
  • Repeat for the remaining crêpes, it should make roughly 6.
  • Take the filling mixture of the heat and spoon onto the crepes and roll.
  • Serve with a salad for a lunch or light dinner.

Amy x

 

Marking the Seasons // Elderberry Flu Remedy

There’s a suspicious tinge of orange on the leaves. The nights are drawing in. It would seem that Autumn is upon us.

It’s hard to put a finger on the start of Autumn, it’s one of those seasons that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re thinking about taking a jumper out in case it gets chilly in the evening, the next you’re trying to figure out where your thermals’ got to.

The appearance of ripe elderberries and sloes, or the first tinting of oak trees is traditionally used to mark the start of Autumn. I found these sloes ripe and ready for my sloe spelt cake recipe two weeks ago and as for the elderberries, well I was too late, they had already past their best.

Blackthorn

London’s microclimate can do some funny things but it has been found that, on average, native trees are producing ripe fruit 18 days earlier than a decade ago. Whilst this might be great news for the forager, for animals it may mean that their food reserves could become depleted earlier in the winter. One thing’s for sure, you won’t notice anything until you actually get out there and look.

Rose-bay-willow-herb

For my Dad, it’s not so much the start of Autumn but the end of Summer. He knows Summer’s on its way out when Rosebay Willowherb goes to seed.

For me Blackberrying marks the transition from Summer to Autumn and this year I was determined not to miss out on a bumper crop. I escaped the hustle and bustle of London and went out to the peaceful countryside of the Chilterns on a little foraging expedition and I was not disappointed.

Blackberries

Blackberries and apples

Sometimes nature is just telling what to eat. Blackberry and apple pie anyone?

Blackberrying

Those couple of degrees change in temperature really can make all the difference, as out in the countryside I found elderberries to be perfectly ripe. With an outbreak of colds at the moment brought on by the change of season, I knew exactly what I had in mind for those elusive elderberries that had evaded me only weeks before. Elderberry syrup.

It’s said that a small amount of elderberry syrup taken daily can immunise you against the flu. It’s quick and easy to make and you can freeze it in ice cube trays so they’re ready and waiting for whenever the flu strikes.

Elderberries

Elderberry-stalks

Elderberry-flu-remedy

Elderberry Flu Remedy

Elderberries
Slice of lemon
Thumb size piece of ginger

  • Pick the elderberries on a dry, sunny day as that’s when they’ll be at their sweetest.
  • Remove the stalks and wash them.
  • Put them in a saucepan and just cover them with water. Bring them to the boil and simmer for around half an hour or until soft.
  • Strain them through a sieve, to remove the seeds and the skins.
  • Place back on the heat and simmer gently to reduce the liquid down.
  • Leave to cool and place in ice cube trays, freeze until flu season is upon us.
  • Place one elderberry ice cube in a cup with a slice of lemon. Grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice between your fingers into the cup.
  • Pour in freshly boiled water and stir.
  • Drink this delicious warming drink when flu is going round to keep it at bay.

Amy x

Sloe Spelt Cake

When you eat the seasons you can’t help but rejoice when you reach that time of year when there is food a plenty. Late summer is such an amazing time for food, there are an abundance of vegetables around and at last there’s plenty of fruit to be found. And I don’t mean in the supermarket!

Sloe-berries

Wander outside and keep your eyes peeled in hedgerows and parks. There’s berries galore to be found and this year there is a bountiful crop of sloes to be found!  The hot start to summer followed by a whole load of rain has left the blackthorn bushes dripping with sloes. You’ve endured the rain so you may as well enjoy its fruits.

Sloe-spelt-cake

I know that sloes are synonymous with gin but I have a love for spelt cake right now and I think a little sloe compote makes the perfect accompaniment.

Vegan-spelt-flour-cake

The cake is made with spelt flour, ground almonds, coconut oil and a little xylitol sugar. I won’t pretend its like a Victoria sponge, because its not. But what it is, is healthy, tasty and filling. The high sugar content in ordinary cakes combined with lots of fat and innutritious white flour will give you a sweet fix but won’t leave you satisfied. There’s just nothing in there to nourish you and make you feel full so you keep on wanting more. This spelt cake however will leave you feeling great. Spelt is a whole-food unlike wheat which means it retains all its nutrients which can be easily absorbed by your body due to its high water solubility. See, you really can have your cake and eat it.

Spelt-and-almond-cake

I will let you in on a secret, I was actually going for a slightly marbled cake, using the sloe compote but I didn’t quite put enough in. To get a more marbled effect don’t over stir the compote into the cake batter but also be careful not to add too much as your cake might not come out in one piece.

Spelt-cake-with-sloe-berry-compote

Vegan-sloe-spelt-cake

Sloe spelt cake

125g spelt flour
100g ground almonds
75g xylitol sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200ml almond milk
80g coconut oil
1/2 tsp almond essence

For the compote:
150g sloe berries
2 tbsp xylitol sugar

  • Start off by greasing a 8″ cake tin and lining the base with baking paper. Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  • If you’re coconut oil is solid, place it in an ovenproof dish for a few minutes when preheating your oven to melt it.
  • Weigh out all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stir through and set aside.
  • Wash the sloes and remove any stalks. Place them into a saucepan and just cover them with water, bring them to the boil then simmer on a low heat.
  • Once they start to break up, drain off the water and rub the fruit through a sieve into a clean pan.
  • Return to the heat and add 1tbsp of xylitol sugar and stir until dissolved then remove from the heat.
  • Return to your cake mixture and stir in the almond milk and coconut oil.
  • Promptly pour half the mixture into the cake tin as the batter will quickly start to thicken.
  • Spoon in a few tablespoons of the compote, lightly swirl into the batter before pouring the remaining batter on top.
  • Be careful, unlike me, not to let the compote go to the edge of your cake as you will end up with blackened edges to your cake, like I did.
  • Bake at 180C for 40 -45 mins until a knife pushed into the cake comes out clean.
  • Carefully turn the cake out onto a wire rack and cool.
  • Serve with the remaining compote.

Happy foraging. Happy caking.

Amy x

Elderflower Cheesecake (Vegan Sambocade)

I was already having a great day. The sun was shining, the sky was a deep shade of blue. It was one of those late spring days that gives us a hint of summer and everyone in London transforms into a radiant smiling being.

I went out to stroll around the park that backs onto my flat, to soak up the sunshine on my lunch break. Breathing in those late spring-time scents, the smell drifted over me like pure happiness. Elderflowers.

One thought went through my mind. In the midst of the incessant hustle and bustle of East London, I can’t believe I have this amazing Elder tree practically on my doorstep! Then a second. What shall I make first?

elderflowers

I knew I was by no means the first person to want to infuse the quintessential smell of English summer into their food. But, I wanted to capture that unmistakable fragrant flavour without using refined sugar and fats.

Cue the Medieval recipe, Sambocade, a cream cheese tart and 21st century healthy, vegan know-how.

I turned to my favourite vegan, raw foods recipe guru, Emily von Euw (This Rawsome Vegan Life) for healthy, vegan cheesecake inspiration and used her Lavender & Lemon Cheesecake as a basis for my Vegan Samocade.

First things first, the recipe calls for dried elderflowers. So get yourself outside, follow your nose and forage for elderflowers. The best time to pick them is in the heat of the day and remember that the pollen holds the flavour so gather flower heads with the most pollen on them and don’t wash them. I always avoid foraging from roadsides, so try a local park or common for elderflowers sans pollution.

dried elderflowers

Dried Elderflowers

  • Tie the stems of around 5 flower heads tightly together .
  • Hang the flower heads upside down within a paper bag in a warm dry place for a few days.

samocade

elderflower recipe

cheesecake made with elderflower

Elderflower Cheesecake (Vegan Sambocade)

If waiting for your Elderflowers to dry wasn’t enough, you also need to soak the cashews and almonds for this recipe. Soak them in water for least at 4 hours, I tend to soak them overnight, ready to use the next day. It is worth the effort though, this cheesecake is delicious!

The base:
150g hazelnuts
50g almonds, soaked
150g dates (if not using medjool, soak for around 30mins to soften)
Pinch of himalayan salt

The topping:
350g raw cashews, soaked
150ml coconut oil, melted
Juice of 1 lemon
2tbsp dried elderflower
2tbsp rose water
2tbsp pure maple syrup
Pinch of himalayan salt

  • Begin by making the base. In a large, dry frying pan gently toast the hazelnuts on a medium-high heat, for around 5-10mins until the skins begin to darken and peel away. Shake the pan from time to time to prevent burning.
  • Wrap the hazelnuts in a clean cloth and rub vigorously to remove most of the skins.
  • Rinse the soaked almonds in fresh water and combine in a blender with the hazelnuts, dates and salt. The mixture should start to come together in firm, sticky clumps.
  • Press the base mixture firmly down into a non-stick 20cm springform cake tin (preferably a PFOA, PTFE and BPA chemical free non-stick pan).
  • Set in the fridge whilst you prepare the topping.
  • Rinse the cashews and put in a high-speed blender along with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  • Spoon the mixture onto the base and spread out evenly.
  • Set in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
  • Gently release the springform pan and ease the cheesecake away from the base.
  • Carefully place the cheesecake onto your prettiest vintage plate, garnish with more freshly picked elderflowers, invite your friends over and serve.

Amy x

FYI: The botanical name for the Elder tree is Sambucus Nigra.