So I am having the best time wandering around the garden and our local park looking for wild edibles to forage!
Wild foraged foods are one of the best ways of increasing diversity in the gut, our gut microbes love the variety and exceptionally high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants and polyphenols!
I am currently loving dandelion flowers which grow everywhere and have a long flowering season so no need to rush out before they all disappear! They will be around for months!
I have to admit I am not a fan of dandelion leaves, they are just too bitter for me to enjoy but the flowers are another thing altogether! And it turns out they have way more polyphenols and antioxidants than the leaves or roots!
They have anti-inflammatory properties, are diuretic, increase bile production so benefit digestion too and they are protective against cancer by interrupting tumour growth so plenty of reasons to eat them!
They are a fairly invasive plant and so many people spray them and treat the grass with pesticides which is not what you want to be doing,
If you can't beat them, eat them.....
If you are foraging dandelion flowers, pick them away from roadsides where they are likely to have been sprayed with pesticides, dog pee and traffic fumes! Also dandelion flowers are a great source of pollen for the bees so pick from densely populated areas and leave plenty for our insect friends.
So here is a great recipe which you can adapt to suit your taste, the key ingredient is dandelion flowers and you will need around 150g of them which is quite a lot! I used a couple of eating apples, dried figs and a handful of goji berries, some freshly zested ginger and turmeric and the zest of a lime, organic apple cider vinegar and some organic sugar. Oh and a couple of bay leaves because I have loads of them!
You could use cooking apples, dates, raisins, orange or lemon zest and any fresh herbs you have available!
So here is the basic recipe, I cut down the amount of sugar to 65g since the figs and apples add sweetness but feel free to increase it if you want a sweeter chutney.
I don't really know if this is a Chutney or a Relish so I'm just calling it a chutney, its cooked in apple cider vinegar and has fruit in it!
Wash the dandelion flowers and remove the stalks but leave the green bit, although its a bit bitter the sugar in the recipe masks it so just remove any straggly green bits.
150g dandelion flowers, washed
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium white onion, chopped
80g dried figs or raisins
1/4 cup of goji berries (optional)
1 tablespoon finely zested or grated ginger
1 tablespoon finely grated turmeric or 1tsp turmeric powder
zest of a lime
65g to 100g brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
200mls apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
Simply add all the ingredients to a medium sized pot, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Leave to cool then transfer to glass jars and store in the fridge.
Enjoy with crackers and cheese, on sourdough avo toast, on a sandwich, wrap, baked potato or with any hot dish or salad
I have been experimenting a lot with vegan cheeses and this one is my absolute favourite! I made a version of it for Christmas using thyme and dried cranberries but this smoky version is my current favourite!
You can buy liquid smoke but I actually use my own smoky marinade leftover from home smoking mushrooms or aubergines, its so intensely smoky but liquid smoke works just as well.
You can replace the liquid smoke with lemon juice and add some lovely fresh herbs like thyme or oregano for a lovely light summery creamy cheese.
This is just so good, it doesn't last long in our house and is perfect served with sourdough crackers or slathered on a freshly baked sourdough with some sliced tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar! It also makes a lovely filling for a baked sweet potato!
If you forget to soak the cashews overnight you can boil them in water for 10 mins to soften them, just drain them before you use them!
You can also shape the cheese into a log shape, or a round shape once it has firmed up. Then get all creative by rolling it in herbs, chopped nuts or a spice blend!
White miso paste adds a fabulous umami flavour and makes this taste like actual cheese, its fermented and makes a real difference to the taste. You can buy it in Waitrose, Tesco and online.
Simply add the drained cashew nuts, lemon juice, nutritional yeast flakes, coconut oil, miso paste, garlic, liquid smoke and salt to a blender and blitz until smooth.
Line a small bowl with cling film
Scoop the cheese mix into the bowl, gather the sides of cling film around the cheese and twist to make a ball shape.
Chill in the fridge for a few hours, until firm.
Remove the cling film, then roll the cheese into a log shape and coat with dried herbs, fresh herbs or chopped nuts.
This cheese will keep for around 5 days in the fridge.
I have been trying out a few new sourdough pizza base recipes and I am happy with this improved version.
Simplicity and versatility are high on my list and this one ticks both those boxes.
Its a great way to use up discarded starter or can be made with active starter too.
The addition of semolina and a few tablespoons olive oil make all the difference to the flavour and texture.
A few tips for a nice crisp base, preheat your oven to high and preheat your baking tray. This can make it difficult to transfer your pizza but using a pizza paddle to literally slide it on works well.
To be honest I just preheat the oven then put the pizza base on a cold tray then add the toppings, its easier and I don't have a pizza paddle!
So here is my recipe
Ingredients for 4 large or 6 medium pizzas
500g pizza flour or plain flour
300g starter or discard
250 ml warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g semolina or fine polenta
10g salt, 2 level teaspoons
Measure the flour, semolina and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Mix the warm water with the starter and oil in a jug.
Add to the dry mix in the bowl and knead until it comes together into a fairly smooth ball. Takes around 5 minutes.
Cover with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for a few hours until roughly doubled in size.
Put the dough onto a floured surface and use your knuckles to knock the air out of it.
divide the dough into 4 or 6 pieces depending on the size of pizza you want.
Roll out thinly, add toppings and bake in a hot oven for around 15 minutes until the base is crisp and golden.
I had extra dough so just put it in the fridge in a tupperware dish and used it the next day to make pizzas for lunch.
Alternatively you could make the dough in advance and just leave it in the fridge until you need it, bearing in mind it will become more sour the longer you leave it! I imagine it would be ok for 2 or 3 days!
If you don't have sourdough starter then you can use instant dried yeast, here is the amended recipe.
Standard Pizza Base
500g plain or strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant dried yeast
325 ml warm water
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil
Put the flour in a large bowl with the salt and yeast.
Add the oil and water and knead for 5 to 10 mins, until smooth.
Put the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for a couple of hours, until roughly doubled in size.
Proceed as sourdough recipe.
I adapted this recipe from Italian minestrone so it has the same base flavours of tomato, onion and garlic. I decided to replace the white pasta with much healthier brown rice which makes the soup gluten free and the addition of some beans adds fibre, protein and minerals and really makes this a complete meal in a bowl!
You can add whatever veggies you have to ring the changes but peppers, green beans, carrots, leeks, courgettes, frozen peas and finely shredded greens of some sort all work really well and add loads of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, strengthening literally every body system.
It's still wild garlic season so I am making the most of it by adding it to as many dishes as I can.
It's delicious, highly nutritious and it's free so get yourself out to your nearest woodland and let your nose guide you to swathes of gorgeous wild garlic!
Any beans work, flageolet, cannelini, haricot, butter beans are all great.
I am a big fan of nutritional yeast flakes so add a couple of tablespoons to your soup or sprinkle some on as a garnish. They add great flavour, loads of minerals and vitamins and make the soup lovely and creamy!
So without further ado, here is the recipe, I hope you enjoy it....!
VEGAN RICE AND BEAN SOUP WITH WILD GARLIC
🍃 Health educator🍃