A coastal stomp, ending with hot chocolate

The cold has given way to relentless driving rain. I spent the first couple of hours walking the dogs from Ynyslas to Borth and back – if you don’t know this stretch of Welsh coastline I suggest you book a holiday here pronto, it’s heaven. Saw a small flock of shags, heard curlews on the salt marsh and laughed as the collie chased some oystercatchers. Bracing.

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Bay tree

There is no way I am spending much time in the garden today, so on the way back from my walk I grabbed a handful of bay leaves from the three year old saplings in the front garden. I dragged them out of the bargain basement bin at B&Q a couple of years ago, and they are serving me proud.

Bay leaves are my go to when I make polenta. However, whisking the cornmeal into a simmering  bay infused milk and water combo is an activity akin to dodging paintball. When those bubbles burst onto your skin, they hurt!

So, no polenta today. The only thing to do after a long beach walk is make hot chocolate. Here goes:

Bay Infused Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
1 mug of milk (soya, dairy or nut, they all work well)
50g cacao or dark chocolate, grated
1tbs cream (optional)
2 fresh bay leaves
Pinch salt

 

Method

Put the grated cacao or chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.

Put the milk and bay leaves in a saucepan, with the bowl on top.

Bring the pan to a simmer, turn off the heat steep for about five minutes.

Remove the bay leaves form the milk, then stir the milk into the bowl containing the now melted chocolate/ cream combo.

Whisk lightly to combine,  add a tiny pinch of salt and serve.

Brass Monkeys

5th January – absolutely brass monkeys out there this morning!

As ever, no-one will wear a coat to school, despite it being -5C. Mad fools. In contrast, I am bundled up to the eyeballs in scarves, hats, gloves, coat, jumpers, wooly socks… I look like someone knitted the Michelin man…

Time for a quick foray into the back garden for blog inspiration today. There’s not much

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Dandelion

going on, and I can’t find any use for the grass, so I lifted some dandelions. The back garden hasn’t been cultivated for years, it was just a huge swathe of lawn when I moved in two years ago. I started landscaping it last autumn, sketching many designs before deciding on a forest forage style garden. I have lain some of the ground under black landscaping fabric, and under here is a diggable area with dandelions still trying to hang on to survival. Not for long…

I managed to get eight large dandelion roots up, before the collie began to drive me insane with her ‘help’. She reckons she can garden better than me, and likes to show me so – very, very insistently. Her digging and prancing drives me mad, so for everyone’s sake, I stopped after twenty minutes.

Dandelion roots go deep, and are great bio-accumulators in an organic setting. They have digestive and bitter properties, good for indigestion, spleen disorders, relieving heartburn and constipation, and stimulating the appetite. They contain inulin, a fermentable fibre, which is a prebiotic and good for gut health. It’s probably good for making kim chi – I’ll share this with you soon.

Roasted Dandelion Roots

This is not a coffee substitute recipe. I love coffee. Nothing else will cut it for me. Let’s leave the dandelion coffee to those poor souls that can’t tolerate coffee.

Ingredients

Dandelion roots, washed and gently scraped with the edge of a teaspoon

Method

chop into small pieces, about 1cm thick

Boil for 5 mins, or until soft

Put in a heavy pan (I love my cast iron ware, it retains heat to make caramelising so much easier), and add a small knob of butter and a sprinkle of sugar and heat gently to caramelise.

Serve with scrambled eggs and toasted sour dough with lots of salt and pepper.

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Wet and Cold

It’s wet and cold out there today. The sort of day that makes you want to crawl back into bed. Not the sort of day that has you wandering around your little front garden, actively looking for something to eat because you said that you would blog about it.

But I have. And I am.

copyright The 3 Foragers (http://the3foragers.blogspot.co.uk)

Hairy Bittercress

Despite the foul weather, there is more hairy bittercress than I can shake a stick at. This tiny little weed chucks its seed far and wide, and I shall leave some for the bees. It flowers early, and the bees need early flowers to get them going. Fortunately I grow enough other varieties that will help them through their own hungry gap, so I’m getting to grips with the bittercress.

It is from the mustard family, so I wondered whether it would work in a potato salad. I’m glad to say it does.

Bittercress Potato Salad (serves 4 hungry people)

Ingredients

800g small new potatoes

3 shallots or one red onion

1 tbs capers or pickled nasturtium seed (more about these in another post)

3 tbsp mayonnaise, or to taste

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar/ kombucha vinegar (more about this in another post)

Method

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 mins until just cooked, drain, then cool

Cut the potatoes into chunks, then throw into a bowl with the shallots/ onion and capers  if using

Add enough mayonnaise to bind

Mix together the olive oil and vinegar and add just enough to give a little sharpness to the salad

Stir in the finely chopped parsley and bittercress to serve.

3rd January – normality?!

So, I got up at 6.30am. So did the kids.

Astonishing, as our sleep patterns have been very out of kilter for the last two weeks. What will I do with these blissful few days before I go back to work too? It’s too frozen to garden, so I’m going to sort out my seeds.

The lovely Kate and Ben at Real Seeds sell the best seeds for growing here in Wales. Seeds that have a short growing season, are open pollinated, and that have been tried and tested by themselves in Pembrokeshire. I got my order in early, as they are so popular and often run out of choice varieties.

I save some of my own seed, as Kate and Ben recommend. A few years ago, a chance

center of a yellow sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus ‘Mammoth’)

sunflower came out of a pack that were given to me. All the other seeds that germinated grew into large, single flower ‘Mammoth’ style plants. One particular plant grew to about nine feet, but with multiple heads. All the flowers, when they went over, had the added bonus of having seeds with thin shells compared to the meaty seed.

I have saved and sown this seed for the last three years, and I have just found six dried heads! As each head has over a hundred seeds, and I only want to grow a few, I think it’s time to make my own sunflower seed snacks.

Sunflower Seed Snacks

Ingredients

One head of sunflower seeds (harvest when the flower is beginning to lose its petals)

Method

Take the head and dry in a paper bag. Forget about it for about 4 months!

Soak the seeds in salted water for 6 hours. This activates the germination process and makes them more nutritious.

Roast in a warm oven, about 150C/ gas mark 2 for about half an hour, until they begin to brown and crisp up.

The seeds are a good source of calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
But, there is no simple way that I know of to get rid of the shell. Just teeth, and time.

 

 

 

Nearly back to school

lemon-balm-cake-MediumIt’s the 2nd January. The kids go back to school tomorrow. I can’t help but feel smug, knowing I have another week off before I go back to the fray.

Wouldn’t it be nice to bake a cake for their lunchboxes? I’m having a look around my larder, there is still so much Christmas fare.

And then I spy a massive bunch of lemon balm. Yay! Let’s combine a bit of Scandi with some remnants of summer days.

Lemon Balm Cake

Ingredients

  • 250g butter (room temperature)
  • 250g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • juice of 12 lemon
  • 130g plain flour
  • 120 g potato starch/ cornflour/ arrowroot
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g crumbled dry lemon balm (or 100g fresh chopped leaves)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 165C or gas mark 3
  2. Grease and line a 9″ cake tin (or anything that will hold about two and a half litres of liquid)
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add lemon juice, stir to combine.
  6. In another bowl, combine potato starch (or alternative) and baking powder; sift the flour mixture onto the butter mixture, stir to combine.
  7. Add lemon balm, stir to combine.
  8. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake cool in the pan for a while; after inverting the cake, rinse the cake pan, dry it and place back on the cake. Allow the covered cake to cool completely.

On the first day of January…

… my garden gave to me: a partridge in a pear tree.

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That is such a lie! First, I don’t have a pear tree in my garden (yet). Secondly, we don’t get partridges in this neck of Wales (although I have been lucky enough to watch black grouse with their silly white bottoms).

But, after getting back from a lovely New Year’s Eve gathering and a breezy beach walk, I really needed something refreshing and warm to get me through the rest of the day.

It’s cold and sparse in the garden at the moment, but I can always rely on the mint in the containers near the house for a quick fresh pick me up.

Mint Hot Toddy – for two

Ingredients

  • 1/2 mug loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tsp honey
  • juice from a lemon
  • 2 tbs rum (optional)

Method

  1. Put mint into a small saucepan and pour two mugs of boiling water over it
  2. Let the brew steep for five minutes
  3. In a teapot, put the rum (if using), honey and lemon juice
  4. Strain the mint tea from the saucepan into the teapot
  5. Stir, and drink.

Now, a little lie down is in order 🙂

 

In the Bleak Midwinter…

… I came up with a good idea.

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Parsley

Last year, I managed to eat something from my garden pretty much every day (apart from the days when I was away). This year, I want to chart it. I’d really like to try to quantify exactly how much food I have been able to grow/ preserve/ consume myself and make some sort of analysis as to the benefits of home growing.

I have been involved in permaculture design and implementation for the last 18 years, having completed my PDC (Permaculture Design Course) in Brighton back in 1999.

In that time I have managed farms, kept livestock, been a founder member of both Brighton Permaculture Trust and Paramaethu Cymru (Permaculture Wales), lectured and taught on Patrick Whitefield’s Sustainable Land Use course, run a landscaping company Edible Landscapes Ltd and small scale enterprise The Pesto Manifesto, and work with the Zero Carbon Britain team at the Centre for Alternative Technology, as well as raise my three lovely children. In my spare time, I co-ordinate the permaculture areas at the Glastonbury Festival, Green Gathering and Buddhafield.

This year, I’m hoping to join the first tranche of students at the Centre for Alternative Technology on the MSc in Sustainable Food Production and Natural Resources.

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