Category Archives: Hedgerows

Creamed Mushrooms – a dish for St. George

There is a mushroom called The St George mushroom or Calocybe gambosum which is one of the few edible fungi to be found at this time of the year.  It is so named because it only appears around the time of St George’s Day which, as I’m sure you all know, is 23rd April.

St Georges Mushroom

It is fairly common and widespread in the UK and can be found on grassy verges, the edges of woodland and at the roadside.  As well as being a culinary delicacy, it is thought to have some anti-bacterial properties and has been reported to lower blood sugar levels. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you never to eat fungi that you find growing wild unless you are absolutely, 100% sure what you’re doing.  I do not want a poorly executed recipe on my conscience.

I love mushrooms in all their wide variety and they are an excellent source of mycoprotein.  Creamed mushrooms make a delightful and tasty lunch or supper, served piled up on hot buttered toast.  This recipe will serve 2-3 so why not get in your favourite mushrooms and have this dish for lunch on Saturday; a portion for yourself, England and St George.  Or something.


2 x medium saucepan
1 x wooden spoon
1 x toaster

1lb / 480g mushrooms – halved, quartered or left whole depending on the size
1oz / 30g butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3floz / 90ml double cream1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon cider or apple juice
1/2 tablespoon parsley – fresh and finely chopped
hot buttered toast

Melt the butter in the pan and add the mushrooms
Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes or so, making sure not to burn the butter
Sir in the lemon juice and half of the cream
Simmer for about 8 minutes and season if you wish
Pour off the liquor into the other pan and keep the mushrooms warm
Pour in the cider, the parsley and the rest of the cream and turn up the heat
Cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce had reduced by half
Return the mushrooms to the sauce then serve immediately on toast


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal, Slider

Nettles – the free alternative to Spinach

In which the Wartime Housewife points out that nettles gathered from the hedgerow are free whilst spinach costs over £1 per bag.  Plus a recipe for Egg Florentine Au Naturel.

Nettles - free food

While Boy the Elder was tramping through the Brecon Beacons this weekend, Boy the Younger and I decided to strike out into the countryside ourselves.  When BTY fell off his scooter for the 3rd time, he got, complaining miserably that he had been stung.  And so he had.  The very first nettles were peeping through the brown, sodden remains of last year’s foliage, vivid green and packed full of venom.

It won’t be long before we can start having Nettle Soup again! we cheered.  But nettles are a perfectly good vegetable in their own right.  The other dish I really like to make is Egg Florentine which is usually made with spinach (which is the ‘Florentine’ bit) but can be made equally well with nettles. It would make an incredibly nourishing breakfast dish as well as a light lunch.

How to prepare nettles for eating

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to wear rubber or thick gardening gloves when harvesting nettles.  Always use the young tender leaves or the tender tops off older plants.  Get rid of any tough stalks and give them a good wash to get rid of any insects or anything else you wouldn’t want to eat.  Then treat them just like fresh spinach.


Rubber gloves
1 x small saucepan or poaching pan
2 x medium saucepan

½ carrier bag of nettles
4 eggs
1 knob of butter
1  quantity of cheese sauce – see below
a little paprika

Make the cheese sauce and keep it warm
Place the nettles into a medium saucepan with a little water and a knob of butter
Cover and steam until tender
Soft boil or poach the eggs
Drain the nettles and divide between 4 plates
Place one egg onto the top of each pile of nettles
Pour cheese sauce over the top of each
Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve immediately

Cheese sauce
2oz / 60g butter
2oz / 60g wholemeal flour (or 2 really heaped tablespoons)
4oz / 120g cheese – grated
½ pint / 300ml milk
1 pinch mustard power / ¼  teaspoon ready made mustard

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan then slowly
Stir in the flour and mustard powder to make thick paste (a roux)
Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly
Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly and then stir in the cheese

The sauce can also be done in a bowl in the microwave.  Follow the steps above but instead of simmering in a pan, pop the bowl in the microwave for about 3 minutes, taking it out to stir occasionally.


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal


The Wartime Housewife has indeed been scrumping.  Whilst prowling the fields looking for Smog yesterday, I came upon a tree, half smothered in ivy and loaded with pears.  Using my jumper as a basket I had as many as I could carry and have left them on a tray in a sunny spot in the kitchen to soften up.  I love pears and, like apples, they are a great fruit for regulating blood sugar.

Actually as I was driving to see Irish Alice this lunchtime, I drove down a road which had apples, pears and plums in astonishing abundance in the hedgerow.  I’ll get my basket.  Meanwhile, here is a recipe for Pear Tart.  I like a nice tart.  I also rather like pears hot with chocolate sauce.


1 x rolling pin
1 x 8” / 20cm flan dish – greased and floured
Baking beans and greaseproof paper if you have them
1 x mixing bowl

1/2lb / 240g shortcrust pastry
8floz / 250ml double cream
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of castor sugar
1 tablespoon of sherry or Marsala.  I suspect brandy or Calvados might work as well
4 large or 6 small (scrumped!) pears – peeled, halved and remove stalks and stringy bits

Preheat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6
Roll out the pastry and line the flan dish
Prick the base with a fork
If you have baking beans, put a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the pastry and put in a layer of beans
Bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry is just starting to form a light crust
Remove from the oven and remove the baking beans and the greaseproof paper
Meanwhile, beat together the cream, egg yolks, sugar and alcohol.
Place the pear halves, flat side down, in a flower shape in the pastry case
Pour the cream mixture over the top
Continue cooking for a further 30 minutes


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal

Crumbling and Mumbling or Apple Crumble & Custard

There only has to be the slightest nip in the air for my thoughts to turn to warming puddings.  I particularly like anything that can be served with custard and a nice fruit crumble seems just the job.  Also, The Boys go back to school tomorrow and I am sad and in need of comfort.

You have to have a decent amount of actual crumble on the top of a crumble in my opinion and I like to add other things to it like oatmeal or the crumbly bits at the bottom of bran flake packets.  All grist to the mill as someone may or may not have said at an indeterminate point in the past.

So here is my recipe for Apple Crumble with an interesting optional variation for those with adventure in their souls or a need to venture into the hedgerow for a pound of two of blackberries.  Clink on this link for Custard Assistance.


1 x large mixing bowl
1 x ovenproof dish about 2”/5cm deep & 3.5pint/2 lt capacity
1 x chopping board and knife
1 x vegetable peeler

8oz / 240g butter
8oz / 240g wholemeal flour
4oz / 120g porridge oats or a mixture of oats and the bits from the bottom of cereal packets
4oz / 120g dark brown sugar
3lb / 1.5kg cooking apples – peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 good squirt of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of water
6oz / 180 g white sugar
1 pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon- if liked

Pre-heat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6
Put the flour into the bowl and rub in the butter
Add the porridge oats and brown sugar and keep rubbing in until the mixture forms largish breadcrumbs
Place the apples and lemon juice into the ovenproof dish and stir round so the lemon juice coats the apples.
Add the water and sprinkle the white sugar on top.
Cover the fruit with the crumble topping
Put into the oven 15 minutes, then turn the oven down very slightly and continue to  cook for another 15-20 minutes until the top is golden brown and crispy looking.


Crumbles lend themselves to all kinds of fruit.  Be wild, be fruity, why not try:-

2 ½ lb /1kg apples or pears and a dozen or so prunes or apricots (add a little more water with dried fruit or perhaps a dash or orange juice
3lb / 1.5kg of blackberries or half blackberry/half apple
Ditto Rhubarb – you might need a little more sugar with rhubarb depending on your taste
3lb / 1.5kg stoned plums
1oz / 30g dessicated coconut to the crumble mixture
2oz / 60g almonds or chopped pecans in with the fruit
Use up an elderly banana and slice it into the other fruit


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal, Storecupboard

Elderflower XL: Sorbet

Now that you are all so adept at making elderflower cordial, we’re going to take it a step further.

Elderflower sorbet is a wondrous thing.  It’s incredibly refreshing and cooling as a pudding, but I like to use it as an amuse bouche between courses.  A little plate, with a nicely shaped quenelle of sorbet, and a fruit sauce or couli drizzled elegantly across it, possibly decorated with a sprig of carefully placed mint leaves, makes a wonderful and impressive palate cleanser at a dinner party.  It also keeps for yonks so you can really stretch it out.

Use the remaining egg yolks to add to Yorkshire pudding batter or to make some lovely home made ice cream.  I will provide a recipe anon.


1 x medium mixing bowls
1 x whisk
1 x freezer-proof container with an airtight lid sufficient to hold a pint of sorbet
An ice cream maker if you have one

1 pint / 600ml elderflower cordial
2 x egg whites

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and form soft peaks
Put the elderflower cordial into the freezer-proof container *
Put the lid on and put in the freezer until it forms slush
Remove from the freezer and fold in the stiff egg whites
Return to the freezer until ready to use

* If you have an ice cream maker, follow the instructions in the leaflet
Basically, this means add the cordial to the bowl and as it forms slush, add the egg whites and let the machine do the rest!


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal

Heaven Scent: How to make Rose Water

The hedgerows are so rich and fecund this year, I would pretty much call it showing off.  The hawthorn and blackthorn blossom shed clouds of petals on the roads and pavements as though nature had hosted a wedding on every corner. Now the elderflowers and wild roses have taken over and the sights and smells are just heavenly.

Being The Wartime Housewife, I don’t just enjoy the flowers and smells – I see food and cordials and natural preparations of all sorts.  I was briefly standing with my nose in a rose bush on Monday, taking great lungfuls of their heady scent and I remembered my sisters and I attempting to make perfume when we were children with the rose petals from our garden.  It smelled gorgeous for about 24 hours and then it went brown.

But now, darling acolytes, I know how to do it properly.  Rose Water can be made with either wild or cultivated roses.  It can be used both as a perfume, a cosmetic (as an astringent, particularly for fair and dry skin) and a flavouring for puddings and sweets; who can resist rose flavoured Turkish Delight with its thick coating of icing sugar?


1 x large cooking pot with a rounded lid– large enough for a brick
1 x slightly smaller bowl
1 x house brick

4 pints rose petals
2-3 trays of ice Cubes

Put the brick into the cooking pot, then put the bowl on the brick
Put the rose petals into the pot (around the brick)
Top up the pot with water to about level with the top of the brick
Place the lid upside down over the top of the bowl and the pot making sure that the handle in the middle of the lid is right over the bowl
Put the pot on the stove and heat and bring to the boil
As soon as it boils, put the ice cubes on top of the lid
Immediately turn down the heat and let it simmer
The steam will then start to condense and drip into the bowl
After about 20 minutes lift the lid quickly and take a teaspoon of the liquid.  When it begins to taste and smell strongly of roses remove the bowl from the heat.  It should only take about 40 minutes.
Pour the rosewater into sterilised bottles and store.

Well done.  You have just done home distilling.


Filed under Food, Food Presents, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal, Uncategorized

It’s Elderflower Time! Make some cordial

Boy the Younger took the photo. Shame it wasn't Boy the Elder.

We love squashes and cordials and every year I make a large batch of Elderflower Cordial.  Elder is rife absolutely everywhere and it should be easy to find enough heads to make at least a few bottles.  I usually buy a few of those flat bottles with the self-bunging corks to give as summer gifts to people I like.  Food presents are always welcome.

As long as you sterilize the bottles properly, the cordial will last a long time.  If you make absolutely loads, a Camden tablet popped into each bottle will kill off the yeasts and allow you to store your cordial almost indefinitely – chemists can usually supply these.

If you can, pick the cream coloured elderflower heads on a warm, sunny afternoon.  The starches will be higher then and the resultant cordial will be sweeter.  Dilute the cordial  with still or fizzy water (1 part cordial to 10 parts water – approx).  Delicious.

2 x large pans
1 x large sieve
sheets of muslin to line a sieve OR a jelly bag
1 x funnel
1 x large spoon for scum skimming
Glass bottles

35 elderflower heads
3 pints / 1.75l  water
3lb / 1.5k white granulated sugar
3 lemons – sliced
2oz / 60g tartaric or citric acid

Sterilize your bottles like this
or fill the bottles with hot water right to the top, to which has been added 1 Camden tablet and leave for the prescribed time. Empty out the water just before you are ready to fill the bottle.

Place the elderflowers, water, sugar and lemons into the pan
Put the pan onto a low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved
Remove from the heat and add the citric or tartaric acid
Cover the pan and leave to infuse overnight
Strain the liquid into a large pan
Then strain it again through the muslin or jelly bag – I do this twice to reduce any light residue
Using the funnel, fill each sterilized bottle, leaving about an inch and a half of space at the top
Wipe clean and seal
Attach suitable labels including the date on which it was made


Filed under Food, Food Presents, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal

Time to grasp the Nettles – and make soup out of them

Nettle Soup  is really one of the great joys of late Spring.  Nettles are free, have as much iron as spinach and are packed full of antihistamines which makes them excellent prophylactic medicine for the hayfever sufferer.  It freezes well and looks and tastes divine.  Steamed nettles can also be eaten on their own as a vegetable and, if passed through a flame to destroy the stinging hairs, can be eaten raw if one is practising survival techniques.

Nettle Soup

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to wear rubber or gardening gloves to pick nettles and it’s best to use the young fresh stalks or the bright green tops.

I shall have to put the photo on tomorrow as I have temporarily mislaid my camera on which the photograph of last night’s supper waits purposefully for it’s inevitable upload.

1 large pan
1 x chopping board
1 x stick blender

2oz / 60g butter
1 large onion – chopped finely
1 large carrot – chopped finely
1 large garlic clove – chopped finely
2 pints / 1l chicken stock
½ carrier bag nettles (remove tough stalks)
3 tablespoons cooked rice (to thicken it)
1 pinch nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons thick cream
Bit of extra cream for garnishy swirlyness
Chopped parsley to garnish (if you wish)

Melt butter in a large pan
Sweat the onion, carrot and garlic until soft but not brown
Add the stock and pile in the nettles
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes until the nettles are tender
Add the rice and seasoning, then purée with the stick blender
Stir in the cream
Garnish with a swirl of cream and chopped parsley
Serve with tasty, seedy bread


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal

Don’t Rook Now: A recipe for Rook Pie (but you can use pigeon)

A couple of days ago I was tossed a gauntlet by the immeasurable Mr Affer.  At the end of a charming article about the delights of Rookeries, he invited me to submit a recipe for cooking the rooks.

Rooks have long been recognised as a free food source, particularly in the West Country and South Wales.  They are quite hard to acquire these days as most people, even in the countryside, are such hypocritical pansies when it comes to food.  Many people are more than happy to munch on a water injected, formerly tormented pig, but will baulk at a bit of low fat game that has had a happy life.  Bah.

The easiest way to get your hands on some young and tender rooks is to seek out a farmer or gamekeeper who is about to cull them and ask them to save you a few.  They will probably despatch them with a shotgun though, which means you have to watch out for lead shot.  A .22 rifle is a better option.  The only bit of a rook worth eating is the breast, so you don’t really want it full of shot.

The other, more dangerous, way is to climb a rookery.  I would not advise doing this yourself unless you are an experienced climber, but if you are, then make sure you take a small bag up with you.  The young rooks can be popped into the bag ready to be bopped swiftly on the head when you get down.

Sadly, this is not the right time of year to go a-rooking, as the young rooks, or ‘branchers’, are not ready until about the second week in May.  In Victorian times it was considered a perfectly suitable activity for young ladies and boys and they would gather on 12th May for a day’s gentle sport.

Therefore, as it is only mid April, I was unable to obtain any rook breasts.  The recipe below calls for half rook, half pigeon but I had to make do with all pigeon. It was so good I could weep.
I served it with parsnip puree and would have chosen to serve peas, but I had run out.

WILD THANG PIE – serves 6

1 x large saucepan
1 x 10” pie dish
1 x rolling pin
1 x pastry brush
1 x small dish for the egg
1 x bowl for the flour
1 x chopping board & sharp knife

1 packet of shortcrust pastry (or 1lb/500g of your own recipe)
8 wood pigeon breasts (or 4 rook and 4 pigeon) – chopped into biggish chunks
2oz / 60g plain flour
3 tablespoons oil or dripping
1 medium onion – roughly chopped
1lb / 480g wild mushrooms – sliced into chunks
4floz / 125ml dry white wine
½ pint / 300ml good strong stock
1 x bouquet garni
1 egg – beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 190/375/5
Grease and flour the pie dish
Roll out the pastry and line the dish.  Roll out the remains ready for the lid
Put the flour into a bowl, seasoned with salt and pepper and coat the rook and pigeon in it
Heat the oil or dripping in a large sauce pan and briefly sauté the onion
Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, keeping them moving
Add the meat and flour to the pan, cook briefly until just browning
Add the wine and stir it around quickly
Then gradually add the stock, stirring briskly all the time, until it starts to thicken.
Add the bouquet garni and remove from the heat
Brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg
Pour the meat mixture into the dish
Place the remaining pastry on top, crimp the edges to seal and make 3 slits in the lid
Brush the top with egg and place in the oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.



Filed under Community and shopping, Ethics, Food, Hedgerows, Outdoor Activities, Recipes, Regional, Seasonal

Taster campaign: A promise of pies to come


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit (and dumplings)

Rabbit is a monumentally overlooked and cheap food.  Even in butchers’ shops, a whole rabbit (prepared) can usually be bought for a couple of quid or one can buy it ready cut up into chunks, although if you live anywhere near someone who goes shooting, I would recommend snuggling up to them and they will surely bag one for you.  The flavour is somewhere between chicken and pheasant and it’s very low in fat.  If you are using a whole rabbit, do just watch out for little bones, just as you would with any small game. Just for interest, the correct term for gutting a rabbit is ‘paunching’. 

Incidentally, don’t be afraid of dumplings.  They key to making them light is not to overwork them; use quick light movements, lifting the mixture into the air and they will be deliciously fluffy.  If you add dumplings, you don’t need potatoes as well (unless you move about more than I do). 

I wish to thank The Mad Hatter’s Wife for the scrumptious rabbit we ate tonight; so delicious was it that I forgot to photograph it before tucking in.


1 x large casserole dish
1 x meat cleaver or large sharp knife
1 x chopping board
1 x vegetable peeler
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x mini chopper for making breadcrumbs

Ingredients for Rabbit Stew:
1 Rabbit – cut into 4 pieces (I would suggest back legs into 2, mid section and front)
2 pints (1 ¼ litres) chicken stock
½ pint (300ml) bitter beer
2 large carrots – chopped into big chunks
2 leeks – sliced
1 small or ½ large swede – peeled and chopped into cubes
1 large parsnip – peeled and chopped into chunks
1 heaped tblspn parsley
1 flat tblspn thyme
Plain flour for coating
2 tblspn oil for frying

Ingredients for dumplings:
4oz (120g) self raising flour
4oz (120g) fresh white breadcrumbs
4oz (120g) beef suet (can be substituted with vegetable suet)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tblespn fresh
1 tsp thyme (double it for fresh)
1 tsp sage (as above)

Heat the oil in the casserole dish
Coat the rabbit in the flour and brown quickly in the pan
Add the stock and the beer
Add the vegetables and herbs
Cover the casserole dish and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes

Meanwhile make the dumplings
Put the flour, breadcrumbs, suet and herbs into a bowl and mix thoroughly
Beat the eggs and pour into the flour mixture
Mix thoroughly but lightly with your hands, lifting the mixture into the air.  Don’t do this for long or the dumplings will be stodgy
Divide the mixture into four and then make four dumplings from each piece
After the stew has cooked for 20 minutes, put the dumplings on top and cook for a further half hour.
Serve.  I like to serve a nice dark green vegetable with it.  Savoy cabbage or Kale is particularly nice.


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

Hedgerow Happiness – Part 1: Sloe Gin, Sloe Sherry and Rosehip Syrup



The hedgerows are a rich source of wonderfulness; sloes, rosehips, blackberries, elder, hawthorne , all of which have great culinary merit.  I will cover all these as they come into season. 

Today I’m going to tell you about sloes and rosehips.  Sloe Gin is one of the great pleasures of winter and is unbelievably easy to make.  I then use the sloes again to make Sloe Sherry, which is a greater pleasure still in my opinion. 



Rosehip syrup was a wonderful wartime essential when citrus fruits were so hard to come by, because it is packed full of Vitamin C.  A dessertspoonful every day is a far cheaper alternative to taking vitamin C tablets and more natural.  Personally I like it poured over vanilla ice-cream, waffles or pancakes.

Also remember that home made preserves, alcohol, cordials and syrups make lovely presents for your friends.  Chose an attractive bottle or jar and decorate it with your own label and a ribbon and you will be loved forever.  Incidentally, you will be amazed how many people stop and talk to you when you’re foraging in a hedgerow, and they will often have interesting things to tell you.  Some are nutters of course, and they are the most interesting of all.


1 x large bowl or clean bucket with a lid (old nappy buckets are perfect for this)
a needle, cocktail stick or corncob fork
(eventually) bottles for putting it in
1 x sieve
1 sheet of muslin or a coffee filter

2 ½ lb sloes – approximate – this is not an exact science
1 litre of very cheap gin (or vodka if you prefer)
4oz (120g) white sugar – honey can be used instead for a more meady flavour
Take off all the leaves and twigs
Prick all the sloes and put them in your bowl or bucket
Pour in the gin and add the sugar
Put the lid on and leave until Christmas (although preferably 3 months)
Shake gently every day
Then strain off the liquid and filter it through fine muslin or a coffee filter
Bottle it.  Ideally it should be left to mature for 6 months but I can never wait.


Put the sloe berries back into the bucket and pour over a litre of cheap sherry
Leave for another month, shaking daily
I challenge you not to drink it immediately (and you too will be shaking daily!)


2 x large pans – a good sized hob-safe casserole will do nicely
1 sharp knife or, better still, a blender or mini chopper
1 x colander
1 x jelly bag (or fine muslin and a sieve)
Sterilised small bottles or jars

2lb / 960g ripe rosehips – stalks and leaves removed
4 pints boiling water
2lb / 960g white sugar

Roughly chop the rosehips
Put them into the pan with 2 pints of boiling water and bring back to the boil
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour
Strain off the liquid through a colander and then strain again through a jelly bag
Return the hips to the pan, add another 2 pints of boiling water
Bring back to the boil and leave to infuse for half an hour
Strain as before
Combine the two liquids in a clean pan and boil until it is reduced by about half
Take it off the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved
Bring back to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes
Pour into the warm, sterilised bottles or jars, seal,  leave to cool, then store


Filed under Children, Christmas, Family and Friends, Food, Hedgerows, Outdoor Activities, Recipes, Seasonal