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.

CREAMED MUSHROOMS

Utensils:
2 x medium saucepan
1 x wooden spoon
1 x toaster

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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

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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.

EGG FLORENTINE

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

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

Method:
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

Method:
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.

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

Scrumping

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.

PEAR TART

Utensils:
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

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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

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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.

APPLE CRUMBLE

Utensils:
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

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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.

ALTERNATIVE FRUIT IDEAS:

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

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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.

ELDERFLOWER SORBET

Utensils:
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

Ingredients:
1 pint / 600ml elderflower cordial
2 x egg whites

Method:
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!

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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?

ROSE WATER

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

Ingredients:
4 pints rose petals
Water
2-3 trays of ice Cubes

Method:
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.

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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.

Utensils:
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

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

Method:
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

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