Tag Archives: starter

Foraging in my own garden

I’m sure many of you enjoy wild blackberry picking when you are out on a walk, but have you ever foraged for anything more adventurous or unusual? I’ve gathered fallen apples and sweet chestnuts, but I’m too scared to try picking fungi as I don’t know the difference between edible mushrooms and ones which might possibly be poisonous. Perhaps I should sign up for a fungi foraging course. I shall have to look to see if there are any in this part of the UK. Or coastal foraging is another idea which I could fancy trying. And last month, I saw wild garlic in the woodland whilst out on a run. However sometimes you can even find things closer to home in your own garden like dandelions and nettles.

Typically viewed as weeds, both of these have excellent nutritious properties. Nettles are full of vitamins and minerals. So when I was digging out some young nettles that were competing with my herbs and alpine strawberries, I decided to have a go at cooking them. I chopped off the roots before bringing them in and giving them a good wash.

Now these were from my garden, but if you are foraging elsewhere, you will want to bear in mind not to pick from by the roadside or below where dogs may pee. Also gather them young before they start flowering.

I decided to make a nettle soup, but another idea is pesto, although you would still need to cook the nettles first to remove the sting. Think of using them in recipes as an alternative to spinach.

Nettle soup

Nettle Soup

Ingredients

1 large bunch of nettles
micro-greens to garnish
2 medium potatoes
1/3 of a leek
1 clove of garlic
10 chives
2x 100ml frozen chicken stock cubes (or vegetable stock if preferred)
pinch of thyme
salt and pepper
milk to mix
1 tbsp cream
knob of butter

Method

Carefully wearing gloves, wash the nettles.
Cut the nettle leaves from the stalks, discarding any which look past their best.
Boil the kettle and pour water into a saucepan.
Tip the nettles into the pan and set aside for a few minutes.
Drain the nettles through a sieve, reserving the water.
Meanwhile chop potatoes, (no need to peel), leeks and chives into small pieces.
Peel and press garlic through garlic press.
Grease the saucepan with butter and gently heat.
Add the garlic, leek and chives and cover with lid.
Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Defrost the chicken stock.
Add the chicken stock and reserved nettle water and potatoes.
Bring pan to the boil, turning down to a simmer.
Cook until potatoes are soft.
Add nettles and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.
Season with thyme, salt and pepper.
Pour into blender and blend until smooth.
Return to pan and add sufficient milk to thin to desired consistency, cooking for a few more minutes.
Stir in cream.
Pour into bowls and garnish with micro greens.
Serve and enjoy.

nettle soup

A very tasty satisfying soup indeed.

I’d love to hear your foraging recipes? I’m contemplating elderflowers and rosehips for cordial. My elder tree is flowering now but only one branch of flowers is in reach. The others are too high up.

Who else has tried nettles?

And finally if you do forage for food in the wild, please remember to leave plenty behind for birds and other creatures.

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Mackerel Pâté

Today I’m sharing a very simple quick recipe for mackerel pâté, that you can make in literally minutes. I love this for a light lunch either on toast, crackers or in a sandwich. Plus it also works as a starter, if you’re entertaining.

Mackerel Pâté

Mackerel Pâté

Ingredients

2 smoked mackerel fillets (approx 150g)
75g natural yoghurt (or crème fraiche)
salt and pepper

Method

Remove the skin and any bones you find from the fish.
Flake the fish into small pieces.
Place fish and yoghurt (or crème fraiche) into blender.
Season with salt and pepper.
Blend until smooth.
Chill in refrigerator if desired.
Serve with toast or crackers or in a sandwich.

Mackerel Pâté

Voilà. As I said, so quick and easy. And delicious too.

I’d love to hear your go-to recipes when you want something in a hurry?

Now all I need to do, is find where to buy my mackerel plastic free, as I’m trying to reduce my use of plastic. I get the yoghurt in jars from milk&more. The local fishmonger occasionally has plastic free mackerel, but unfortunately not very often.

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A trio of Italian starters

To Tuscany Villas have challenged bloggers to come up with a Tuscan-inspired recipe, using typical flavours and influences from Italy. Regular readers of my blog will know that I love a recipe challenge and Facebook memories have just reminded me this week that it is a year since I was at the Dorchester receiving my award for British Turkey 2015 best blogger recipe.

Although I’ve never visited Tuscany yet, I’ve enjoyed plenty of tasty Tuscan food at Italian restaurants. Some of its food and drink are irresistible. Just imagine a delicious Tuscan bean soup, followed by wild boar sausages and then gelato. Of course, served with a bottle of Chianti. Yummy.

However I only got invited to participate in this challenge yesterday, just one day before the closing date, with not a lot of time to come up with my recipe or to source my ingredients. So I’ve passed on pasta, beans, Chianti, olives and ice cream. Instead I’ve opted for a trio of Italian starters using tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, mozzarella, basil and ciabatta.

Italian starters


My first dish is an Italian Tomato and Bread Salad. Although I have blogged my Chinese variant on this previously, I hadn’t shared my Italian version. This recipe is my competition entry, but keep reading for two more recipes to compliment the theme.

Tomato and Bread Salad

Tomato and Bread Salad

Ingredients (serves 4 – 6)

600g mixed tomatoes
200g ciabatta bread, preferably stale
6 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper
5g fresh basil

Method

Cut the ciabatta into pieces and put aside to dry out. If necessary, toast slightly in the oven.
Chop the tomatoes into pieces and put in a large serving bowl.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the bread and mix together.
Stir in the olive oil. Add extra if necessary.
Shred the basil and stir in.
Serve and enjoy.

Tomato and Bread Salad

Secondly, I decided to do a twist on the stuffed olives you see in every supermarket deli. Instead I have made my own stuffed peppers. I grilled the peppers to bring out the best flavour, but alternatively you could make this using raw mini peppers.
Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Cheese Stuffed Mini Peppers

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4)

250g mini sweet peppers
150g cream cheese

Method

Cut the ends off the peppers and remove the seeds.
Place on grill pan rack and cook under a pre-heated moderate grill for about 5 minutes until starting to soften.
Turn and grill on other side, again for about 5 minutes until starting to soften.
Allow to cool.
Using a teaspoon, fill peppers with cream cheese.
Serve and enjoy.

Cheese Stuffed Peppers


And lastly, although I had half an unused ciabatta loaf left, I thought one bread dish would be sufficient, but if you’re keen to know how to make bruschetta, you may see my recipe here. However you can never have too many tomatoes in Italian cooking, so I made a Tomato and Mozzarella Salad.
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients (serves 2 – 3)

125g mozzarella
100g tomatoes
fresh basil leaves to garnish

Method

Cut the mozzarella into slices.
Slice the tomato.
Arrange mozzarella and tomato on a plate in an alternating pattern.
Garnish with basil leaves.
Serve and enjoy.

Mozzarella and Tomato Salad

It was just too Autumnal to eat al fresco today, but I am imagining enjoying these dishes along with a glass of Chianti outside one of the gorgeous villas in Tuscany, a region I would love to visit.

I’d love to hear your favourite Italian recipes.

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Disclosure: This is my entry for the To Tuscany Blogger Recipe Competition and I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas! Participants will have a one in ten chance of winning. Other entrants will receive a hamper of Chianti goodies.