Friday 16 January 2009

Wild Food Guide 'B'

Wild Foods Guide 'B'

This is the second of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('B' today) and will describe a wild food beginning with that letter as well as presenting a classic recipe incorporating that wild food.

Today I'm dealing with the letter 'B', the second letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as blackberries, bilberries, bedstraw, birch, bisort, borage, beech, bog myrtle, burdock and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to bilberries (my favourite wild fruit) and burdock.

Bilberry as a wild food. Bilberries are the fruit of Vaccinium myrtillus (also known as blaeberry, whortleberry, whinberry, myrtle blueberry, fraughan, huckleberry) is an ericaceous (acid soil loving) shrubby bush that's a member of the Ericaceae (heath) family and is a close cousin of the familiar blueberry.

Bilberries can be used in any recipe requiring blueberries and blueberries can be substituted in any recipe for bilberries (though blueberries are typically sweeter.

The recipe blow is for a classic French bilberry tart.

French Bilberry Tart

200g Pâte Sucrée
200ml Crème Patisserie
250g bilberries
80g sugar
4 tbsp apricot jam

Roll the pastry out to form a circle large enough to line a 20cm flan tin (preferably one with a removable base). Cover the base of the pastry with greaseproof paper, add baking beans and bake blind in an oven pre-heated to 180°C for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. When cold, spread a layer of the Crème Patisserie about 5mm deep over the pastry. Add the bilberries and sugar to a pan and heat gently until the bilberries soften and the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool slightly then pour over the pie.

Add the apricot jam to a saucepan and heat gently until molten. Use this to glaze the cake then allow to cool and serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the French Bilberry Tart Recipe from the Celtnet Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for bilberries then you can find a range of bilberry recipes.

Burdock as a wild food Burdock represents a group of biennial thistles in the genus Arctium of the Asteraceae (aster/daisy) family though the term is most commonly used to refer to common Burdock (Arctium minus) which grows wild throughout most of North America, Europe and Asia. Plants of the genus Arctium are most noticeable from their leaves which are dark green and can grow up to 45cm in length and which have a woolly underneath and their prickly seed heads noted for easily catching in the pelts of animals and the clothes of humans.

As a plant the taproot of young burdock plants (which are black) can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. While generally out of favor in modern European cuisine, it remains popular in Asia, particularly in Japan where A lappa is called gobo. The leaves are excellent for wrapping fish and meat prior to cooking on hot stones or in clay. The stems, when picked in May (do not pick any later) can be stripped of the hard outer stem which laves a thin pencil-like vegetable that can either be chopped for inclusion in salads or can be boiled and served with butter (in a similar manner to asparagus). Mixed with dandelion Burdock used to be used to make an alcoholic beverage (a non-alcoholic version of which, Dandelion and Burdock) is still popular in Britain today.

The recipe presented below is for a classic Thai-inspired fusion dish of a chicken and burdock root curry.

Thai Chicken and Burdock Curry

1l coconut milk
600g chicken breast, diced
300g shredded burdock root
groundnut oil, for frying
salt and black pepper, to taste
5 birds eye chillies, sliced
5 garlic cloves
6 shallots, sliced
4 tbsp coriander leaves
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
zest and juice of 2 limes
salt, to taste

Add the chillies, garlic, shallots, coriander leaves, ground coriander, black pepper, ground cumin, ginger, lime zest and lemon juice to a blender and render to a paste (add groundnut oil if it's too thick).

Transfer the curry paste to a pan and fry for a few minutes then stir-in the coconut milk. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through. Add the burdock root, bring the mixture to the boil, season with salt and black pepper and serve on a bed of rice.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Thai Chicken and Burdock Curry Recipe from the Celtnet Fusion Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for bilberries then you can find a range of burdock recipes.

This guide is brought to you in conjunction with the Celtnet Wild Food Recipes collection.

You can find more wild foods beginning with the letter 'A' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'B', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.

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