Monday 19 January 2009

Wild Food Guide 'C'

Wild Foods Guide 'C'

This is the third of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('C' 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 'C', the third letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as campion, caraway, carragen, chanterelle,cobnut, crabapple, cal, clover, ceps, chickweed, comphrey and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to ceps (one of my favourite mushooms) and chickwed.

Ceps as a wild food. Ceps Boletus edulis, (also known as Porcini, king bolete or Penny Bun) are edible basidiomycete mushrooms that are members of the the Boletaceae (Bolete) family. It is a native of Europe and North America and is Europe's second most sought-after fungus (after truffles). The smaller ceps are most sought-after as the whole mushroom can be consumed and they retain their flavour when dried.

With its pale stem and russet cap the cep is hard to confuse with other species, indeed it can only really be confused with other members of the same family, none of which are in the least toxic. The only one to look out for is the Bitter Bolete Tylophilus felleus which has brown stalks and cap and can be distinguished in that the gills bruise brown when pressed (it's not toxic, just too bitter to be pleasant). Because of this the cep is one of the safest fungi for the novice to forage for. Penny buns are found in woodlands (typically brich, oak beech and pine) and are available from late summer to late autumn but are most abundant in September and October. They pickle well and also dry very well. Young ceps are excellent raw, or simply fried i a little powder. Dried ceps can also be ground to provide a condiment or a flavouring for soups and stews.

The recipe blow is for a classic salad incorporating both Porcini and Rock Samphire.

Rock Samphire, Procini and Walnut Salad

225g Rock samphire (sea beans), soaked in cool water for 30 minutes and drained
200g procini mushrooms, sliced
60g walnuts, chopped
50g butter
30ml olive oil
5 tbsp white wine
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp lime juice

Add the mushrooms to a roastig pan or gratin dish along with the butter, olive oil and seasonings. Place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for about 4 minutes, or until tender. Meanwhile trim and clean the rock samphire before cutting into 3cm lengths. Drop in boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Bring the mushroom out of the oven, add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Arrange on a plate, then sprinkle the rock samphire on top. Mix a little of the lime juice with the pan juices to taste, season and sprinkle over the salad. Top with the walnuts and serve immediately.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Rock Samphire, Procini and Walnut Salad Recipe from the Celtnet Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for bilberries then you can find a range of cep/porcini recipes.

Chickweed as a wild food Chickweed Stellaria media is a very common and pervasive weed and a member of the Caryophyllaceae (carnation) family. It is extremely variable in its appearance, but generally it has a very slender tap root and greatly branching leafy stems, which lie along the ground. The lower leaves vary in size from 3 to 20 mm in length, they are oval in shape and have long stalks; the upper leaves tend to be larger (up to 25 mm in length) and lack stalks.

For the forager, this is an important plant as it is a rich source of copper. The greens themselves can be used as a vegetable which can be boiled or lightly fried. They can also be dried as a herb for the addition to salads. Indeed, during the middle ages chickweed used to be collected and was sold in markets as a vegetable. Plaese note that the common (edible) chickweed in light green in colour and should not be confused with its dark-green relative, hairy mouse-ear chickweed which is poisonous. If you are unsure, do not pick it.

The recipe presented below is for a classic Indian-inspired fusion dish of a kedgeree made with goosegrass and chickweed.

Goosegrass and Chickweed Kedgeree

150g goosegrass (leaves only)
150g chickweed
900ml milk
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
225g basmati rice, washed
4 large eggs
1 pack flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, washed and chopped
pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a frying pan, gently cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes in half the oil. Add the spices and fry for 5 minutes then remove the fish from the milk, add the fried onions and spices and stir in the rice. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed.

Put the eggs in a pan with a lid and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Rinse under cold water, peel, then halve.

Roughly chop the goosegrass and chickweed and stir into the rice. Cook for 1 minute then remove the pan from the heat, stir in cream, add parsley and salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Goosegrass and Chickweed Kedgeree Recipe from the Celtnet Fusion Recipes Collection.

If you are interested in recipes for bilberries then you can find a range of chickweed 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 'C' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'C', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.

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