Wednesday 27 July 2011

Wild Food Guide 'P'

Wild Foods Guide 'P'

This is the sixteenth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('P' 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 'P', the sixteenth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as Pellitory, Pennywort, Purple Laver, Parasol Mushroom, Penny Buns (Ceps), Pepper dulse, Petalonia, Poppy, Promrose, Purple Salsify, Purslane, and many others and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to Pepper Dulse and Parasol Mushrooms.

The Pepper Dulse Osmundea pinnatifida is a small red seaweed that grows profusely on exposed to moderately sheltered rocky shores and is common to the middle and lower rocky shores, often covering large areas with a greenish-yellow turf like growth in pools and on rocks. It typically grows up to 8cm in length which is tough and cartilaginous with flattened fronds. Branching is alternate and occurs in one plane only, with branches becoming shorter towards their apex and broadly rounded.

The seaweed is highly aromatic and though the its tough nature tends to make it unpopular as a direclty useful edible species it can be used in small quantities, if shredded, to flavour stir-fires where it imparts an interesting peppery taste. Indeed, it used to be collected in large quantities in Scotland where it was dried and used as a pepper substitute.

Below is a classic Scottish recipe for a Scotch Broth variant that's flavoured with dried pepper dulse:

Scotch Broth with Pepper Dulse

1kg scrag end of lamb or neck fillet
50g washed pearl barley
3 medium carrots, cubed
2 medium onions, cubed
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 swede, cubed
200g baby turnips, cubed
3 leeks, shredded
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
1 sprig thyme (wild thyme in the original)
2 tbsp dried pepper dulse, ground, to season
sea salt, to taste

Trim any excess fat from the meat, then place in a large heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and begin skimming any fat the raises to the top. Once the surface is clear replace any lost water, bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the pearly barley. Add the vegetables, thyme and pepper dulse and cook for a further two hours. The broth can be served immediately, but actually tastes much better the following day. At this point you can add fresh greens such as peas, french beans, new potatoes, broad beans etc. Cook for 20 minutes then adjust the seasonings to taste and serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Scotch Broth with Pepper Dulse Recipe from the Celtnet Guide to Edible Seaweeds collection.

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera, is a fairly common parasol-shaped mushroom typically found on well-drained soils that fruits from August to November and often forms fairy rings.

This is a very large mushroom that resembles a woman's parasol (hence the name). The cap is never less than 8cm in diameter and may reach up to 40cm. They are also ideal for drying and re-constitiute in water particularly well and they have a pleasant, nutty aroma. They are a very sought-after edible mushroom and the firm texture makes them ideal for a wide range of culinary uses. They are also good eaten raw.

Care should be taken, however, not to confuse smaller specimens of Parasol Mushrooms with the Shaggy Parasol mushroom.

The recipe presented below is for a classic starter of Parasol Mushroom fritters.

Parasol Mushroom Fritters

4 large, open capped, Parasol Mushrooms
50g plain flour
1 egg
125ml milk
pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed fresh herbs, chopped
black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter, melted
oil for deep frying

Wipe the mushrooms clean, remove the stems then cut into quarters and set aside.

Beat the egg and milk together until smooth then add the flour and beat to a smooth paste. Season and add the butter and black pepper.

Dust the mushrooms with flour then dip in the batter and immediately deep fry in hot oil (at least 180°C) cook until nicely browned then drain on kitchen paper and serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Parasol Fritters Recipe from the Celtnet Guide to Edible Mushroms and Fungi.

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 'P' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'P', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.

Friday 22 July 2011

Vegetable and Chocolate Loaf

With young root vegetables just starting to come into season (and being at their sweetest), today I am posting a rather unusual, but delicious, recipe to use these vegetables.

There is a long tradition of using sweet root vegetables to prepare sweet cakes and pies. They marry well with sugar and with chocolate and give you a moist cake with considerable lasting power.

Beetroot is one of my favourites, as it gives an intense colour (the recipe below is for a Beetroot and Chocolate Loaf, but carrots and sweet potatoes also work well.

Beetroot and Chocolate Loaf


240g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
120g caster sugar
pinch of salt
90g dark chocolate (at least 80% cocoa solids), melted
90g butter, melted

120g beetroot, peeled an grated (raw is the best, but whole, pickled, baby beetroot can be used)
2 eggs, beaten


Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Meanwhile place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and set over a pan of lightly simmering water to melt. When melted stir to combine then add the sugar and grated sweet potatoes. Lightly whisk the eggs and add the chocolate mix to this. Stir the egg and chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter then turn into a well-greased 1kg loaf tin.

Place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 50 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then tip onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

If you have enjoyed this recipe, then you can find more traditional and modern cake recipes here.

Monday 11 July 2011

The Demise (and Rise) of British Truffles

British Truffles

It's little known today, but the rather unassuming British Summer truffle, Tuber aestivum was once the centre of a major industry.

This is a black truffle, about the size of a squash ball that's native to Europe. Though it's not as strongly flavoured as the more famous Perigord truffle, it is still flavoursome and is widely hunted for in France and Italy. Indeed, during the Victorian period it was much gathered and during its fruiting period (May to August in the UK) it was much gathered and hundreds of kg were collected for sale in major markets.

This is why Victorian chefs such as Charles Elmé Francatelli were so liberal in the use of truffles in their recipes. An example of this being Francatelli's recipe for d'Uxelles Sauce:


Chop fine the following ingredients in equal proportions, according to the quality of sauce required for present use: viz.—mushrooms, truffles, ham, parsley, and shalots; put these into a small stewpan with an ounce of scraped fat bacon, and stir the whole over the fire for six minutes; then add about half a pint of sauce, the juice of half a lemon, nutmeg, pepper, and salt, a good pinch of sugar, and four yolks of eggs; stir again over the fire to set the eggs, and use the d'Uxelles as herein directed.

Blow is a Modern Redaction of this recipe:

Francatelli's d'Uxelles Sauce

60g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 truffles, finely chopped
60g ham, finely chopped
4 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
60g shallots, finely chopped
45g bacon fat
300ml brown sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
generous pinch of sugar
salt, freshly-ground black pepper and freshly-grated nutmeg, to taste
4 egg yolks


Melt the bacon in a pan, add the mushrooms, ham, parsley and shallots. Fry gently for about six minutes, or until lightly browned then add the sauce, lemon juice, sugar and seasonings. Bring to a simmer then take off the heat.

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and, whilst whisking constantly, add the add about a ladle of the sauce to temper the eggs. Pour the tempered egg mix back into the pan and whisk to combine. Set over low heat and continue to cook until thickened. Take off the heat and serve immediately.

Over 60 years ago, the British truffle industry died out and interest in British truffles withered away. However, with summer truffles retailing for £120 per kg there is now renewed interest in this fungus and truffle hunting dogs are being imported from Perigord and Italy to hunt these black gems.

Indeed, recent dry summers seem to have been beneficial for Summer Truffles and some dedicuous forests (those with alkaline soils on a bed of chalk and a preponderance of beech) are generating hundreds of kilograms of these fungi, generating renewed interest in these native culinary delights.

If you would like more information about edible mushrooms, then check out the Celtnet Edible Mushroom Guide.

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.

UPDATE! The complete text of Francatelli's Cook's Guide has been edited and published!

This recipe and over 1000 other recipes published in Francatelli's 1661 'The Cook's Guide and Housekeeper's and Butler's Assistant' has been published in eBook format. The complete text and all images from Francatelli's book has been re-edited and made available with an introduction and new biography. You also get essential Victorian recipes for basic pastries and store sauces that are needed to re-create Francatelli's recipes but which Francatelli himself did not publish.

In addition over 100 of Francatelli's recipes, including all the Reform Club recipes have been redacted and published as a separate chapter so that a modern cook can copy them. Using these recipes and the additional Victorian recipes provided you can re-create all of Francatelli's dishes from scratch.

So why not re-create a Victorian dinner party, or a Victorian Christmas meal as described by Francatelli himself in his Bills of Fare? Learn why Francatelli is one of the most well respected of the Victorian cookery writers and get a copy of his book for yourself today.

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