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.

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