Vampires and wild garlic…!

Today we have a lovely guest blog from my foraging writer friend from Pembrokeshire, Julia Horton-Powdrill. I know I have written about wild garlic before, but its arrival every spring is always so wonderful that I don’t think there’s any harm revisiting it…

“I know everyone is probably already fed up with wild garlic otherwise known as ramsons (allium ursinum), but it is one of the most available and exciting ingredients around at the moment in Pembrokeshire – and Devon! To preserve wild garlic put 500g clean dry wild garlic leaves in a food processor with 500ml olive oil and blitz. Store in lidded jars in your fridge where it will last for ages (I have some from last year which I am still using). Every time I take some out I top up the jar with a little more olive oil. This garlic flavoured oil is useful on its own to drizzle a little emerald colour onto salads, soups, etc.

Remember that you can eat the whole plant, the bulbs, flowers, seeds and stem as well as the leaves and if any of you are suffering from vampire problems, wild garlic will keep them away! Of course if you eat lots of it there is the distinct possibility that it will keep everyone else away too….

Wild Garlic has been used to treat asthma and other respiratory disorders and during the Middle Ages the herb was instrumental in treating cholera and in preventing the plague. Fresh juice from the small bulbs was also an important wound dressing and they were chewed to aid breathing and to treat digestion and intestinal gas.

This altogether stinky plant has regained popularity and it is always wonderful to see the bright green leaves coming through to herald the onset of spring. As the season wears on these plants, which favour damp and woody areas, produce beautiful white star-like flowers and can often carpet a woodland floor along with the bluebell. Together they make a wonderful sight although the smell of garlic overpowers everything else!”

Here’s a lovely veggie recipe for you to try – a delicious aubergine dip. Happy foraging!

Julia

BABA GHANOUSH WITH WILD GARLIC

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons wild garlic preserved in olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas mark 6. Lightly grease a baking tray.
  2. Cut aubergine in half and place cut-side down on oiled baking sheet. Roast it for approximately 30 minutes or until soft.
  3. Cool slightly then scoop out flesh into food processor along with other ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Chill in fridge before serving.
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Brilliant barbecuing!

As I sit here shivering in an unseasonably cold April, I find myself hoping that May will be a glorious month – it very often is in this part of the world. I am hoping that by the second, if not the first, May Bank Holiday, we might be in a position to start thinking about a barbecue on the patio…

I have got numerous books of recipes for barbecues but so often, a successful barbecues is about HOW you cook the food and not so much what it is! We have all been subjected to charred sausages that are still raw in the middle and chicken so tough you can’t even cut it… so to avoid these mishaps, here are a few top tips:

If you are using wooden skewers always soak them well in water before use… otherwise, not surprisingly, they tend to catch fire!

Don’t forget you can marinade vegetables too!Use marinades on your meat. This not only helps with flavour and helps keeps the meat moist, it also protects food on the grill from the intense and temperatures of the barbecue grill.

If you have forgotten to marinade meat overnight, or it’s a bit of an impromptu event, you can speed things up by popping the meat or fish in a plastic bag with the marinade, seal and give it a good massage for a few minutes then place in the coldest part of the fridge for around 30 minutes.

Vegetarians often get a raw deal (no pun intended) when it comes to barbecues, but don’t forget vegetables, even fruit, can also be marinated and cook well on the grill.

One of the biggest failures for the barbecue chef is everything sticking to the grill and burgers and fish falling apart and disappearing through the bars into oblivion. Make sure that the grill-bars are well oiled and turn meat or poultry once to sear and then once more to cook through. Do not keep fiddling with it and turning food as this removes it from the heat and delays cooking.

Oh dear. Absolutely NOT what you want to see!Do not try and grill too quickly as, we have all experienced at some time… this will result in food burnt on the outside and undercooked in the middle.

Burnt food on the barbecue is a real ‘no no’ and has been proven to be a bit of a health hazard. However, do ensure that all food, particularly poultry, sausages and burgers are cooked through… or that is a health hazard too!

Remember to remove food at the end of the grilling process and leave to cool or rest for a few minutes before serving. The meat will be more tender and any metal skewers won’t be burning hot!

 

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Vintage Lily of the Valley Card

It fascinates me how you can twist the look of a card just by changing the colour. If this design had been made in vibrant greens and say electric blue or neon orange it would have looked horribly contemporary. I just love the soft gently vintage look, I find it so restful and professional looking. Probably no sane reason for that, just personal taste but hey ho! Not long till the real lily of the valley appear in my garden – yay!

Ingredients:

Steps:

  1. Print out two co-ordinating backing papers from the CD. Cut a piece of leaf design paper to measure 14.5cm square and fix to the card blank.
  2. Cut a strip of the second paper to measure 14.5cm by 5.5cm and mat onto Kraft card. Fix on the left side of the card as shown.
  3. Cut a strip of cream card 3.5cm by 14.5cm and glue over the backing paper panel.
  4. Die cut the border in Kraft card and glue over the cream strip.
  5. Die cut an oval from cream card and mat onto a scalloped edge oval. Fix on the right hand side of the card.
  6. Die cut the lily of the valley several times from cream card and colour the stems and leaves with the green pen. Use glue gel to create a 3D arrangement of flowers.
  7. Finish by adding the sentiment.
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Ahhh… April!

I do like it when April comes around, I really feel as if Spring is properly underway with the sun climbing ever higher in the sky and the evenings drawing out after the clocks change to British Summer Time.

It is the month that we see most of the plants and hedgerows bursting into life and the birds starting their annual courtship. April 14th is Cuckoo Day when their first call of the year is often heard, followed on the 15th by Swallow Day and the promise of long lazy days of Summer to come – we hope! But beware, April can always plunge us back into the dead of winter without any warning.

“March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers”, is a proverb we are probably all familiar with. But why do we get these classic ‘April showers’? One of the major reasons is the position of the jet stream. A band of very strong winds at around 30,000ft above the surface of the Earth, the jet stream controls the weather that we see on the ground.

High and low pressure systems are formed when the air in the jet stream speeds up or slows down. In early spring the jet stream starts to move northwards allowing large depressions to bring strong winds and rain in from the Atlantic. In one day the weather can change from springtime sunshine to winter sleet and snow.

April can bring all types of weather from sunshine to thunder, from fog and frost to mild muggy and drizzly days. The lowest April temperature for the United Kingdom is a dreadful minus 15°C on April 2nd 1917 in Cumbria – can you imagine?! And then again, it can become very warm with a record temperature recorded in London of 29.4°C on the 16th April 1949.

Cuckoo Day on April 14th is also St.Tiburtius’ Day – not a saint I have come across before. There is a very odd superstition that says if you hear the cuckoo sing on St.Tiburtius’ Day you should turn over all the money in your pockets, spit(!) and not look at the ground. If you do this and are standing on soft ground when you do it, you will have plenty of good luck. However, if you are standing on hard ground, the cuckoo’s call means bad luck. Um, I think I will pass on that one and just enjoy listening out for the cuckoo and its unique call.

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Whisky and Orange Marmalade

I am sure this really ought to be orange and whisky marmalade but it sounded so much more exciting this way round! We have had a slight dilemma recently as my late stepfather was too gentle and polite to tell us that he had virtually stopped drinking whisky and so, every time he was given yet another bottle by the children or grandchildren, he would hide it away in a cupboard! So we recently discovered eight bottles of Johnny Walker in the cupboard in their bedroom!

Now Richard is manfully trying to help and not waste it (yeah, right,Richard!) but as we are both trying to diet and improve our health, it will be a very long time before we wade through that many bottles. So I started looking around for recipes that would incorporate the whisky without being foolish with it. I found this one on the BBC Good Food site so a big ‘thank you’ to them! This marmalade is delicious and, of course, you could use different alcohol – Cointreau sounds good. I also wondered about swapping the fruit and perhaps trying Satsumas?

Ingredients
This makes about 10 one pound jars so you could halve the amounts

  • 1.3kg Seville oranges
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 2 ¼ kg granulated or preserving sugar
  • 450g dark muscovado sugar
  • 150ml whisky

Method
1. Place the whole oranges and lemon juice in a large preserving pan and cover with 2 litres (4 pints) water. If this is not enough to cover the fruit, put it in a smaller pan. If necessary, weight the oranges with a heat-proof plate to keep them under the water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for about 2 hours, or until the peel can be pierced easily with a fork.

2. Warm half of the white and dark sugar in a very low oven. Pour off the cooking water from the oranges into a jug and tip the oranges into a bowl. Return the cooking liquid to the pan. Leave the oranges to cool until they are easy to handle, then cut them in half. Scoop out all the pips and pith and add these to reserved orange liquid in the pan. Bring to the boil for 6 minutes then strain this liquid through a sieve into a bowl, pressing the pulp through with a wooden spoon; the result is high in pectin, which helps to ensure the marmalade has a good set.

3. Pour half this liquid into a preserving pan. Cut the peel into chunky shreds, using a sharp knife. Add half the peel to the liquid in the preserving pan with the warm white and dark muscovado sugars. Stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and bubble rapidly for 15-25 minutes until setting point is reached. Stir in half the whisky.

4. Take the pan off the heat and skim any scum from the surface. (To dissolve any excess scum, drop a small knob of butter on the surface, and gently stir.) Leave the marmalade to stand in the pan for 20 minutes to cool a little and to allow the peel to settle, then pot in sterilised jars, seal and label. Repeat for the remaining batch.

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