Posts Tagged ‘panini’

Musings on a fabulous day

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of the challenges from my save-the-world-in-a-day type books. Don’t worry, it’s not because I don’t want to be a world-saver anymore. It’s simply because some of the things I’ve been asked to do have spun off in different directions and I’ve gone with the flow and followed that new path, rather than leave things after a day and start a new thing.

I’ve started volunteering at a stately home on the river, which has been the best thing to come from following the book so far.

As Going Green by Simon Gear encourages people to avoid the air miles involved with supermarket shopping and grow your own etc, I decided to give this a proper go. So I got some thyme and some chives and decided I would start small and try turning my back garden into a mini farm. The continued cold weather hasn’t been a huge help, neither has the difficulty with finding a space in the garden where I can make a proper vegetable patch that will actually get the light. The best place for the patch only has sunlight for a short time and the other side, which gets more sunlight has tons of lavender plants, which we grow specifically to help the bees, as their numbers are declining.

I gave it some thought and remembered that when I was last at the farm, while I made sorrel soup, someone else was making nettle soup and Adrian, the chef, was talking about picking them and using them instead of the spinach as the cold weather meant the spinach hadn’t grown yet.

And so, thought I, I shall go and find some nettles! That is what they would do on the farm so that is what I shall do here. I will become… Madame Forager!

Off I went, with a bag and good intentions, to the river to pick nettles. I wrapped a tissue over my fingers to prevent stings, I looked for plants about two hands height and picked just the very top leaves, the younger, greener looking ones. And I felt like a real explorer, surviving off the plants in the jungle until I managed to find other human beings (in actual fact, I was surrounded by them, they were passing every minute and looking at me strangely, as I foraged away).

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At some point, a man asked me what I was doing and we had a long chat about food and how to eat nettles like spinach. He was walking to Ham House so we walked and talked and I ended up going in and looking around the kitchen garden there and admiring their lovely huge asparagus.

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With my nettles in a bag and a large amount of garden envy, I then headed to Twickenham to meet a friend for early dinner/late lunch. We didn’t really ever work out which is was so we plunged straight into panini time at an Italian deli before walking into Richmond to go to a little tea room near Richmond Green for a spot of cake and tea.

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While walking to the bus stop afterwards, I saw a neighbour on her way home so went over for a cup of tea and some nettle-related chat. Equipped with her advice about whether to wash my nettles and whether to keep the stalks on, I ventured back home to my kitchen to cook my first ever meal with foraged ingredients!

I chopped a potato or two, a leek, an onion and a few leftover oyster mushrooms and fried them in a little bit of butter. Then I added stock and cooked til the potatoes were soft. Then I destalked my nettles and put them in, cooking for another three minutes until the nettles had wilted a little. Then I took my whizzer to it and whizzed like my life depended on it.

And it was lovely. It stayed a really vivid bottle green and had a light fresh taste that only needed a hint of seasoning to bring it alive.

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The light isn’t too good on this picture so you can tell about the colour.

And that, my friends, was my first foraging experience. All in all, a success, I’d say. Anyone got any foraging experience and can advise me what to pick next? At the moment, I’m sticking to nettles because I don’t know sorrel well enough to identify it and I’m scared of the whole deadly mushrooms scene.

So I guess now you can just call me MADAME FORAGER! … if you want.