Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday Afternoon (Peasant) Soup - Nettle, Wild Garlic, Sorrel and Horseradish

Wild Garlic, Wild Sorrel, Water-Mint, Nettles and Horseradish.

On a late May Sunday afternoon, a wind blustering round the house and all pretence at Summer waned; the rugs beat (for when better to do it than when the wind does it for you); the cupboard bare (for it is Summer, and one had planned to live off scant homepicked salads Summer long), except for an onion, a few mouldering potatoes… the weather calls for une bonne Soupe Paysanne or "Peasant Soup".

The first obligation is to face the weather, to wrap up and go gather Nettles and whatever other wild greens suit your pallet.  I also picked a bit of Wild Sorrel and the last of the Wild Garlic, which has really come to an end.  I found some Water-Mint, but refrained from putting that in the soup, as it has rather a strong flavour, and I think better in tea than in food.  The Dandelion leaves are large at present, grandiose almost, quite the most billowing leaf around it would seem, but I held back simply because they are bitter, and with the sharp taste of the Sorrel I thought it might be a bit much.  I then grabbed a large handful of Garden Herbs and returned to the haven of the kitchen.

Second, to pour yourself a tumbler of a very unpretentious French red, to give-in to the spirit of the affair, then grab a pan and a wooden spoon. 

This morning trying to revive the Rhubarb patch, quite marauded by Ground Elder, I came across a different root, twisting and thick, with a sweet smell - Horseradish, of course! So I added this to give the soup a bit of a kick.

I understand the art of a Soupe Paysanne to be the chunky texture, the vegetables are cooked, but not falling to pieces, the broth is hot and salty, and the meal, although simple is sustaining and satisfying… don’t therefore waste time with pernickety chopping.  Let the Herbs be whole branches, the Onion coarse, the Potatoes chunky… and throw in the Nettles, stems and all.


Chop an Onion and sweat in Butter or Olive Oil, according to preference.  I used Butter with a drop of Oil to prevent it burning.  Add a few whole Garlic Cloves and several finely chopped Wild Garlic Leaves.  Stir, then add Potatoes cut into chunks.  Cover the lot in Water, adding the grated Horseradish (to taste) and a handful of Garden herbs (Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, a pair of Bay Leaves).  Bring to the boil.  Allow to simmer gently, adding the cooked Beans (I cook these separately, in this case I used Butter Beans, but any will do) when the potatoes are about halfway cooked.  Once the potatoes are nearly done add the Sorrel and Nettles, letting them wilt, the Sorrel will turn khaki, the Nettles should retain their vivid green colour.
Season with Salt, Pepper and Tamari. 

The soup is very sustaining as it is, but it can be made more comforting with a handful of Salt and Pepper Croutons and some Grated Cheese.

I made the Croutons using Stale Bread, Olive Oil, Chunky Sea-Salt and Black Pepper, and grated Mrs Temples’ Walsingham cheese on top of the soup, a local interpretation of Cheddar.

Curl up with your Bottle of Wine by the Wood Burner and eat the Soup leafing through Elizabeth David, or watching dishy Jean-Paul Belmondo in a Sunday afternoon movie…

Sunday Morning, A Basket of Strawberries

A blowy bike trip this morning has the basket full with the Sunday Papers and these beautiful Strawberries 
from a favoured roadside stall.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Pickled Beetroot, The Frugal Meal

This is a house of pickles.  Our breakfast, a poached local egg, (be it Chicken, Duck or even Turkey), a slice of Rye Sourdough and a Pickle of sorts, perhaps a spicy home-made Sauerkraut, Sweet Pickled Cucumbers, a briny Green Chilli… whatever sits beckoning on the dedicated shelf… an apparently frugal meal is in fact a feast.

Poached Turkey Egg on Sourdough with various Pickles

Gifted or gleaned the veg box is also often brimming. And fed up with several weeks of watching some once very fetching beetroot shrivelling, I decided yesterday to pickle them… in a month’s time these will provide a welcome variation on the breakfast table. 

Boil up: 50ml Apple Juice, 100ml Cider Vinegar, 100ml Balsamic Vinegar, 1/2tbsp Demerara Sugar, 6 peppercorns, 6 cloves, 1 tsp brown mustard seeds, I tsp coriander seed.

Add grated remains of 5 shrunken beets and ½ in. grated Root Ginger.  Bring to the boil again, then pot rapidly in sterilised jar with a pair of bay leaves, covered in the vinegar mix.  Allow at least a month to mature.

Eat Pickled Beetroot with: Goat's Cheese, serve with Mackerel to cut through the oil, with Pates and Rich Meats to give some bite or, simply, with a spoonful of yogurt on a bowl of Lentils.

This pickling Recipe can be used as a basis for pickling many a vegetable.  You might want to replace the Apple Juice with Orange or skip it all together, and although the Balsamic goes well with Beetroot, in a conventional pickle I would use a simpler Vinegar, such as Cider.

Other Pickle Recipes:  A Pickled Pear ; Pickled Gooseberries

 Le repas frugal, Pablo Picasso

Friday, 20 May 2011

Not-Quite-Raw Sour-Milk Soft Goat’s Cheese / Home-Made Herby Labneh

This is a creamy, dreamy cheese.
The sublimeness perhaps dependent on Fielding Cottage’s sublime Raw Goat’s Milk.  For lack of fridge the milk turned rather quick and, as has become habit on such (all-too-common) occasions, I put myself to the task of making Sour Milk Soft Cheese.

Despite uncertain glances at the souring milk all too-readily put to use, Mary Norvak in The Farmhouse Kitchen has quite obliged me:  To make cheese, she writes unabashed: “Put sour milk in a warm place until thick.  Add half teaspoon salt to each pint of milk.  Put into a muslin bag and leave to drain over night”. 

I combined this with Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Labneh with Olives, Pistachios and Oregano Recipe’ (a tear-out from The Guardian Weekend 10th October 2009, but I imagine it now features in his latest book: Plenty.)


Scald the Sour Goat’s Milk so it splits (this speeds up the process), without boiling.  If your milk is not sour you can split it with ½ tbsp of vinegar. Allow to cool slightly and combine with a similar quantity of Natural Yoghurt and 1 tsp of good salt to pint of milk.  Strain through muslin for several hours or overnight. 

(The resulting liquid is Whey.  This can be used in bread as I am reminded by Linda of withknifeandfork, or in Lacto-Fermentation, as it abounds in Lactobacilli.  I actually used it in Buckwheat Pancakes… I shall tell anon).

And there, in the muslin sits the lovely soft cheese.  The yoghurt gives it a creamy texture and a sharp depth of flavour sometimes absent in DIY cheeses.  Inspired by Ottolenghi, I combined the Soft Cheese with a mix of Palestinian spices I had to hand (Toasted Sesame, Syrian Marjoram, Sumac), some finely chopped Oregano from the garden, and Olives. 

Douse the cheese in Olive Oil and serve for breakfast with just-baked Flat Bread, more Olives and Black Coffee.
Dream yourself into the Middle-East.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Birthday Banquet, and Norfolk Black Turkey Egg n’ Nettle Quiche with a Spelt Pastry.


Tea and Wholemeal Honey Cake (as per River Cottage Everyday), an Amelia variation.
HomeMade Hummus and Peter’s Yard Crackerbreads
Sardines and Asparagus bathed only in Balsamic and Olive Oil, placed thus, dripping onto the fire.
Wild-Garlic-Pesto Bread – a simple white Flat Yeast Bread rolled, risen and baked with the last scrapings of the Garlic Pesto.
Rosemary Foccacia (as above, but with Rosemary and Sél de Guérande)
Mandy’s Garden Salad: Sorrel, Ground Elder, Mint, Lettuces, Red-veined Sorrel (oh glorious!), Marjoram, Chive Flowers
Andy and Nick’s beauteous salady concoctions in equally beauteous bowls.
Norfolk Cordial’s Rhubarb and Elderflower Jelly-in-a-Jug
Coffee-Chocolate Mousse

And a Quiche…

I of course failed to take pics, ‘til the following day.  One only, of the remains of the quiche, kindly taken by Sophie Goodenough.

Norfolk Black Turkey Egg n’ Nettle Quiche with a Spelt Pastry.

Amidst the jewels at our multifarious roadside stalls: half a dozen Norfolk Black Turkey Eggs, mottled beige, larger than a duck’s and almost pointed.  So for the birthday cook-up we put our coins in the tin and took them home.

Amelia made a scrumptious wholemeal Spelt Pastry (Letheringsett Mill Wholemeal Spelt Flour, Cold Butter, Cold water)… and blind-baked it.  We then fried up half an onion in butter, added a large bowl of Nettle-Tops, Dandelion Leaves, Radish tops, rinsed… and let them wilt in the butter.  To bulk up the tart we split a few asparagus lengthways and laid them in the base.  Then, we beat four Turkey Eggs with crème fraiche, salt and pepper.  Tossed the filling together and poured in on top of the asparagus, to be then baked at about 180C for forty minutes.  And what a dreamy rich and sustaining quiche ‘twas, even providing a substantial morning-after breakfast.

"That tart was delicious! 
I wanted to dive into the picture and eat some..."
Photo by Norfolk photographer and designer Sophie Goodenough (@sophiegoodas)