Written for The Echo newspaper and published on 12th April, learn about some fantastic foraging walks, courses, weekend escapes and lifelong learning courses to unleash your inner forager!
Necessity is the mother of invention, and having a garden full of different peas and beans means the creative streak is at peak these days! Broad Beans, or Fava Beans, are top of the menu at the moment. Serve them up with a nice Chianti, or some Feta – like in this simple salad!
I grew up eating Broad Beans – and hated them. But that was because we never did the double-podding – we were all about maximum fibre in our house, so the pods came off but the skins stayed on. Being an adult has at least some advantages, in that now I am prepared to sacrifice a small amount of additional food prep time to pod and skin my broad beans and the rewards are worth it.
Sweet, nutty, grassy Broad, or Fava Beans, especially when they are medium sized in their pods, are just wonderful eaten raw. But if this doesn’t sit right with you, (or if you are someone partial to a bit of gustatory fluctuation when it comes to beans), a quick blanch for a mere minute should help you get around this!
So aside from the time taken to double-pod your beans, the rest of this salad will be ready in about five minutes. I served it up with some Ras al Hanout spiced and BBQ’s chicken thighs with some potatoes and leaves from the garden too, but this also works well as a topping for sourdough crostini.
Ingredients (serves 2, scales up easily):
- 2 or 3 large handfuls of Broad Beans in their pods
- 125 g Feta cheese
- 25 g pine nuts, toasted (you could also use flaked almonds)
- 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced on the round
- 1 tsp sumac
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea Salt, Black Pepper
- 1 tsp of lemon zest and juice from 1/4 of a lemon
- Handful of herbs, roughly chopped: oregano and chive work well.
- Remove the beans from their pods, remove the skin. If the beans are small to medium sized and sweet, they can be eaten raw. Any bigger and I would recommend blanching for about a minute before refreshing in iced water. If the thought of eating raw beans isn’t for you, whatever the size of the bean, then do this too!
- Drain the beans, place into a bowl.
- Crumble over the feta cheese, add the spring onion.
- Toast the pine nuts (or flaked almonds) in a dry pan. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Sprinkle the Sumac over the beans and feta. Add a small pinch of sea salt (the feta will already be salty), and a grind of black peppercorns.
- Add the lemon zest and juice and a generous glug of EVO (about 1 tablespoon). Chuck in the herbs.
- Mix all together and serve.
Enjoy…with a nice glass of Chianti, maybe. Fuhfuhfuhfuhfuhfuh…!
A what? You might ask! Cobbler is better known in some parts of the UK but most popular in the US. They are distinct from a Crumble in the way the topping is put together, but essential Cobblers are a fruit base with a topping that is part biscuit, part crumble and part batter.
That probably isn’t helping you construct an image in your head, but what I can tell you is that they are universally lovelier than a crumble because of the copious amounts of butter!
It’s late summer, and that means late season rhubarb and the last of the summer strawberries: two flavours I absolutely adore together. And at this time of the year, Rhubarb has enjoyed a long, slow growing period and is blushing red right now after soaking up all that sunshine. If your rhubarb patch has been kept well-watered, they will be succulent too and not at all woody.
If you’ve been following my #GIY adventures over on my Instagram page, you’ll see I’ve been reveling in more time spent in the garden this year, and all that focused time means I am being treated to the most wonderful season of homegrown fruits and veggies. In fact, this year will be the first year I harvested from my rhubarb plant. After several years of neglect, a relocation to a larger pot, new soil and plenty of organic feed and water has reaped benefits. Knowing when to pick is always a matter of timing, so when I decided it was time to clip mine, coincided with the last of my delicious strawberries being harvested too! And Cobbler was on my mind!
My other favourite Cobbler combo is also another great seasonal pairing: Peach and Raspberry, for mid summer, or Peach and Blueberry for late summer. The point is, like a crumble, a Cobbler can be any mix of seasonal fruits you wish (apple and brambleberry, anyone?), so go with whatever you fancy!
- 4 stalks of blushing red rhubarb, cut into 2 cm pieces
- 250 g of strawberries, hulled and halved
- Dash of water
- 250 g all purpose white flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 250 g light Demerara sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 115 g butter, melted
- Whipped cream or ice cream to serve.
- Heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius, fan.
- Into a deep sauce pan, add rhubarb and dash of water. Cook over a medium heat until the rhubarb starts to break down a little – about 5 minutes. Add the strawberries to the rhubarb and stir gently to combine, cook for 1 minute, take the pan off the heat and set aside.
- Into a bowl place the flour, baking powder, sugar and egg. Mix together using your hand until everything comes together in a crumbly texture.
- Place the fruits into a deep baking dish and scatter the crumbly mix over the top.
- Melt the butter and drizzle all over the crumble mixture. Place immediately in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until crisp on top and the fruit is bubbling underneath.
- Serve hot from the oven and topped with some lightly whipped cream, or good quality vanilla ice cream.
Thanks to our never ending summer there is still loads of rhubarb knocking about, and this is probably one of the nicest ways to partake in it. This cocktail recipe was inspired by the Rhubarb Martini that my friend and all-round awesome chef, Caitlin Ruth, makes as Deasy’s Restaurant in the tiny village of Ring just outside of Clonakilty.
I would never profess to be as much a master at the art of cocktail making as she is, but I think that this is pretty damn good go! I’m using Gin as my martini base, but of course you could just as well swap this out for the classic vodka and vermouth combo. The other twist here is that I am using juice from raw rhubarb here so no cooking involved!
Ingredients (makes min 4 cocktails):
- Liquid from 1 bunch of rhubarb, trimmed, chopped, pulped and strained
- Per person: 50ml of Beara Ocean Gin
- Juice of 4 sweet oranges (Jaffa/Blood)
- 1 tbsp Sugar syrup / Agave syrup
- Vanilla Dusting Sugar
- Into a blitzer of some kind (smoothie maker, processor etc), add the chopped rhubarb and process until the rhubarb is completely pulped. You may need to add a dash of water to help this process along.
- Arrange some muslin/clean tea towel over a bowl or jug and spoon out the rhubarb pulp into the cloth.
- Gather up the ends of the cloth and pull tightly into a ball. Begin squeezing the juice out from the pulp into the bowl/jug. Get all the juice out, this might take a few minutes to do properly.
- Once all the juice has been gathered, decant into a large mason jar or a cocktail shaker. Add in the gin, orange juice and sugar syrup or agave and add plenty of ice.
- Prepare your cocktail glasses by running the empty orange segments around the top of the glass and then dusting with the icing sugar. Do this by placing some of the sugar onto a plate and dipping the glass rim into it. The orange juice will help it to stick to the rim.
- Shake the cocktail mix vigorously and then strain into the prepared glasses.
- Garnish with a small slice of orange and ENJOY!
It’s SUMMER! It might be a bit unpredictable and prone to extreme swings of temperature, but when in Ireland the only thing to do is to roll with it and pretend you’re on the Costa del Blah doing well on gas mark 7.
Summer equals ice cream. End of. I’ve never bothered to purchase an ice cream maker because in all my years of watching reality cookery programmes, when you positively absolutely must have them work they break down resulting in serving up a bowl of sweet, creamy soup. But, in recent years I have become determined to master the art of making no-churn ice cream that doesn’t taste like you’re eating a scoop of ice crystals. My successes have made it onto the blog (coconut ice cream, salted caramel ice cream), but failures caste into my cookery Room 101 never to be mentioned again.
A couple of weeks ago, I placed an order with the Wild Irish Foragers and Preservers for some of their amazing syrups: Gorse Flower, Rosehip (excellent for everything including keeping away the sniffles) and Elderberry Syrups. As with many things like this that I buy, I am purchasing more out of curiosity than anything else! A phase of experimentation will always follow with much excitement!
Now, the obvious thing to do with syrups is to throw it over homemade desserts, excellent ice cream and so forth. But as I admired the beautiful deep purple colour of the Elderberry Syrup, I decided I wanted to do something really rather grown up with it. If in doubt, make a cocktail!
Taking advantage of the late season blood oranges, vodka and the syrup I decided to mix up this simple but delightful concoction. What I would say is this, do what you can to get the vanilla sugar, and if you can’t find any simple put an opened vanilla bean pod into some golden caster or icing sugar and seal it in a glass jar. The mellow sweetness of the vanilla is very important to the overall success of this cocktail!
- 1 Martini Glass
- 1 super ripe and sweet blood orange, juice of
- 35ml of excellent quality vodka (we are using Irish measures here – don’t be afraid!)
- 15ml of Elderberry Syrup (buy it here)
- dusting of vanilla sugar
- Squeeze all the juice from the blood orange into a cocktail shaker
- Using the discarded orange skin, coat the rim of the glass with the remnants of the blood orange juice
- On a plate, pour out a little of the vanilla sugar and generously coat the rim of the cocktail glass (the orange juice helping to keep it in place)
- To the cocktail sugar add the vodka and Elderberry Syrup.
- Add a handful of ice cubes, put the lid on and shake furiously until all well combined.
- Pour into the glass, and add a garnish of orange peel.
- Sip, do your happy dance and repeat…