Sunday, 27 October 2013

Hogweed tempura with roasted Chestnut satay

  Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) shoots are a great hedgerow veg, one of the best even, and very versatile.  They can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, fried in butter, deep-fried...the list goes on (though I must say I don't find them particularly pleasurable raw).  One of my favourite ways is to deep-fry them in a light tempura batter and serve with a dip, in this case a roasted Chestnut satay - perfect finger food for starters.

I was wary when picking Hogweed for the first time as I'd read so many disturbing accounts of poisoning and/or burning from Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), it really is a very nasty invasive species.


- Giant Hogweed is highly phototoxic and the sap causes phytophotodermatitis in humans, resulting in blisters, long-lasting scars, high sensitivity to UV light and blindness if in contact with eyes.

- Please see this information on how to treat your skin when if coming in to contact with Giant Hogweed;


Although due care and attention should obviously be exercised when picking Hogweed, it is actually very simple to tell apart the giant and common when fully grown, as the Giant Hogweed grows far taller with much thicker stems (see picture below).  However, confusion between the two species may arise when Giant Hogweed is in its infancy or has been cut back, and so is a similar size as Common Hogweed.  Despite this, if you look for key characteristics that distinguish the two species you'll be absolutely fine, and able to spot them apart from quite a distance.

For a great online ID document, please click here ->  Hogweed/Giant Hogweed Identification

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum):

The mum and dog in front of some very poisonous Giant Hogweed 

Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium):

Hogweed shoots first appear around March/April time and persist naturally until June/July, that is unless the plant is cut back.  Hogweed pruning is a great way to increase the picking season - the shoots in this recipe were picked on 22nd October, but were still around well in to November/early December.  I can't claim to have pruned these plants myself, it was more the work of the local park authority, but I'm glad they did!


Some people are sensitive to Hogweed, myself being one of them - if I have been picking Hogweed shoots and happen to rub my face, I can feel a slight warming of the areas touched - a similar feeling as a hot chilli being rubbed on bare skin.  This warming soon disappears and I have never really thought anything of it, however, if you have particularly sensitive skin or are picking large quantities, it would perhaps be advisable to wear gloves when picking Hogweed shoots.

Common Hogweed flower heads. Photo taken 30/05/12

Photo taken 30/05/12

Perfect for the plate. Photo taken 22/10/14

Pick only the young vivid green shoots
Hairy stem - not spiky like Giant Hogweed.  Although the stem has a red tinge, it
doesn't have red blotches, which is a telltale sign of Giant Hogweed. 

New shoots coming up from a cut back plant. Photo taken 22/10/14

Look at the base of the plant for the new shoots

Hogweed leaf structure - a darker colour, smoother and more rounded than
Giant Hogweed

Flowering in October

Chestnut / Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa): 

I'm sure this needs no introduction for most people, but here's a few pointers anyway.  Make sure you're not picking Horse Chestnuts (conkers) - these have shells with few soft green spines, whereas Sweet Chestnuts have extremely dense spikes on their outer shell.  These are delicious eaten raw - once peeled, make sure you scratch away the bitter outer skin using a knife, it really does ruin the taste.

When cooking tempura Hogweed, it is better to pick the more unfurled, leafy shoots, as there is more surface for the batter to stick to, making them much crunchier and more satisfying to eat.  The smaller shoots are probably better when using as a veg (i.e. steaming / cooking in butter). See pic below for the difference. 

How to roast a Chestnut:

- Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
- Cut a cross in the skin - easiest way is to lay the Chestnut flat side down and score the curved side, stops them moving around this way.  If you don't score them they will explode in the oven.
- Once scored, lay Chestnuts on a baking tray and put in the oven for around 30/40 minutes - until the inside is golden

Unfortunately the prep has only just begun, as you now have to sort the sweet inner Chestnut from the tough outer shell, be warned, this can take some time and you'll get Chestnut pulp all up your fingernails - not nice (but worth it). 

Roasted Chestnuts after 35 minutes in the oven

Chestnut satay ingredients:

- Roasted and peeled Chestnuts
- Red onion
- Garlic
- Veg oil
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Chilli powder
- Salt and Pepper

In a saucepan sweat off the onion and garlic. After the onions are soft, add the Chestnuts, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp chilli powder and a generous glug of veg oil.  Cook this through for 5 minutes, if it dries out, add more oil or water, depending on how it is tasting. Season and adjust quantities soy/fish sauce/chilli if necessary - if it's too sweet add some lemon juice.  Once you're happy with the taste, blend in a food processor to required consistency, again, add oil/water to adjust this.

Tempura batter ingredients:

- 200ml of lager
- 50g of plain flour
- 50g of cornflower
- Pinch of salt

Firstly, heat up some cheap oil in a pan for deep frying.  Test regularly with a small piece of bread - if it fizzes and turns brown in around 45/60 seconds your oil is the correct temperature, turn it down.  If it starts smoking or cooks the breadcrumb too vigourously, take off the heat to cool and repeat breadcrumb test.  Mix ingredients in a bowl and coat the Hogweed shoots in batter.  Don't worry if the batter seems thin, it'll still crisp up. In fact, I think a thinner batter works better with this - you still want to be able to taste the Hogweed.  Once coated simply lower in to the oil and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool on some kitchen paper.  Once cool, scoop a load of roast Chestnut satay up with the crispy tempura Hogweed and enjoy!

Hogweed tempura with roasted Chestnut satay

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

'shroom update

No recipes in this post, just some pictures of my most recent edible fungi finds.  Check it out;

Hedgehog Mushroom / Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum):

Hedgehog Mushrooms often grow in clusters or long strings
The tell-tale spines of the Hedgehog Mushroom make it one of the safest mushrooms to pick and eat

The Hedgehog Mushroom is one of the best edible mushrooms and is occasionally found demanding high prices in markets, though often under the French name, 'Pied de Mouton' - meaning 'mutton's foot', as the cap supposedly looks like, you guessed it, the foot (or should that be hoof?) of a sheep.

Terracotta Hedgehog (Hydnum rufescens):

Terracotta Hedgehogs growing in a long line under Beech and Pine

 The Terracotta Hedgehog is not as tasty as the Wood Hedgehog, but still basket-worthy if found in profusion.

Trumpet Chanterelle (Cantharellus tubaeformis):

The Trumpet Chanterelle is a great edible mushroom, and, like the Hedgehog Mushroom, is also a staple of wild mushroom market stalls.   It is usually not too difficult to collect these funghi by the basket load, but it can sometimes be tricky to locate them in the first place, that is until you have got your eye in - once you have seen one or two, you need only look carefully around you and the chances are that the forest floor will be covered in them.

Trumpet Chanterelles are very well camouflaged, even when you are standing right on top of them.
I count over 70 mushrooms in this patch of leaf litter.

Once you get to ground-level, the yellow stems span for as far as the eye can see

Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa):

 Hen of the Woods growing on a moss covered tree stump. Taken on an iPhone

This mushroom has a flesh that retains its firm texture after cooking, making it perfect in stews (see previous post), though it is equally at home in a creamy sauce served with pasta.

A fine young specimen

Fairy Ring Champignon / Scotch Bonnet (Marasmius oreades): 

Although they may not look like much, the Fairy Ring Champignon is, in my opinion, one of the best edible mushrooms out there - it has a wonderfully rich, nutty flavour.

These funghi are the scourge of lawn-lovers, often leaving a dark ring of grass after the fruit bodies have disappeared 

Porcelain Mushroom (Oudemansiella mucida):

I had never eaten Porcelain Mushrooms before gathering the ones shown in the pictures here.  They are extremely slimy and although I tried to wipe off the majority of the slime, it persisted through the cooking process (I just fried them in butter) and I can't say they were that great, in fact, I would go so far as to say they were quite unpleasant - perhaps I need to give them a second chance, or perhaps I should just stick to other more tried-and-tested 'shrooms

Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius):

White Saddle (Helvella crispa):

In Roger Phillips' book 'Mushrooms', he states that the White Saddle is edible, but poor.  I would disagree, although it doesn't have a strong, mushroomy flavour, the texture is firm and quite pleasant.  As its appearance is so very strange, I think it would be a great mushroom to put in a risotto for that bit of extra jazz.

The Prince (Agaricus augustus):

A very tasty edible mushroom - I just hope the inhabitants of this grave didn't mind me leaning over and picking them!

Snowy Waxcap (Hygrocybe virginea):

Care must be taken when picking this mushroom as the deadly Fool's Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa) and the poisonous Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata) could be mistaken to those not in the know. However, if you are completely confident that what you have found is a Snowy Waxcap, then I would strongly recommend picking them, as they are quite tasty!

Pink Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis):

Although the Pink Waxcap is an edible species, I must point out that I did not pick any of the specimens here, as they are on the endangered species list.  I have included them merely for their pink majesty and beauty.

An older specimen