Monday, 12 May 2014

Spring salad of flowers

 With spring in full swing and summer on the doorstep there is an abundance of edible wild flowers everywhere you look at the moment, be it in hedgerows, fields, parks or front gardens. I made this a few weeks back, so you'd be hard pushed to find Cherry blossom, Primroses or Grape Hyacinths now, but there are plenty of alternatives still around, such as using Hawthorn blossom in place of the Cherry blossom - they both have a bitter almond taste.

I didn't use any Allium blossoms in this salad for fear of them overpowering the delicate flavours of the other flowers. The salad dressing was made from a mixture of Magnolia and Grape Hyacinth vinegars, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

Other edible flowers available at the moment are;

Gorse, Broom, Wisteria (rest of the plant is poisonous), Jack-by-the-Hedge, Ramsons, Three-cornered Leek, Hairy Bittercress, Ground-ivy, Fuchsias, Green Alkanet, Greater / Lesser Stitchwort, White Dead-nettle, Wood Sorrel, Hawthorn blossom, Elderflower, Vetch, Campanulas, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Pineappleweed etc

Cow Parsley / Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris):

Flowers have an aniseed-like taste. Beware of Hemlock (Conium maculatum), the very poisonous lookalike.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum):

A member of the mint family, steamed young leaves are also edible.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):

Pick the petals off the main flower head and sprinkle as a garnish.

Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis):

One of my favourite edible wild flowers - it's deliciously spicy. Grows abundantly in damp areas, be it by riverbanks, roadside ditches or in low-lying fields, like the picture below.

Yellow Archangel / Yellow Dead-nettle (Lamium galeobdolon):

Leaves have an unpleasant smell and taste, but this does not persist in the flowers.

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum):

Not a commonly eaten plant, probably due to the lack of any real flavour. All parts of the plant are edible. Most commonly consumed for medicinal purposes. 

Common Daisy (Bellis perennis):

A very common and easily identifiable flower with a distinct, pungent flavour. Hay fever sufferers be warned, eating Daisy flowers can trigger a reaction.

Cherry blossom (Prunus spp.):

Prunus spp. blossoms tend to have a bitter almond taste. I used the blossom of an ornamental Cherry (pictured below), Hawthorn and Sloe blossoms can also be used. A marzipan-like syrup can be made by pouring boiling water over the blossoms, leaving overnight, and then mixing with sugar over a low heat. 

Primrose and Grape Hyacinth (Primula vulgaris & Muscari neglectum):

Grape Hyacinths have an initial fragrant, floral taste which is followed by a slightly bitter one. Use individually as garnish or use to make a flavoured vinegar.


Magnolia and Grape Hyacinth vinegar:

To make flavoured vinegars, simply macerate the flowers for a few days in vinegar, preferably rice wine as the taste is cleaner and so will take on the flavour of the flowers better. Once macerated, strain the flowers out the vinegar, mix with olive oil, a dash of Dijon, salt and pepper. Adjust to taste. 


Friday, 2 May 2014

Venison jerky

 Curing and drying meat is an easy and delicious preservation method. Examples of this process can be found from all over the world; from jerky in North America to kilishi in West Africa, and from biltong in South Africa to bresaola in Italy.

Any cut of meat can be cured for jerky, but I'd argue that it would probably be a waste of sirloin were you to turn it in to jerky. My jerky was made from venison flank offcuts that I was given whilst working at a stag do at Hunter Gather Cook foraging and wild food school down in Lewes. I've been doing some freelance work for HGC since January this year and have thoroughly enjoyed it - they've got a great set up there, complete with a newly built double-decker treehouse! I couldn't recommend their courses enough, be it a seasonal day course or a stag do with a difference.

For more information, check out the link below; (click 'About > The Team' for my brief biog)

Jerky and biltong are not the same;

  • Biltong is traditionally cut thicker, so has a higher moisture content than jerky
  • Biltong is preserved in vinegar, jerky is cured in salt
  • Jerky is sometimes smoked, biltong never is

*As biltong has a higher moisture content it has a shorter shelf life: www.Jim' suggests 3 months for biltong and 6 months for jerky

A note on whether to cut with or against the grain:

When researching jerky recipes and drying techniques I found conflicting opinions on whether to cut with or against the grain of the meat. I think the reason for this stems from the method in which you dry your jerky;

  • If you are hanging it, it would be preferable to cut with the grain of the meat, particularly if it's a lean piece of meat - the strips have a tendency to fall apart if cut against the grain
  • If you are drying your jerky on a flat surface, either in a purpose-built dehydrator or just in a low oven, it would be preferable to cut against the grain as the meat tends not to fall apart and is easier to eat when cut against the grain (particularly when using a sinewy piece of meat such as the venison flank used here)


- ~20 pieces of venison flank
- 3½ tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp onion powder

Clean the venison pieces, trying to get rid of as much fat and excess skin as possible, as these will cause the jerky to spoil. Cut in to strips against the grain of the meat. Mix the venison with the rest of the ingredients and leave in the fridge overnight. Dehydrate at around 60/70ÂșC, turn when necessary (this can also be done in a low oven).

So what was it like? Mouth-wateringly salty, sweet, spiced, chewy goodness. It really is so simple to make and tastes a million dollars. Needless to say, this batch didn't even last the week...