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  • Horseradish Greens

    I’m a huge fan of Horseradish. Like dill, just the smell of it makes me hungry and when you look at the medicinal benefits, they are both used to increase appetite!

    Before chillies were brought over from Portugal, it was horseradish that separated the men from the boys. It has a completely different heat to chillies – chillie heat sticks to the tougue with it’s potent barbs – horseradish heat comes from chemical compounds being crushed together and so affects your sinuses rather than your tongue! No surprise then, that horseradish has been used for centuries to cure sinus problems.

    During the 18th century, the most popular documented way to get rid of a sinus infection was to put 1/4 tsp of freshly grated horseradish on your tongue and ‘hold it in your mouth until all the flavour is gone’. It goes on to say that ‘this will immediately cut through the infected mucus and let it drain down the throat. This will relieve the pressure in your sinuses and help clear infection.’ ! I’ve never tried this remedy- it makes sense – but if you’ve ever peeled and grated fresh horseradish root, you’ll know that the smell affects your eyes and nose far more than any strong raw onions, so I think I’d only try it as an absolute last resort…

    Now’s the time for you to look out for horseradish growing wild. It’s easy to spot if you know what Dock leaves look like, they’re very similar. If you’re unsure, rip a piece of the leaf off and give it a smell. You’ll know immediately whether it’s Dock or Horseradish, the leaves have the same delicious fragrance as the root.

    Horseradish greens

    After the first few cold nights, the soft green leaves will rapidly turn brown and die back, which means that the leaf markers won’t be there any more. So when you’ve found your horseradish plant, make sure that you mark it with something like a painted stick or stone so that when you come back to dig up your root, if the leaves have vanished you’ll still know where to start digging.

    Horseradish Greens as a side dish

    Most people know that horseradish root tastes amazing with most roast or baked things (including roast beetroot – yum!), but what a lot of people don’t know is that the leaves of the horseradish are delicious too. Horseradish greens are an absolute delight prepared simply or used in a stir fry. They have an irony rich cabbage flavour, but are quite pokey with a horseradish mustardy taste.

    It’s best to select the newest leaves from the centre of the plant (the outer ones are completely edible, but tougher and more irony) and just take as many as you need for your dinner, they don’t freeze well.

    Pick and take home just the amount you’ll need for your dinner.

    Prepare them as you would spring greens, by cutting out any tough central ribs and chopping into pieces.

    Remove the central rib and cut into pieces

    Steam them for no longer than 5 minutes and then stir in a knob of butter, some salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg.

    If you’re new to Horseradish greens, it might be a good idea to mix them with a cabbage of your choice as an introduction to their amazing flavour. The next time you cook them – you’ll want them ‘neat’!

    Steamed Savoy cabbage and Horseradish greens

    You can also use the leaves as a wrapper for Dolmades or to wrap pre-cooked vegetables in a cheese sauce, or rice mixtures before being baked in foil in the oven. The Horseradish leaves impart a delicate flavour to their contents.

    If you’re only going to try one new thing during the next week, make it Horseradish Greens!

  • Home made butter, jam and vanilla scones – Jubilee food!

    As a child, I loved making butter, bread and growing cress to make every part of the cress sandwich that I was going to eat. I loved all of the processes and felt very clever when I sat there eating something so simple and so good!

    Butter making was my favourite bit. My Dad showed me how to make it with creamy milk, in a jam jar. We took it in turns to shake the jam jar until small, wet pearls of butter sat on top of the watery milk. Not much butter to go round, but it was delicious!

    This is a great project to do with your children during half term in readiness for your afternoon Jubilee tea!

    Butter making is a doddle with a food processor and from a large tub of double cream (which was in the reduced section at our local supermarket), we got a good amount of butter.

    Our butter, decorated with pretty Borage flowers

    How to make butter

    Pour the cream into the food processor and turn it on. You’ll hear it slosh around a lot and then all of a sudden the sound will change to a dull thud when the butter ball bumps onto the sides of the processor bowl. The liquid that has separated from the butter is buttermilk and this (handily!) can be used in scone making. Pour off the liquid and put to one side. We were going to use the butter straight away, but if you want to keep it for any length of time you need to wash the butter to remove every last trace of butter milk or it will quickly go rancid. To wash the butter just pour some very cold water (if the water is even slightly warm, you will melt the butter) into the processor bowl with the butter and process again for 15-20 seconds, strain and repeat the process until the water is clear.

    Scones

    Everyone has their own scone recipe and butter milk can be substituted in any recipe for the liquid that you would normally use. Our recipe is: sieve together 225g (8oz) self raising flour and 1tsp baking powder in a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor. Add 40g (1 1/2 oz) butter and either rub it in, or process until the butter has disappeared. Add 150ml (1/4 pt) buttermilk and 1tsp vanilla extract and pulse or stir gently until a soft, sticky dough is formed. You may need a little more or a little less buttermilk, depending on the flour.

    Tip out onto a floured surface and roll out to 2cm (3/4 inch) and cut out circles with a glass or a cutter. Put onto a baking tray lined with paper. Bake at 220C (425F) Gas 7 for about 10 minutes until golden and risen.

    Fresh from the oven.

    We made a very small amount of low sugar strawberry jam, which didn’t set very well but tasted heavenly! We kept the rest of it in a jam jar, in the fridge and used it on ice cream.

    If I had best china and a best teapot, we’d have got it out for this occasion! Instead we sat out in the garden with our wonderful cream tea and huge smiles on our faces!

    It seemed rude not to add the obligatory clotted cream – we didn’t make it though!

  • Friday’s Show & Tell (or what I bought from the shops today!)

    One of my passions home and abroad is looking in supermarkets/shops that cater for local communities. It’s an ideal time to have a chat with other Mums who are shopping to prepare family meals – there have been plenty of times that I’ve been invited back to their homes for a cup of tea and a chat, while they show me what they are making out of various ingredients that I’m not familiar with.

    I had a wander round our local shopping area this morning and came back to work to have a good, old fashioned ‘Show & Tell’ time!

    This kind of ‘Ready Steady Cook’ shopping makes you think outside of the box when it comes to deciding on dinner! Three of these ingredients (beef ribs, Bangladeshi Lemon and herbs) have come together to enable me to make a wonderful slow cooked Beef Shatkora Curry for tomorrow night – can’t wait… (recipe to follow)

    Bangladeshi Lemon (Shatkora)

    These are very similar to Kaffir Limes and if you can’t get hold of a Kaffir Lime if you’re making something like a Green Curry, you won’t go far wrong by using the skin of a Shatkora instead. They’re actually lemons, but you usually buy them unripe, like these. They eventually go yellow. Their fragrance is absolutely beautiful! The lady in the shop said that the smell reminds her of her Mum – they had a Shatkora tree in their back garden in Bangladesh and her Mum used to make a beautiful Lime Pickle with them. She says she’ll pass the recipe on to me!

    Soap Nuts?!

    I have absolutely no idea! I had to buy them though – I’ll let you know…

    Bunches of herbs

    Nothing overly unusual about bunches of herbs, but the substantial bunches that you can buy in Asian shops, compared to the feeble ones in supermarkets makes you realise that in other cultures, herbs are used as an essential part of the diet – not just as a garnish or as a mild flavouring.

    Beef Ribs

    A cut of meat that is coming back into fashion. Everyone uses pork spare ribs, but not so many people use the beef variety. They take a lot of cooking as you’d imagine, but for around £6 for all of this meat, it’s well worth the time spent slowly cooking them until they’re soft, silky and falling away from the bone.

    Errrrm – a type of herb!

    Last, but not least – this is a herb that you don’t see very often with a very off-putting name! It literally translates as ‘foul smelling thistle’, which I think is a little unfair! It’s otherwise known as Mexican Coriander and the taste is like very strong coriander. I reckon going into any shop and asking for a bunch of ‘Stinking’, is risky! It’s worth looking out for – once you’ve tasted it you’ll be back for more.

  • Fresh, juicy Ginger

    I’ve always appreciated fresh ingredients and know that the fresher they are, the better your cooking will taste. I go to the market once or twice a week, so that I can choose the best possible ingredients for the kits that we produce and I always look forward to going at this time of the year – not only because there are so many lovely fruits and vegetables in season right now, but also because of the new short season Brazilian Ginger.

    I excitedly brought some back with me yesterday morning. The first thing that you notice about it is that it’s much smaller than the regular Chinese ginger, the tubers aren’t as thick. It’s a lot more dense because it’s tightly packed with vibrant, hot lemony juice! It also has amazingly smooth, shiny skin.

    Another way to tell if you have Brazilian ginger is to cut into a piece. You’ll notice that the ginger either has a blue/grey tinge to it, or a blue ring just underneath the skin. This is why Brazilian ginger is sometimes called ‘Blue Ginger’.

    This marking should make you confident that what you’re getting is ginger at its very best – juicy with a beautiful hot, spicy flavour.

    We immediately celebrated with a cup of ginger tea! Add a teabag of your choice (one that you can drink without milk) to a cup of hot water and add as much sliced ginger to it as you can bear. Leave to steep for as long as possible and then enjoy.

    If you’re lucky enough to find one of these in one of our kits at this time of the year, you know that you’re in for a treat!

    www.haresmoor.co.uk

    www.ocado.com – search for Hare’s Moor

  • Foraged ribwort plantain and blackberry crumble

    It’s getting towards my favourite time of the foraging year – harvest! Just like an allotment, the fruits of nature’s labour are nearly ready to go out and pick.

    Last week end after a good bout of sunshine, the blackberries had started to ripen. Big, juicy ones this year because of the good watering they’ve had. It wasn’t long before we’d got a basket full – enough to make jam and a crumble with.

    We managed to find a few wild plums, but only enough to eat as a snack along the way. Sweet and sour all at the same time, just gorgeous!

    Lovely hedgerow snack!

    Plantain is readily available at this time of the year. When I was small, I liked to wind the stem around the more common Ribwort Plantain and pop the seed heads off to see who could get theirs to go the furthest!

    Ribwort Plantain

    The longer stems of the Greater Plantain weren’t so entertaining, but they hold the most seeds, so they were the ones that I used to pick to munch along the way!

    Greater Plantain

    It’s either of these plants that I turn to when I get stung rather than dock. Just peel a few of the ribs on the leaf down to extract some of the juice and rub it straight onto the sting. The pain and itching is gone before you count to 10. It’s a very easily recognised plant with prominent ribs running down the back of the leaves.

    Look for the long ribs down the back of the leaves of the ribwort family to identify it clearly.

    The leaves have been used for centuries to combat infection and aid healing. The most common way of using the leaves was as a ‘spit poultice’ which is exactly what it sounds like – take a leaf and chew it until it’s completely broken down before putting it directly on the wound! I’ve never tried this, but you never know – this information may come in handy one day!

    The young leaves can be cooked or used in salads, but today I was looking for the seed heads. The seeds are packed full of nutrients, essential oils and vitamins and are lovely eaten straight from the stem as a snack. If you can’t find any seeds on the stem, it may be that the birds have beaten you to it and it’s obviously important that you leave some for them!

    I wanted to gather enough seeds to roast and grind to add to the flour that I was making the blackberry crumble with. They’re also really yummy just added raw or toasted into biscuits or trail bars, or just thrown onto salads.

    Getting them off the stalks is quite tedious work, but it’s worth it when you taste the nutty difference that it makes to the crumble.

    Strip the stems and then place on a metal tray.

    Ribwort seeds stripped from the stems

    Bake in a hot oven for a few minutes and let the kitchen fill with their gorgeous peachy, biscuity smell. Keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn.

    Seeds golden from their toasting in the oven

    Empty them into a pestle and mortar and grind up.

    Finely ground in a pestle and mortar

    When making your crumble topping, just rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the ground seeds when you add the sugar. Any crumble recipe will do, just make sure that you take into account the weight of your ground seeds when weighing out your regular flour.

    The jam made a bit extra than the three jars I’d got ready for it, so I stirred the still runny jam into the blackberries before I baked the crumble.

    The crumble was nutty and golden from the ribwort, sweet and tangy from the juicy blackberries – I think I’m going to love autumn this year!

  • Flour Tortillas

    You will need:

    280g strong white bread flour (or plain flour)

    1/2 tsp salt

    3 tbsp oil (olive, rapeseed, sunflower)

    180ml water

    In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the oil and stir. Add 3/4 of the water,stir, then squeeze the dough with your hands to form a rough ball. If the dough seems dry, add some more of the water (and more if you think it needs any) You need a pliable dough but not sticky. Knead for 2 minutes to combine. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel for a couple of minutes.

    Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour and put a frying pan on a high heat to get nice and hot.

    Split your ball of dough into two, then split each of those pieces into 4, to make 8 pieces of dough. Roll one of the pieces into a ball shape inyour hands, then put on your floured worktop and squash slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll your piece of dough out as thin as you can get without it tearing. You might need to sprinkle some more flour on the dough as you work if it starts to stick. Put your rolled out dough into the pan and turn the heat down to medium.

    Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbles have formed all over the surface of the tortilla. Have a look underneath the tortilla to see if there is any colour appearing. When slightly browned, turn the tortilla over to cook the other side. Bigger air bubbles will start to appear. With a spatula, push down on the air bubbles gently to push them around. The idea is to get the whole tortilla to puff up!

    After 30-40 seconds check to see if the other side of the tortilla has browned. If one side has browned more than the other, you can flip them back over to cook the other side for another 30 seconds. Put the tortilla to rest on a piece of foil and cover to keep warm. If you’re tortilla didn’t puff up a lot, they may not be thin enough so you may need to roll the rest a little thinner. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

  • Fajitas

    Exciting times at Hare’s House – we have a huge box of dried Mexican chillies to play with! We’ve been selflessly trying out recipes for Fajitas for a couple of months now (it’s a tough job sometimes) and now we’ve all decided that they’re ready to fly the nest.

    If you like fajitas (who doesn’t?), your only option at the supermarket seems to be to buy a packet of hydrolised stuff with maltodextrin and ‘flavour’ and sprinkle it all over some chicken. Hardly traditionally Mexican, is it? Authentic Tex Mex food doesn’t involve sprinkling anything other than spices and herbs. I wanted to bring a kit to you that lets you experience some of the drama of proper Mexican cooking.

    Our new Mexican kits feature Tex Mex Chilli or Fajita. Both take a little more work than opening a packet and sprinkling, but both are authentic and much, much tastier! You will need 3-4 chicken breasts/steaks of beef or pork or vege equivalent such as 2 packs of paneer/Quorn/vegetables, 1 tblsp white vinegar (cider, white wine, rice wine, distilled), salt and sugar to taste.

    This is what’s in your Fajita kit

    First of all, dried chillies can be a little dusty so it’s good to give them a wipe with a piece of damp kitchen roll and straighten out the ancho as much as possible. Heat a dry frying pan/griddle/tava until hot and then put the dried chillies, fresh chilli and the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves that are in the kit, onto the pan. Press the dried chillies down onto the hot pan with a spatula, you may hear it crackle as the oils in the chilli are forced out.

    Turn the chillies over and do the same with the other side. You aren’t looking to cook the chilli, just briefly toast it. It will turn a lighter tan colour and shouldn’t take much more than a minute before it’s done. Don’t let them burn!

    Toasted ancho chilli, just starting to blister and turning a lighter shade of tan.

    Take the chillies out and leave them to one side to cool. Continue cooking the fresh chilli and garlic cloves until they are covered in black spots and well charred and soft. Put to one side to cool and then slip the skin off the soft garlic and remove any loose skin from the chilli.

    With a pair of scissors, cut the stems off the top of the chillies (taking care not to take too much of the chilli with the stalk) and then cut down one side of the chillies to reveal the seeds inside. Empty the seeds out and take out the inner membrane if you want to reduce the heat in the final dish.

    Cut both of the dried chillies into 2cm (ish!) squares and put into a small saucepan. Cover with boiling water and bring to the boil. Take off the heat, cover and leave for 15 minutes to soak and rehydrate.

    After 15 minutes, drain the chillies into a sieve and rinse with fresh water. Put into a mini chopper or similar along with the toasted garlic, 1 tblsp cider vinegar (any clear vinegar will do – rice wine, white whine, distilled or even lime juice), 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and the Mexican herb/spice pack. Process until smooth, adding a tiny splash of water if necessary. Taste. It should be a little too salty and hot (it’s got a lot of meat to flavour), the vinegar flavour will disappear when cooked. If it’s not hot enough, add some/all of the toasted red chilli to taste and process again until smooth. Taste again and add more salt/sugar if you think it’s necessary.

    You can bake/grill/fry your fajita. If you’re going to bake/grill, leave the chicken/steak whole. If you’re going to fry, cut the chicken/steak into strips. Either way, put into a large plastic zip lock/tie handle bag along with the chilli paste.

    Through the bag, massage the paste into the meat until thoroughly coated. Tie or zip lock the top of the bag and leave in the fridge for as long as possible – preferably overnight, but for at least 20 minutes.

    Grill/bake/fry as per instructions (if grilled or baked, slice the chicken/steak into strips before serving) and serve with whatever you like to eat with your fajitas: sour cream, pickled chillies, peppers and onions, grated cheese, guacamole (see my blog entry for Stef’s guacamole recipe), salsa (see my blog entry for a traditional toasted salsa) and soft flour tortilla.

    Seriously. What’s not to like?!

  • Elderflowers – folklore, uses and recipes

    Elderflowers are wonderful and quite underused nowadays. Their lovely frothy, creamy white flowers can be seen everywhere during June/July. If you decide to go and pick a few choose a lovely sunny day – elderflowers picked on a damp or rainy day will taste bitter and in some cases will develop a mould if you’re using them to make champagne. They love the sun as much as we do and on a sunny day will taste sweet and smell of Muscat grapes.

    I was always told that when the elder is in full flower summer has arrived and it ends when the berries are ripe. Maybe now that we only have a week of summer, it isn’t as true as it seemed when I was a child!

    I was also taught that you should give a respectful nod to the Elder as you walked past and when you understand why it has always been held in such high esteem, you can see why it commands such respect – not only for its usefulness, but also its musky fragrance. It was believed that if you fell asleep under an elder tree when in flower, you’d never wake up as its scent was so intoxicating! It was used for a great many things apart from the uses we still know about (flowers and berries) – musical instruments were made from it’s wood, as the central part of the stems contain a woolly substance that is easy to push out and so leaves you with a perfect pipe. No small boy would have been without his Elder Pea Shooter! The leaves if bruised don’t smell very nice and because of this they were bruised and put around delicate or precious plants to deter mice and prevent insect invasion. They are also said to ward off midges and biting insects and so people used to rub the leaves on their skin to prevent them from being bitten. It’s leaves and roots were used as dye. The fungus that traditionally grows on Elder is called Jew’s Ear or Jelly Ear Fungus – it has the shape and texture of a human ear! It’s perfectly edible, but is more popular in China than in Europe but was used centuries ago as a medicine. It seems such a shame that we’ve forgotten about nearly all of Elder’s uses.

    Jew’s Ear fungus or Jelly Ear as it’s called now

    A basket full of elderflowers

    Elderflowers can be eaten straight from the bush – the pollen that collects on them is sweet, while the flowers themselves are tart like grape skin. A lovely combination. They’re beautiful when sprinkled over deserts or green salads and add an extra dimension.

    There are lots of things that you can do with the flowers. I wanted to make some elderflower cordial and some very easy elderflower vinegar.

    Elderflower Vinegar

    Elderflower vinegar is especially lovely to use in the winter – it reminds you of Summer. It’s easy to make and can be used in the same way as any other vinegar. It has a lovely floral, grape like taste which is quite sweet. The vinegar will keep for a year or more.

    Ram as many elderflowers into a clean jar as you can, pushing them down as much as possible. Fill the jar with light vinegar such as cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or rice vinegar until all of the blooms are covered. You may have to take some out if they won’t cover. Put the lid on tightly and leave on a sunny window sill for a couple of weeks, shaking it all every day.

    After a couple of weeks, strain through 2 layers of kitchen roll and then strain again through another 2 layers of roll (or new j cloths) to get rid of any sediment. You probably won’t get all of the sediment out – it’s mostly pollen and this will settle at the bottom of your bottle.

    Put into pretty bottles and label.

    Fill the vinegar to the top of your jar

    Elderflower Cordial

    I don’t like my cordial too sweet, so feel free to add a little more sugar if you’d like. I also add lemon and orange to my cordial which lifts the heady muscat flavour without it becoming lemonade. If you’d like to just use lemons to make a Elderflower and Lemon cordial, feel free. You could also leave the citrus out, but I’ve found using just Elderflowers can be a little bland.

    Pick 25-30 elderflower heads on a bright, sunny day and shake them as you do to dislodge any bugs. When you get home, put 1.7litres (3 pints) of boiling water into a large saucepan, along with 900g (2lb) granulated sugar. Stir well until dissolved (you may need to put a very low heat under the saucepan to assist with melting, but don’t let it simmer or boil). Turn the heat off and leave to cool while you prepare the 2 oranges and 2 -3 lemons. Use un-waxed fruit if you can get it, but if not make sure you scrub the skins with hot water and washing up liquid to remove the wax before using them. Rinse well and dry. Peel the oranges and lemons and add the peel to the hot sugar water. Cut the peeled lemons and oranges into thick slices and add them to the water.

    Next plunge in the elderflowers and stir everything together. You’ll need 50g (2oz) citric acid which you can buy from chemists (you won’t find it on the shelves, you’ll have to ask for it and you might be asked what you want it for! It can also be used in the preparation of drugs…). Citric acid will prolong the life of your cordial. If you can’t get hold of any, you can make the cordial without but it will only last a couple of weeks in the fridge, but you could freeze it in portions.

    Add the citric acid and stir everything together. Cover the pan and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring every now and again. After 24 hours, squash everything in the pan with a wooden spoon to extract as much flavour as possible and strain everything through a sieve lined with 2 clean J cloths. Bottle and keep in the fridge. It will keep for around 6 weeks, maybe more. If you see any kind of mould floating on the top of your cordial – it’s time to throw it away! Dilute with fizzy or still water and serve with lots of ice. Also lovely added to fizzy wine on a hot day!

    You can use the cordial in lots of ways – add it to fruit crumbles, make a different kind of drizzle for lemon cake – 4tblsp syrup, 4tblsp caster sugar. You can also add a couple of tblsp to your normal biscuit/cookie/cup cake recipes.

    Elderflower Salad Dressing

    Combine your vinegar and cordial to make a lovely, light summer salad dressing put 3tblsp light tasting oil such as mild light olive oil, rapeseed oil etc into a clean jam jar, along with 2tblsp elderflower vinegar and 2tsp elderflower cordial or light honey. Add salt and pepper. Put the lid on the jar and shake until well mixed. Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed.

    You can’t possibly need any further reasons to get out there and pick some lovely elderflowers. Be sure to leave some on the bush though, so that you can go back at the end of summer and collect their lovely berries. And remember to show it the respect it deserves when you walk past, with a little nod!

  • Don’t underestimate nettles, try them in Nettle & Paneer Koftas!

    Nettles, to my way of thinking are one of the most underrated free vegetables that we have. They contain 10% protein which is more than any other vegetable, they are packed full of iron, contain vitamin A, C and D, along with potassium and calcium.

    They’re also a natural antihistamine. So if you suffer with allergies including hay fever, it makes sense to try and include as much nettle into your diet as possible. Now that you know all of this, please don’t dig them up out of your garden without at least pinching the crown out of each one and giving them a try. If you like the irony taste of spinach, you’ll feel the same way about nettles.

    Before you know it, buying spinach at the green grocers will be a thing of the past and you’ll be cultivating that patch of nettles rather than digging them up!

    The best time to harvest nettles is when the first delicate growth makes an appearance in May, after that the stalks become woody and tough and the larger the leaf the more bitter it is and once they flower, you’re better off leaving them alone. Before the flowers appear, just pinch off the very top leaves to use. If you have a patch of nettles, as long as you regularly chop them down (maybe with a strimmer), new growth will keep appearing for you to pick.

    I made some lovely Nettle and Paneer Koftas last night and thought that you might like to give them a try. Please don’t do what I did though – I forgot that I’d used nettles and tasted a spoonful of the raw mixture to check that there was enough salt in the mixture! After that, I wasn’t sure if I’d used too much chilli or that I’d stung my tongue! Taste the mixture BEFORE you add the nettles – ouch.

    NETTLE & PANEER KOFTAS

    Collect around 10 nettle tops (using rubber gloves) and chop them finely along with a handful of fresh coriander. Put the coriander in a large bowl, but put the nettles to one side to add at the end!

    Chop the nettles, but don’t forget to keep the gloves on if you’re moving them around the chopping board!

    To the bowl add half a block of grated paneer (you can buy it from most supermarkets now, or have a go at making your own – the recipe is on this blog), 1 small onion finely chopped, a 5cm (1″) piece of ginger grated, 1 clove garlic crushed; chilli to taste (use fresh, ground or flakes) along with 3tblsp chickpea flour (also known as gram flour, this is available from most supermarkets in the world food section). You could add 3 tblsp processed canned chickpeas instead with 1tblsp normal flour added to the mixture.

    Spices – 1/2 tsp of ground coriander and cumin and 1/4 tsp turmeric and garam masala. If you haven’t got all of these, just add the ones that you have.

    Add 1tsp salt (or to taste), 1tblsp oil and the juice of half a lemon.

    Mix well and taste at this point so that you can add more salt/chilli/lemon juice. Finally add the stinging nettles and a little more flour if the mixture seems overly wet. Give everything a good stir. You want a mixture that holds its shape.

    Thick mixture

    Take desert spoons of the mixture and put them onto greaseproof paper. Try and make them into some sort of shape so that they hold together during the frying process. I made quenelles with mine using 2 spoons.

    Fill a wok/deep pan half full of oil and heat. The oil is ready when you drop a piece of bread in, it will sizzle gently.

    Gently and carefully slide the kofta into the oil, not too many at a time so as not to reduce the oil temperature too much and fry until golden.

    These can also be baked in the oven if preferred, just make sure you spray/brush each kofta with oil before putting in a medium oven until golden.

    Draining the kofta after frying

    I served mine with a mushroom curry sauce and rice. They are also good served with cucumber raita with drinks.

    Nettle and Paneer Kofta – worth leaving the nettles in the garden for!

  • Corn Tortilla

    Stef has been telling me all about how good the authentic corn tortilla taste in Mexico, hot from the pan and so I thought we should all be able to experience them, in the comfort of our own homes!

    You’ll need to find Masa Harina flour which is flour that is made out of corn. DON’T use the type of cornflour that you get in the baking section at supermarkets that you’d use for thickening, or putting into shortbread – it’s completely different! Also, don’t use polenta as that’s also different. You can find Masa Harina on line or from some delis.

    There is no gluten in corn which means that if you grind it up, it won’t stick together to become a dough. It has to go through a process in which lime is added to the cooked, soaked corn so that when it’s dried and ground, it will form a dough when water is added.

    In a large bowl add 2 cups of masa harina flour, 2 tsp oil and a good 1/2 tsp salt.

    Add 1 1/2 cups of hot/warm water (you may need a little more or less) to the dough and squish it all through your fingers to mix. It’s best not to use a spoon as you get a feel for how the dough should be. As you squish it, you’ll find it’s not like normal dough – it seems a little ‘cleaner’, in that it doesn’t stick as readily to your fingers. Keep mixing until the dough is soft and feels exactly like play-doh (I think it smells similar too!). Put into a plastic bag and leave for 15 minutes so that the corn can absorb the water.

    After 15 minutes, take the dough out of the bag and check that it still feels like play-doh. If it’s a little firmer add a splash more water and squish it through with your hands until it’s mixed in. Don’t be afraid to add more water, the secret with this dough is to keep it soft. You can always add a little more masa harina if you’ve gone too far with the water. It should look like this:

    Take a large, good quality zip lock bag and cut it open, so that you have to pieces of plastic. Take a small golf ball sized piece of dough and roll it into a ball and put on top of one piece of the plastic. Cover with the other piece of plastic and squash down.

    Roll out the dough through the plastic. If you try and roll the dough without a plastic covering it will just stick to the rolling pin. You can’t dust with flour to stop it sticking because it makes the dough too dry. You can use a tortilla press to make the process quicker, but I think you can roll the tortilla more thinly this way, which gives more of a chance of your tortilla puffing up during cooking. Heat a frying pan (non stick if possible) up over medium heat while you’re rolling out your dough. Don’t add oil to the pan.

    Peel the rolled tortilla off the sheet of plastic (it may tear if you’ve rolled it too thinly, in which case you need to squash the dough together and start again) onto your hands and put it onto the hot dry frying pan.

    The tortilla should start to cook at the edges straight away, you’ll see the tortilla start to whiten. If you’re lucky, you’ll then see that it starts to puff up. This is ideal (though certainly not essential) as it cooks the dough thoroughly in the middle. You can encourage this puffing up by pressing firmly with a fish slice all over the tortilla. Keep looking under the tortilla until you see brown speckles forming and then turn it over.

    Keep pressing down on the tortilla with the fish slice so that the other side cooks evenly and to encourage puffing. When you have brown speckles form on the side nearest the pan, you can take it out. Put in foil to keep them warm and serve straight away.

    If you have any left, you can brush them with oil, sprinkle with cheese and bake them in the oven to make home style Doritos!