Friday, 26 August 2016

Nature's Larder

Whether it is fruits and berries, fresh herbs or even flowers and blossoms, natural ingredients are a welcome addition to the kitchen larder

Written by Fiona Bird

Custard tarts with violets (pictured above)

Makes 12 individual tarts or one 20cm tart

What to forage and find:
For the crust
200g plain flour
50g butter
3 tbsp, plus 1 tsp lard
1 egg yolk
1 tsp sweet violet syrup, see recipe (below), mixed with 3 tbsp water (Violet syrup in the pastry is not necessary; just use water if you haven’t any syrup.)

For the filling
5 eggs
50g caster sugar
200ml double cream
3 tbsp fresh violets

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6.

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the fats until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolk to the violet water and then add enough liquid to the pastry so that it binds. You may not need all of the liquid.

Knead the pastry briefly until smooth. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Roll the pastry out thinly to line the tart tins. Bake blind (line the pans with foil and baking beans) in the oven for 7-8 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, and bake for another 3 minutes until the base is golden. (If making one large tart, bake blind for 10 minutes with the beans, then for 5-6 minutes to crisp the base.) Take the pans out of the oven; reduce the temperature to 150C/300F/gas mark 2.

To make the filling, lightly beat the eggs, add the sugar and cream, and beat briefly.

Scatter two handfuls of the violets over the prepared tart tins and pour in most of the cream mixture. Put the tart tins on a baking sheet and put the baking sheet in the oven. Add the remaining cream mixture evenly, and scatter the rest of the violets over the top of the tarts. (This avoids overflow spillage en route to the oven.) Bake for about 10-12 minutes (40 minutes for one large tart), until the custard is just firm; it continues to set after baking.

Sweet violet syrup

Makes 1 small bottle

What to forage and find:
3 handfuls of violets
125ml boiling water
200g caster sugar
Red and blue food colouring

Remove any green bits from the violets (tweezers are useful). Crush the violets and put them in a sterilised jar.

Pour the boiling water over the violets, cover, and leave for 24 hours. Strain the violet water into a pitcher.

Put the sugar into a heavybased saucepan and add the strained violet water. DO NOT STIR. Cook slowly over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved; this may take 10-15 minutes. Bring the syrup to a boil briefly.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into a pitcher, cool briefly, and add a little red and blue food colouring until it is the desired colour. Pour into a sterilised jam jar, or small bottle, and store in a dry place.

This is delicious on ice cream, in icing and buttercream frosting, in sparkling wine or water, junkets, milkshakes, and porridge.

Chanterelle and chickweed puffs

Serves 8

What to forage and find:
400ml good chicken stock
150g brushed, wiped and thinly sliced chanterelles
50g butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
100g self-raising flour
4 eggs, lightly whisked
2 tbsp finely chopped chickweed
Oil for muffin pan
Green salad and crusty bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F/gas mark 6.

Put the chicken stock and chanterelles in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the butter and salt and pepper, and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and beat in the flour, until it leaves the pan sides clean. Put the mixture into a mixing bowl and leave to cool slightly (or the eggs will curdle). You can speed this up by standing the bowl in cold water. Then beat the lightly whisked eggs into the mixture. Stir vigorously to ensure a smooth mixture. Fold in the chopped chickweed.

Drizzle a little oil into 8 muffin cups and put in the oven until the oil smokes. Remove the pan from the oven, and use a ladle to divide the mixture evenly between the cups. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the puffs are well-risen and golden.

Serve immediately with a green salad and crusty bread.

Simply razor clams

Serves 4

What to forage and find:
20 razor clams, cleaned and prodded for a life check
Salted water
125g garlic butter
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Crusty bread, to serve

Half-fill a large, shallow pan with salted water and bring it to the boil. Add the razor clams and cover with a tightly fitting lid (to steam them). Bring the pan back to the boil and simmer for a minute, or until the razor clams open.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams from the pan. Do not overcook them or they will become tough. When the razor clams are cool enough to handle, remove the clam flesh from the shells (I use my hands). Discard any shells that haven’t opened.

Cut the razor clams into pieces if you like, but I tend to serve them whole; 4-5 razor clams per person makes a generous portion.

Meanwhile, melt the garlic butter, add the parsley, and pour it over the hot razor clams. Eat immediately, with hot crusty bread to mop up the juices.

The Forager’s Kitchen: Over 100 Field-To-Table Recipes, by Fiona Bird; photography by Stuart West (Cico Books, £14.99).

Forgot your password?
Click to read our digital edition

Boarders Dormitory Master-Mistress
We are looking to appoint a Dormitory Mistress/Master for 5 nights per week, weekday evenings and nights only, term time. (35 weeks). [...]


Housekeeper to Headmaster
We have an opportunity for an experienced live-out housekeeper. You will provide a cleaning and hospitality service for the Headmaster and his guests and help to ensure the household runs efficiently. [...]


Full Time Housekeeper, Nanny
We are looking for a full time, live-out housekeeper/nanny. We are a relaxed young couple living in a large country house, and will have one newborn baby. [...]


Experienced Carer, Companion, Housekeeper needed
Our elderly mother needs a live in carer/companion on a part time basis. Must be warm hearted, calm & compassionate, with a good sense of humour. [...]


Live-in Housekeeper
Our client is looking for a very capable, experienced individual to become the new housekeeper at their 6 bedroom, rural home. [...]




What the stars have in store for you this week.2017

Capricorn Aquarius Pisces Aries Taurus Gemini Cancer Leo Virgo Libra Scorpio Sagittarius

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter