Carl Legge’s Foraged Nettle Permie Pizza

cuttingpizza

If you have been reading this blog for a long time you might recall a post or two in which Mr IronFingers and I went out nettle picking. If I pick nettles I have to wear two pairs of gloves and make a huge song and dance about it. If the bag so much as brushes against my skin once it has nettles in it, I scream – just in case - a bit like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland. If a nettle looks at me, I quiver abjectly. Mr IronFingers on the other hand laughs at nettles and grasps them firmly and then pops them in the bag. He who is hopelessly allergic to all berry fruit and their little tiny hairs does not react to nettles at all, how strange is that?

It is now nettling time for those with iron fingers and /or amazing gloves. Brian will only pick them when they are short and young and haven’t got too dark in colour, he says his Dad picked them like that and they get too strong later on. He is very picky (sic) about his nettles. So today I was a bit sneaky, I suggested a walk off the beaten track and secreted one of those fold up shopping bags around my person,  then pulled it out with an nonchalent air when I saw some potential nettles and asked politely if he would pick some for me.  He obliged, the dogs ate grass and avoided the nettles and I picked a small bunch of wild garlic leaves and flowers and watched and waited for him to scream; he never does.

The original plan was to make the nettle gnocchi that we had made some years ago and maybe some soup but on visiting Twitter I saw a tweet that Carl had written an article about Spring Foraging in the Guardian and I had a look at it and lo and behold there was a recipe for nettle pizza so that was what we had to try. I made a quick pizza dough, persuaded IronFingers once more to deal with the nettles, wash, spin, chop, and season. I fished my wild garlic out of the bag and promptly stung my finger on a hidden nettle just waiting with barbs hovering to bite my delicate little finger. Ow Ow!

We seasoned the nettles as Carl suggests - those chilli flakes are essential! –  and substituted the wild garlic for the garlic cloves as we had picked some of that too and then, baked away and stuffed our faces.

A slice of pizza topped with tender and subdued nettles

A slice of pizza topped with tender and subdued nettles

I have to say that I thought the nettles would shrivel up like kale does when you make crisps but the seven minutes in a hot hot oven just cooked them beautifully and the combination of chilli flakes and nettles and melty mozarella was a complete and utter delight!

Carl calls this a ‘permie pizza’ in his new book The Permaculture Kitchen. It has great photos and an engaging tone and lots of recipes which encourage and inspire you to think creatively and use what you have and use a few things that you would never have thought of.  I bought a copy as soon as it came out, because I like to read books that friends write and even though we have never met in person, there is something about Twitter and the kindness and generosity of people like Carl and his wife Debs that make the world spin a little sweeter.

 

PS  I am experimenting with these Gallery settings, I have tried various permutations, currently trying the full scale carousel. Do you like the Galleries?  I think they load better on smartphones etc, but I don’t know what you think?  Do let me know if you have an opinion. Thanks!

 

Castell Henlys, Pembrokeshire

Last weekend we were once more in Pembrokeshire and one day we had a change from our usual activities and joined the tourist trail and visited this reconstructed Iron Age Fort at Castell Henlys.

Round House Reconstruction

Round House Reconstruction

We walked up from the carpark past a stream where Brian saw a goldcrest flashing through the trees with a group of other small birds; the verges along the path were aglow with cowslips, dandelions, emerging violets and early campion.

On the hilltop plateau swirls a curve of thatched Iron Age roundhouses; from small Zeb-sized ones, to massive ones where you can imagine how to cook, spin and dye, weave, snooze, mill grain, tend the stew pot and, work with iron age tools, share meals, talk and dream. The learned guide on site was utterly charming, she wears clothes she had made from her own weavings on her warp-weighted looms. However when I asked her about Iron Age underwear she laughed and went off to talk to some children.

When you are tired you could climb onto one of the beds and fall asleep. Outside you can turn your eyes skywards and watch red kites patrolling and swallows diving, there are little hairy piglets (a cross between ancient wild boar and a Tamworth) to talk to and woolly sheep ( a small old breed).

While we were there there was a falconry display with a collection of birds from a small merlin to a Russian Steppe Eagle. I had the dogs with me so we didn’t stay for the display as an eagle swooping low over your curly ears might not have been Zeb’s idea of fun. While this has been envisaged primarily as an educational open air museum and interactive site for children, there is  something for everyone to enjoy here and there is a new turfrooved visitor centre in the last stages of being completed which will I am sure enhance the experience for visitors later this year.

If you are visiting with children in the summer, it sounds as if there is a wealth of activities to participate in and enjoy. You can find out more about Castell Henlys from their website. dogs welcome on leads, and if you are curious how an Iron Age Roundhouse was constructed there is a fun animation to watch on the BBC website and a short piece you can read about Iron Age living here which lasted in Britain for about 800 years (from c.750 BC to AD 43). As you may know the Romans turned up shortly after that.

Here is a gallery of some of our photos, a mix of Brian’s camera and my iphone to give a flavour of the place. Not the easiest of places to take photos in so I hope you get something from having a peek at them!

 

 

 

Yoghurt, Wheat and Spelt Bread

Yoghurt, Wheat and Spelt Bread from Zeb Bakes

I have adapted my date kefir levain bread for those of you who don’t have kefir grains and are maybe not as fond of tending small bubbling pots as I am!  This is an experiment to see if I can approximate the same loaf using  a small quantity of dried yeast and yoghurt to replace the kefir. Continue reading

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A Somerset Jaunt

One day last week the sky turned to blue and the birds tweeted and the household was very restless so it got into the car and headed off in the direction of Somerset which isn’t really very far away. We have walked the beach at Burnham a lot recently so thought we would go somewhere else.

We decided to have lunch at the Swan in Wedmore, who had tweeted us that they were dog-friendly ‘downstairs’ and go for a short walk at Ham Wall, which allows dogs on leads in parts, though not in the hides.

As we were driving down, admiring the spring lambs, we changed our minds and thought we had better walk the dogs before going for lunch as that way they would be more likely to be calm and well behaved.

JauntinSomerset.7We went across to Cheddar Reservoir, a huge high reservoir near where Brian lived as a boy and where we have been in the past to do bird watching. People walk around the huge circular reservoir, and admire the sky mostly. It is a big place and the birds are nearly always on the other side to where you are. Big rafts of bald-headed coot, groups of seagulls, overwintering tufted ducks, mallards, pairs of courting grebes, little grebes,  the occasional Northern Diver, all sorts of waterfowl can be seen here, though it is advisable to take binoculars if you are serious. There is also a sailing club that use the Reservoir but on the morning we went no one was out on the water.

JauntinSomerset.3There were two students doing a project, one of whom was dressed in a sheet, no idea why but I thought they were very sweet.

And the sky was blue and the clouds were glorious! I have spent a little time trying to figure out why the clouds looked like this, because although not that unusual, it wasn’t typical and I am not very good at clouds. I think, and do correct me if I am wrong, that the exuberant many -fingered whispy cloud reaching out in a loving embrace to the world (and I must admit that I threw my arms wide and high and tried to hug it back) is a cirrus formation. Cirrus are high clouds that form around minerals, so I guess in this case this was sand. That week the UK had been visited by Saharan sand bearing winds, which had been combining with our local pollution to create noticeable smog in the south-east of the country; we in the West had fog two days later and fine sand deposited by night rain on our car windows.

JauntinSomerset.11The cirrus clouds were moving in one direction and the lower clouds, which I can’t figure out what they should be classified as, were moving in another direction. The whole experience of being there was joyful, expansive and light. I am addicted to big skies and watching the movement of clouds and light, they lift my soul from the gloom that I find myself in all too often.

JauntinSomerset.9

If you can find a place to look at the sky and the clouds and have a walk, well it doesn’t make your unconstructive thoughts go away, but it allows some simpler thoughts to find a place in your mind and maybe balance out some of the others. As they say in all the mindfulness books, pay attention to the here and now, and allow your thoughts to come and go, like clouds they are real but they don’t have to last forever.

Lunch at the Swan in Wedmore was lovely, we had a fine Ploughman’s lunch and two desserts, a rhubarb fool, which the chef customized for Brian so it didn’t have cream in it, and I had their malt chocolate cake with salted caramel icecream. The dogs behaved fairly well, though Mme L decided to bark at a pushchair on its way through the bar. We took dog biscuits with us so we rewarded them for being ‘good’.

Puddings.1

Puddings.2

We then headed off to Ham Wall , down the bumpy road between the drains, the green pastures full of grazing swans, and wandered down the lane to the big viewing platform. We heard various bittern booming away to each other, but didn’t see any flying. From the platform we could see swans and cormorants hanging out their wings to dry, the hedgerows were jumping with great tits and dunnock. Wild plants beginning to flower..

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A glimpse of Glastonbury Tor from Ham Wall

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It has become quite a busy place and I miss the way it used to be, when I first went there with Brian all those years ago and it felt like we had it to ourselves but I guess that is the way of the world. Everything changes. It was a lovely outing!

 

Spring Green

Gardeners Delight

On the windowsill it is all happening.

artichokeSowed our first seeds on 22nd February and more to sow this week.

Komatsuma

I love seeing them coming up full of promise and full of life.

1 contorta

It is one of the best things in the world.

1 primulaThe sun has got his hat on and we are going out to play! Hip Hip Hooray!

 

Ooh La La-rdy Cake!

Dan Lepard's Lardy Cake

This week I have been on a baking spree.  I made Dan Lepard’s Lard Cake, recipe in the Hand Made Loaf, after several years of thinking about it, seeing Celia have such fun making it last year and after finding a butcher who would save me some good quality pork fat to render lard from.

I followed the method for rendering fat in the oven which I found in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes’ by Jenifer McLagen.

Two Lardy Cakes half way through prep

Brian was delighted by this treat. The recipe in the book makes over a kilo of dough which is far too much for one Brian to eat even with help from me,  so I split the dough into two lots and used  2 x 18 cm tins to bake them in and shortened the baking time by ten minutes. I found those paper cake cases the easiest way to line the tins and it made it easy to hoik the cakes out to cool without running the risk of burning sugar syrup going everywhere.

Roll up that dough

The first one with the caster sugar topping I took to Graham at Molesworth’s, a local Bristol butchers’ shop, as he had been so kind as to keep the leaf lard back for me and was one of the few butchers I spoke to who seemed to know what I wanted so I reckoned he should get to try my first (and possibly my last ) batch of lardy cakes.

As I walked down the street with my little basket feeling slightly self conscious that I was carrying a hot lardy cake and imagining a curling aroma behind me, (thinking of Desperate Dan in the Dandy)   a man in full evening dress circa 1920 and with a top hat (not imaginary this bit)  walked past me and said ” I hope you have spring flowers in your basket.” I said  “Home made lardy cake I am afraid.” He doffed his hat to me and said “Marvellous!” It was four thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes I wish I had one of those cameras on a helmet…

Demarara Topped Lardy Cake

The second one has a topping of Demerara sugar at Brian’s insistence as that was the way his Gran made it  (as you know I never argue with Brian’s ancestors) and a few raisins.

Brian's Demerara Lardy CakeIt was suggested that Brian shared his cake but apparently this is not an option. I have had a piece and I can report that it is very light, for a lard cake, but it most definitely has an aura of fine porky goodness about it, which is deeply unfashionable and will no doubt make many people rush for their kale smoothies just looking at the photos.

Old Faithful Sourdough Starter

In its favour it is of course completely dairy free and it uses a sourdough starter as well for extra fermenty goodness.

Lardy Cake Crumb Shot 1 2 crumb shots

The crusty sugary outside is pretty good and if I was going on a forced march over hill and dale I would be grateful to stop after about six hours and eat a chunky triangle of Lard Cake with a large mug of strong  black tea, but I am not so sure I could eat this very often. I did enjoy making it though! I will try most things once, always a good principle to consider.

Lunch at Matina – St Nicholas Market, Bristol

Fresh Mint Tea at Matina in St Nicholas's Market, Bristol

Fresh Mint Tea at Matina in St Nicholas’s Market, Bristol

I don’t really do eating out reviews as there are so many people who do them in blogworld but just this once…

I always have a good time visiting the covered market, which runs adjacent to Corn Street in the old part of Bristol City centre.  It is a small intimate space, which hums and buzzes with small independent food stalls, where you can either pick something up to take away, or sit down in one of their improvised seating areas and tuck in to a Caribbean curry, a Moroccan tagine, or a Portuguese fish lunch. There is a juice bar, a sausage shop, a pie shop, pulled port, pita and salad bar and loads more to choose from all crammed into this glass-roofed arcade of delights.

Matina is found at the far end of the market opposite the linen stall.  There is a constant queue outside and the reason is obvious. It is staffed by three busy cooks,  one making fresh breads, one on the grill and one organizing the salads. The baker sets the pace, as each order is made as it is taken. Kurdish bread is big, soft and fluffy, something like a naan.  We loved watching the baker stretching the dough over what my friend described as looking like an oversized darning cushion before positioning it inside the tandoor oven. He did the forearm slap as well!

Fresh Fresh Fresh!

Our shared mezze

The front of Matina’s is full of huge bowls of brightly coloured fresh salads, gleaming red cabbage and yellow pickles. The combination of the smell of sizzling koftas and chicken on the grill and the magical smell of freshly baking bread was enough to stay in my memory the first time I noticed it and I have now been back twice.  They offer fresh mint tea, or rose or apple tea and you can sit in an area adjacent to the kitchen where there is a communal table and benches and watch the queue move along and chat to other hungry folk seduced by the wonderful smell of freshly cooked food.

Today Brian had another enormous wrap filled with chillis and chicken and lamb and I shared a plate of mezze with a friend. We had the grilled halloumi on courgettes and aubergines, fresh lemony humus, and tzatsiki  and pickled vegetables and sauces together with a fresh bread.

We said no to the rice or couscous that was offered with it and we ate very well both of us sharing the plate.  It is incredibly good value and well worth queuing up for if you have a spare half an hour one lunch time.

There is something about eating outside in winter that appeals to people who spend so much time indoors and in the market you are both outside and inside, sheltered from any bad weather that happens to be lurking about.  It rained again this afternoon but we are promised better weather this weekend and Spring is happening regardless. Bristol’s public green spaces are full of croci at the moment. I don’t know whether there have been mass plantings last year or whether they particularly like the damp but they are so pretty, purple and yellow and white jewels brightening the roadsides and parks. I love them!

croci in Bristol