Friday, 29 May 2015

Foraging for spring edible flowers



If you followed my Instagram last summer you will probably know that I took quite a liking for edible flowers last year. If you have tried to buy them in the UK you will also know that they're pretty hard to find, and also quite expensive. While quite a few companies sell them via the web at quite a reasonable price the cost of the shipping is always really high as they have to be pretty much couriered overnight so they arrive fresh, and while that's ok if you're buying quite a lot, it's not so good if you only want a few.

On that note this year I was thinking of ways to get them cheaper, and the obvious way is to grow them yourself, which I am doing, in fact I'm growing a grand total of 13 different types this year (excluding herbs which also flower). Most of these however have to be started off around March at the earliest unless you have a greenhouse or polytunnel, which I don't, so there's still quite a wait (a big problem if you're impatient like me!)

Better still then is happening on wild edible flowers on walks etc, as this way they're free, require pretty much no effort apart from identifying them and picking them and will hopefully be safe to eat as they're unlikely to have been sprayed etc. As I write this in  early May quite a lot of spring edible flowers are popping up everywhere so it's the ideal time to get started. So far I haven't been very daring as I'm pretty new to this foraging game so have picked ones which are very easy to identify and are easy to find.

I've tried to include a good close up picture of each flower so you can match it up when foraging (though pretty sure you'll know these ones well anyway), as well as some examples of the flower in action! Also remember if you do pick them, you need to pick them from places where you are sure they're growing wild so you know they haven't been sprayed with anything, but you also need to check them very well for insects and wash them very well- just because they haven't been sprayed with pestcides or herbicides doesn't mean that a dog hasn't 'sprayed' them if it's walked past...

Daisies





I'm quite sure that everyone can identify a daisy, and I'm also pretty sure that most people can find these easily, as for the past few weeks they have been popping up pretty much everywhere! if you have a garden it's quite possible a few have appeared somewhere in your garden already. You may however not have already known that these are edible- at least I didn't until recently! You may also not know that they are related to artichokes, are very high in vitamin c, and are known to have various medicinal properties including reducing bleeding, soothing aching backs and easing indigestion and coughs. In short they are both pretty and good for you which in my books makes them an essential part of your spring diet!

I have only just got into using them, and so far have only popped them into my salads, but expect to use them in a few other ways over the coming weeks...

Dandelions





Next to daisies on the easy to identify and easy to find list has got to be dandelions. I remember going to a friends house when I was young and being so impressed and overawed at how wonderfully bohemian they were, largely because her mum foraged dandelions from the garden and put them into a salad for our tea. dandelions are popping up all over the place at the moment and are often very unwelcome guests to our gardens, all the more reason to pluck them out then and pop them into our food. Now apparently all parts of the dandelion are edible- even the roots. I am not that daring but have used the flowers in salads, they have a lovely sweet flavour and bring a bright pop of colour to any plate. The flowers are also good flattened slightly, dipped in egg then almond meal and fried which brings out their lovely crispy, sweet flavour. The leaves are also great in a salad, tasting especially good when smaller, and turning more bitter the larger they grow (at which point it's best to cook them in a stir fry or any other recipe requiring greens). Dandelions also have health and medicinal benefits and are known to act as a diuretic and are also rich in vitamins A and C.



Primroses



These are perhaps slightly less easy to identify than the first two, especially if you're not that into your flowers. They do have quite a distinctive look though so as long as you know what you're looking for you should be able to identify them pretty easily. Primroses are found in big clusters often in woodlands and though yellow ones are the ones I've come across most frequently they also come in lots of different colours. You can also bake the flowers, to do this, pull the flowers apart from the green part at the top of the stem (technical term), then bake them face down, at a very low heat for 20 minutes until they've flattened and appear paper like- be aware that they will shrink and depending on the size of them they may need less time so keep checking on them while cooking. Other, more adventurous (talented) people with far more time than I use them to make lots of exotic and fancy sorts of things like primrose wine but I'm not quite there yet so for now I'll settle for using them as a garnish on salads, cocktails and desserts and also crystalising them for cakes.





And that's it, for now, I'll be back in due course, once I expand my foraging repertoire. Happy foraging and flower eating!

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Monday, 18 May 2015

Things I want



So I thought I'd compile a bit of a list of things I currently feel my kitchen/life is desperately lacking in, as I am constantly seeing things in magazines/blogs/pinterest/other peoples houses/shops and thinking about how I much I need them but never seem to get round to putting all these things together in a proper list. Not all of the items are strictly low carb related, but all are things I can see myself using while still sticking to a low carb plan.



1. First up, this citrus mister. This may not seem remotely essential but I am quite sure it is. It's basically a little bottle that has two heads, the first you use to squeeze your fruit, it then collects all the juice into the little bottle and removes the pips and pith etc. You then swap the heads over and place the misting head on top to spray a measured amount of juice onto your food. I think this would be so good for salads because I make lots of things with avocado which starts to turn brown pretty quickly and I often find myself drenching it with lemon if I'm making it ahead and this just looks such an easier way to cover it with lemon juice while not saturating it and losing the avocado flavour. Obviously not an essential but I definitely want one and for £6.00 I'm pretty definitely getting one! You can get this one here

2. This food bag is super cool. It's made from food grade silicone, folds down completley flat, is incredibly light and you can use it to store sandwiches, salads etc. You can then pop it in the dishwasher once it's finished. I'm not completely sold on the weird handbag design, but love the idea of it apart from that! Find it here

3. Next up is this very weird looking jelly bag. I wouldn't use it for jelly though, I'd use it for making nut milk and also more crucially for getting the water out of cauliflower when making a cauliflower crust pizza instead of using a tea towel, as I have pretty much destroyed teatowels doing just that. This one is just under £3 and you can find it here

4. I love Falcon enamelware, after years of hating it and never understanding why my mum used it so much. I love the fact that it goes from oven to table and I sometimes make a frittata in one putting it on the hob then transferring it to the oven/grill then serving it in the same dish. This set has 5 different sized bowls and a colander. I am imagining having barbeques/ garden picnics and serving pretty much most things in falcon bowls/ plates, including serving salads in the colander. This set is a bit more of an indulgence at £55 and you can find it here



5. I can absolutely see myself using this drinks dispenser at parties and barbeques come summertime. It's blue so matches most of my crockery, and crucially is massive so it can just be filled up with punch/ infused water/ Pimms/ Summercup and then forgotten about so your guests can fill up while you concentrate on drinking  mingling. You can find it (and ones in other colours) here

6. If there is even the slightest chance that this avocado saver really works then I want one! I am always using half an avocado and then feeling pressured to use the other half quickly to stop it going brown and lots being wasted. I don't mind them slightly brown but if they're left for much more than a day they turn all sorts of unsavoury colours that make you not really want to eat them anymore. This one is silicone so fits v snugly over the avocado and supposedly keeps it fresh for days... I would probably still spray it with some lemon juice (assuming I've got the citrus mister by then) first, just to make doubly sure. Anyway for just over £5 for a pack of two, one large, one small, it's got to be worth a go, get one here

7. This Joseph Joseph "scoot wheel" is possibly one of the lesser essential items in this list, but I do think it would come in handy for chopping herbs. It has a blade guard to stop you cutting your fingers when looking for it in the drawer, is super compact and could even replace your pizza cutter? Find one here

8. This double egg cup just speaks for itself. It is quite obviously not an essential but its definitely a desirable item on my list. Come to think of it, most things on this list probably aren't essential as I am currently managing quite well without any of them, but that doesn't mean my life wouldn't be infinitely better with them. Anyway, anyone who follows a low carb diet will probably confirm that you very rarely eat eggs one at a time. Therefore this egg cup that holds two eggs is just perfect, just add some low carb soldiers, or asparagus to dip and you're away! Find it here

And that's it for now, I actually really enjoyed doing that, so expect more similar posts soon!


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Friday, 8 May 2015

Stuffed round courgettes/ zucchinis


I love quirky vegetables. By that I mean any type of vegetable that is a little bit different, whether in colour or shape, or taste! They can, however, be quite hard to find, especially at this time of year, unless you're willing to pay a premium and get them from somewhere fancy. Every so often they do pop up unexpectedly in unlikely places so when these round courgettes appeared in my local Asian supermarket I couldn't resist! I already have quite the love affair with courgettes and eat them in lots of different ways, most often as zoodles but also raw or cooked in salads, on pizzas, stuffed, in stir frys etc- the list goes on. These courgettes lend themselves especially well to stuffing due to their shape so it was pretty obvious to me what I was going to use them for!

This recipe is really simple to make, can be easily adapted to whatever you have in, and looks and tastes amazing. I've stuffed them here with my cauliflower bolognese, but you could also stuff them with a normal bolognese, ratatouille. stir fry or really anything random that you have left in the fridge that needs using up.


They are so simple, you will just need:
Then to make it:
  • Cut the tops off the courgettes and scoop out the insides with a tablespoon being careful not to break the skin. they will scoop out far easier than you probably expect them too.
  • Pop them on a baking tray and drizzle with some olive oil.
  • Bake for 15 minutes at about 200degrees until the skins feel softer
  • Remove from the oven and turn upside down to drain the water out
  • Put a big spoonful of the Bolognese mixture (or whatever you're using)  inside
  • Put back in the oven for another 15 minutes
  • Remove and top with cheese and basil
  • Enjoy!


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