Posts tagged ‘cooking’

September 5, 2012

A Saturday Night with Black Sabbath Making Rose Hip Jam…

by Ciaran Burke

Two pots of rose hip jam

Its coming to that time of year again, blackberries are ripe, elder berries are ripening and the rose hips are nearly there. I “look forward” to some Saturday nights making jam. During the summer I made some rose hip jam from fruits that were in the freezer, it is a delicious jam but it does take a bit of work.  From my old blog here is the story of a Saturday night spent making rose hip jam in the company of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. I have added my revised rose hip jam recipe using sugar and apples to add pectin.

The knife cuts through the red flesh, the head is severed, then, thop, brop, brop… bouncing in the bucket. I pick up the next one, cut and chop, thop, brop, brop…

It is Saturday night, the guitars, the bass, the drums, they blast from the speakers. Ozzy Osbourne’s tortured cries accompany, “Am I Going Insane?”… Cut and chop, top and tail, thop, brop, brop… Perhaps I will go mad! I am preparing a bucket full of rose hips, our bounty from the hedgerow, getting ready to make rose hip jam.

Rosa rugosa – hips

Rose hips, the fruit of the rose are easy to pick, once you get started its hard to stop. Wild dog rose, Rosa canina is ideal, and Rosa rugosa hips are also good. The bucket fills quickly, as you add more and more. Then you get home. Now you have to top and tail them. Remove the stalk from the base, and discard the leafy calyx from the top.

Rose hips- a long night ahead!

I start with enthusiasm, what better way to spend a Saturday night? Black Sabbath are playing loudly as I pick through the harvest, topping and tailing. Soon the sound of the falling rose hips is dulled as they land on a layer of prepared hips, no longer do I hear the hollow thop, brop, brop of topped and tailed hips bouncing in an empty bucket. I  work away, Ozzy sings “Tomorrow’s Dream”, rose hip jam on my bread for breakfast.

A busy Saturday night topping and tailing rose hips!

The bucket of unprepared hips is still quite full, and Sabbath are nearly finished one album. I am beginning to think that I am going to get to hear their whole back catalogue. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” has me singing “Rosehips Bloody Rosehips” as I dip into the never emptying  bucket.  But I continue with my toil, my three containers in front of me; the harvesting bucket, the compost bucket and plastic bowl of prepared hips. Black Sabbath keep blasting out the tunes, I keep cutting. It is good to hear the old tunes again, air guitar with a sharp knife is not a good idea though

Eventually there is hope, a slight glimpse of white plastic, the bottom of the bucket. Briefly glimpsed before a hip rolls to replace its vacated companion. “Never Say Die”, ah yes, ah song for every occasion, the band plays on. With renewed vigor, I keep chopping, topping, tailing and the bucket is empty at last.

Rose hips topped and tailed

Next I wash some old jars, weigh out 1.2Kg of hips, bag the rest and put them in the freezer.  I place the fruit in a big sauce pan add some water and cook them. Its getting late, but I have lots of Black Sabbath albums. As I move to the next phase of the jam making operation, I change to the second era of Black Sabbath, with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, “Turn Up The Night”. After about an hour the fruits have softened.  I have to press them through a sieve to remove the seeds, a thick pulp of rich red results, it is hard work. Then I skin a few apples and chop them in the food processor. The pulp goes back into a saucepan with two 400ml bottles of apple juice concentrate  and chopped apple. The mixture bubbles like a witches brew, Dio sings of circles and rings, dragons and kings, as I stir the jam. The temperature rises, the jam starts to thicken and after a while of continuous stirring it is time to fill the jars.

Rose hips in the saucepan

This is always the messiest part. The boiling jam is transferred with a spoon into jars that have been heated in the oven to sterilize them. I usually manage to spill some, but only minor scalding results. Soon the jars are filled, I scrape the cooling and setting jam from the edges of the pot. I lick the sweet sticky fruit from the spoon.   It is late, it has been a long night of toil, but this is the best moment, it is hot, it is sweet and it is delicious as Dio sings… “ Heaven and Hell”. Well, it was hard work, for two and a half jars of jam. Not quite hell, but rose hip jam is close to heaven.


Since I fist made rose hip jam I have revised the recipe using sugar instead of apple juice concentrate. This jam wont be set like a jelly, instead it will be like a thick delicious sauce. It still involves topping and tailing!


  • 500 g rose hips chopped
  • 500ml water
  • 200ml boiled water
  • 3 apples, cored and chopped, don’t peel them
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1.5 cups of sugar


  1. Boil the rose hips in 500ml of water until they are soft.
  2. In a separate pot boil the chopped apples in a little water until soft and mushy.
  3. Push the pulp of the rose hips through a sieve into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Put the seeds back into the pot and pour in 200ml of boiling water, cook for a few minutes and sieve again, add to the rose hip pulp.
  5. Next, put the apple pulp through the sieve and mix into the rose hip pulp.
  6. Heat the pulp, add the sugar slowly, stirring to make sure it is dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Turn up the heat and boil the jam.
  7. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes until the jam has thickened.
  8. Put the mixture into sterilized jam jars.
  9. Fasten lids and allow to cool.
August 27, 2012

I fought the root and the root won…. cooking burdock roots

by Ciaran Burke

Bowl of cooked burdock roots- a tasty healthy snack

The story goes, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk and then invented Velcro. The Swiss inventor took his canine for a stroll one day sometime in the 1940s and upon arriving home he noticed that his dog has in this fur the spiky seed heads of Actium minus otherwise known as Burdock. The barbed seed heads attached themselves to the dog’s fur as they do to any fur or clothing that they come in contact with, this is the plants clever method of seed dispersal. Mr. de Mestral was fascinated by this and apparently examined the seed heads under a microscope and voilá…velcro was invented. Well, maybe not quite so easily.

The spiky seed heads attach themselves to clothes and animal fur

Burdock grows in our garden, especially under the old hawthorn tree in the woodland. Each year their impressive wide leaves wave in the wind to be followed by their thistle flowers, which then make fruits that attach themselves occassionally to one of our cats. Many a time I have cursed the burdock plant. Its roots go deep into the earth and I treated it with disdain, because I had viewed it as an unwanted plant, a weed. It was very hard to eradicate. But things have changed, or rather my attitude to plants, and what I condsider a nuisance or a weed has changed. As I grow increasingly interested in using native and wild plants for cooking and exploiting their culinary possibilities, it means that I now embrace a far greater range of plants than I did previously whenI gardened purely as a gardener interested in ornamental, exotic plants.

Burdock, Arctium minus is a handsome plant in its own way, broad dramatic foliage and emphatic thistle flowers of pink. It is a biennial, it dies after it flowers, just as carrots do. Also in common with carrots, the food stored in its long deep tap root can be exploited by us. In Japan, burdock is commonly used in cooking and is cultivated as a crop for its slender tasty roots. In Japanese the it is known as gobo. It is also used in England for making a traditional beer .

Cover the burdock root slices with water and add a good dash of soy sauce

To cook burdock the Japanese way, you cut the centre core of the root into slivers the size of match sticks and boil them in water into which a dash of soy sauce has been added. When the roots become tender, the liquid is reduced until the root pieces have absorbed all the flavour of the soy sauce.

Deep rooted burdock root

With this recipe in mind my wife Hanna and I decided to tackle a burdock root with a garden and tool of which she makes much use of called a Cobra Head. The Cobra Head tool is made in USA and is most effetive a removing weeds from the garden especially deep rooted weeds such as dock and dandelion. As she dug around the burdock root it became apparent, that even the Cobra Head was no match for the stubborn nature of a burdock root, they do not like to be dug up. After much digging and scraping, Hanna’s efforts to remove the whole root intact were in vain, the burdock root won, and a fair portion of the root remained deep in the soil as I finished the extraction process with a shovel.

Use only the central part of the root, burdock roots are best harvested before the plants have flowered

Luckily we had more than enough to work with for our tasty snack. When preparing a burdock root for cooking, wash it well. Then with a sharp knife remove the outer layer of the root and only use the central core. The outer parts remain woody even after cooking. The flavour of burdock root is mild and agreeable but the addition of the soy sauce when cooking gives it a salty zing. It is high in fibre, calcium, potassium, amino acids, and is low in calories. Also, as it is prepared in water and not frying it makes a healthy snack. I wish I had not weeded out so many burdock roots in the past…

Cooking burdock root slivers in water with a good dash of soy sauce


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July 10, 2012

Eating hogweed shoots- Heracleum sphodylium, collecting and cooking.

by Ciaran Burke

Hogweeds- tender shoots are harvested before the leaves have fully unfurled

Hogweed, not the giant one grows in our garden, close to where the spruce trees tower and cast shade over the dwarf rhododendrons, dwarf Podocarpus and assorted conifers in what we refer to as the office garden. My view from the computer desk looks out on to this area, well part of it, the hogweeds lurk to one side, just out of view. When I first saw the shoots appear from the ground in Spring I intended to dig them out. It can be quite a vigorous grower and prolific self-seeding plant. But luckily I procrastinated; other jobs took priority. I say it was good fortune because late one evening I was flicking through the pages of Wild Food by Roger Philips, he enthuses about eating the shoots of the hogweed. Of course I was intrigued.

Hogweed, Heracleum sphodylium in flower in our garden

I have to admit I was a little skeptical, but such was Roger’s praise for the new shoots of Heracleum sphodylium, he says that is one of the best vegetables that he has ever eaten, that I just had to try it. Before harvesting the new shoots growing from the base of the plant I made double sure to check that the plants growing in our garden were indeed the hogweed, H. sphodylium, and not another plant from the Parsnip family once called Umbelliferae but know named Pastinacaceae. Many members of this large plant family could be easily confused and the wrong plant harvested, which could have disastrous results, some are poisonous. The related H.  montegazzianum is a much bigger plant with monstrous leaves and over sized infloresences, the sap of all parts is a severe irritant.

Flowers of hogweed – Heracleum sphodylium

Identifying Hogweed- some tips

As always with foraging wild food be very sure that you know what you are picking, take care to identify the plant correctly. If in doubt leave it out. Consult a wild flower guide or get advice from someone who knows for sure.

H. sphodylium grows 1-1.5m high, has pinnate leaves (divided into opposite leaflets); the leaflets are pinnitafid- leaves with pinnate lobes that are not discrete, remaining sufficiently connected to each other that they are not separate leaflets.  leaves which are downy (fine hairs) on the underside. The stems are ridged, hairy and hollow. The infloresences are compound umbels of white flowers with between 15 and 30 stalks radiating from the centre of the infloresence. The outer petals of each flower on the umbel are enlarged. The fruits are oval and flattened.

The infloresence of Heracleum sphodylium grows 1- 1.5 metres in height

Heracleum sphodylium- has compound leaves, the leaflets are pinnitafid and downy underneath

Harvesting, preparing and cooking hogweed shoots

Only use shoots where the leaves have not fully unfurled, I pulled the shoots upwards and they came out easily.

Heracleum sphodylium – harvest the tender young shoots of hogweed before leaves fully develop

After washing the shoots in cold water I cut them into lengths of about 15cm and steamed them until they were getting tender.

Shoots of hogweed- harvest before the leaves are unfurled.

I removed them from the steamer after 4 minutes and finished them on a pan with a generous knob of butter and some salt and black pepper, about 2 minutes. We enjoyed them for our dinner with vegetables from the garden including broad beans, potatoes, French beans and a nice fresh salad.

After steaming for a few minutes toss the shoots in butter seasoned with salt and black pepper and cook for a couple of minutes more.

The Verdict

The flavour of the hogweed shoots was somewhere between the better side of angelica and fresh Florence fennel, unique and quite tasty, strong and distinct. On their own perhaps too strong but with salad leaves they were good. I will definitely try them again, perhaps with a good stake or as part of a pie or quiche. I recommend you to try them too…

Hogweed shoots sautéd in butter on my dinner plate

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June 20, 2012

Rose Petal Cordial – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Roses, there is no other plant with so much symbolism attached to it, war of the roses, symbol of love and Shakespeare quotes… Roses in the garden can be a pain, not just the literal ache when a prickle, not a thorn,gets stuck in your flesh. Roses have prickles not thorns, thorns are modified shoots while roses have prickles that arise as modifications from the skin of the stem, the song by Poison “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” is just botanically inaccurate! Roses are a pain because many of them get diseases such as rust, black spot and powdery mildew and can be really troubled by aphids (green fly).

‘Roseraie de l’Hay’

There are roses that have resistance to diseases and one group called Rugosa hybrids provides us with many cultivars that are robust and disease free, wind resistant and vigorous. Their flowers are often strongly fragrant and  produced in succession throughout the summer. Even when they get aphids they seem to be quite untroubled. Cultivars such as ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’  and  ‘Schneekoppe’ and ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ are hybrids crossed with wild Rosa rugosa, they combine the ruggedness of the wild species but inherit refinement and beauty expected of a good garden rose. Although less of a pain in terms of care, they can cause literal pain, as there are few other roses have so many prickles along their stems. Ah well every rose has its… prickles.

Their fragrance can drift on the warm summer air, often when I smell roses I think of Turkish Delight. The sweet, a red coloured jelly flavoured with rose petals, that got me thinking…

Rose petals in water

So here we have Rose Petal Cordial, the rich and seductive fragrance of rugosa roses captured in a flavoursome cordial to enjoy at anytime.

Rose Petal Cordial Recipe


  • 12 flowers of a double rugosa rose eg. ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’
  • 2 Litre of water
  • 3 slices of lemon
  • 250g of Fruisana fruit sugar

Pulling away the petals, discard dis-coloured petals


  1. Remove the Rose petals from the flower stalks and put in a glass jar
  2. add the lemon slices and water
  3. Leave to stand for 48 hours in a cool dark place.
  4. Remove the lemons and cook petals and water in a saucepan.
  5. Add sugar as the water heats and continue cooking until boiling
  6. Sieve the liquid into sterilized glass bottles
  7. Allow to cool
  8. Dilute 1:10 cordial to water or according to taste.

We used some cordial to make rose jelly using carageenan seaweed. More on that later…

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May 20, 2012

Spruce Shoot Jam – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
New spruce shoots

New spruce shoots

Spruce trees are a common site in the west of Ireland, not just as part of the alien forestry that covers much of the land, but also you see groups of old trees close to houses, derelict old cottages and lived in houses like ours.

Spruce trees beside our house

Spruce trees beside our house

That is exactly what we have close to our house, very close. I guess that these spruce trees were originally planted so as to provide shelter from the frequent and strong west winds.Now they have grown tall and cast a shadow over the garden in the evening time. We plant exotic woodland species under them, and hostas thrive there.

The species often seen is Sitka spruce, Picea sitchensis, a fast growing species. It is the most widely planted forestry tree, a non-native species that is controversial. It is favoured by forestry companies due to its rapid growth but it does not do much for enriching the wildlife of the country. Beneath them nothing grows and they have a big impact on acidification of soils.

Spruce trees are a common sight in the west of Ireland

Spruce trees are a common sight in the west of Ireland

Spruce has been traditionally used as a cough syrup, in fact it is sold in health food shops in that form. Spruce syrup can be made which is quite tasty and sweet and also spruce cordial. I made the cordial which is very nice and refreshing when diluted with sparkling water. The spruce shoot jam is very good too, an almost caramel like flavour with a hint of, spruciness…


To make the jam I first cooked the spruce shoots in water, i used about 2 cups of shoots and covered them with water and cooked simmered for about four hours. After it cooled overnight I strained it through a muslin cloth and then kept the spruce liquid in the fridge.



  • 1 cup of spruce concentrate (see above)
  • 3 Large dessert apples, peeled, cored and chopped finely
  • 2 bottles (2 x 360ml) of apple juice concentrate
  • Juice of one lemon


  1. Wash the spruce shoots in cold water
  2. Add the apples, lemon juice and fruit concentrate to the saucepan
  3. Cook with a medium heat until the apple pieces are soft (about 15 minutes)
  4. Add the spruce concentrate
  5. Turn up the heat and cook until the jam starts to thicken, about 15-20 minutes
  6. Spoon or pour into sterilized jam jars and put lids on straight away

This made three jars of jam.

Fresh new growths in May on spruce tree

Fresh new growths in May on spruce tree

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