Posts tagged ‘recipe’

November 3, 2012

Finnish Style Cabbage Bake – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Some of the heads of cabbage in the garden are too big to use all at once. We cut a head of the white winter cabbage today, I was messing around with it when I brought into the kitchen, It was bigger than my head! Somehow from that Hanna was inspired to make a cabbage bake, Kaalilaatikko. The Finns have lots of laatikkos, not just cabbage but turnip, potato and carrot. All of which are a big part of the Finnish Christmas dinner. In addition there are beetroot, sauerkraut and even liver… Laatikoos are all quite similar, the main ingredient is combined with barley or rice, syrup, cream and topped with bread crumbs and baked in the oven. Thankfully I have not had to endure a liver version but I am very fond of the turnip, carrot and potato versions. So when hanna suggested Cabbage laatikko for dinner I was more than happy to help out with some cabbage chopping…

Me and my cabbage…

Our version of Kaalilaatikko is not loyal to the traditional version which includes minced meat and cream, we substituted green lentils seasoned with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar for meat and soya milk for cream. And on the top we used crushed Finn Crisp for bread crumbs, a rye based crisp bread, like a very thin Ryvita. They are available in shops in Ireland.

Crush the crisp bread finely


  • 9 cups of finely chopped white winter cabbage
  • 1 cup of green lentils
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup of brown basmati rice
  • 1 cup of soya milk
  • 4 Finn Crisps (2 Ryvita)
  • Butter
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp of dark treacle

Ready to serve…


  1. Soak Lentils for a few hours in plenty of water, then sieve and rinse.
  2. Cover lentils with water with some salt, boil hard for ten minutes and then reduce heat to simmer until the water has boiled off and the lentils are soft.
  3. Add vinegar and  one spoon of soy sauce to the lentils.
  4. Par boil the rice for 10 minutes.
  5. In a separate sauce pan sauté the onion until soft then add the cabbage and stir fry for a few minute until it starts to become tender.
  6. Add salt and thyme.
  7. Add the rice and lentils to the cabbage.
  8. Mix the treacle and golden syrup together and then add to the cabbage, stir well.
  9. Transfer to a buttered oven dish with lid.
  10. Pour in the soya milk and stock (we used beef stock).
  11. Sprinkle with crushed Finn Crisps and add a few small knobs of butter.
  12. Cover with lid.
  13. bake in oven at 175 degress Celcius for 60 minutes.
  14. then remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes until the top had turned golden brown.
  15. Serve with lingon berry jam. We also had Hawthorn and Apple jam. You could use cranberry instead.

Cabbage Bake, Kaalilaatikko served with hawthorn and Apple Jam and Lingon Berry jam

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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 18, 2012

Pickled Elder Flower Buds – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Pickled Elder Flower Buds

Elder flowers open in succession, so even now while there are flowers in full bloom there are further flowers still to open. The flower heads when harvested at the green bud stage are delicious pickled, a bit like a substitute for capers.

Collecting the flower heads

Snap off unopened flower heads. Collect about 30 heads for a 1 litre jar. You can leave the stalks, they can be eaten too.

Boil up a litre of cider vinegar, or you can use a malt vinegar instead.

Elder flower buds in colander after washing

Wash the harvested flower heads and place them in a clip top storage jar.

Elder flower buds in clip lid jar

When the vinegar has boiled, pour it over the flower heads.

Pour the boiled vinegar into the jar containing the elder flower buds

Seal the jar and the allow the vinegar to cool.

The flower heads can be eaten as soon as the vinegar has cooled.

Pickled Elder Flower Buds

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May 31, 2012

Nasturtium Pesto – Lower Food Miles Version- Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
Nasturtium pesto with Spelt Spaghetti

Nasturtium Pesto with Spelt Spaghetti

We have The Garden School at BLOOM this year situated in the “Budding Bloomers” area. We are hoping to inspire future generations of gardeners by teaching children (and many adults) how to make plant pots from newspaper and then sow a nasturtium seed into peat free compost.

Nasturtiums are ornamental and edible. The simplest way to enjoy tem is to tear the leaves and petal into a salad. I love to use nasturtiums as pesto. featured here is our own lower food miles version that ses Irish produced rapeseed oil, irish goas cheese and sunflowers are cheaper than pine nuts, it is delicious.

we have a free nasturtium recipe booklet available for free download from The Garden School website. There are also some videos on how to make the pots!

Nasturtium Pesto – Lower Food Miles Version- Recipe


50g nasturtium leaves

2 garlic cloves, crushed

6 green nasturtium fruits

50g sunflower seeds

75g of Kilmallock organic goats cheese

juice of half a lemon

150 ml of olive oil Rapeseed Oil

Some salt, according to taste.


Throw everything into a food processor. Let it whizz around for a couple of minutes. The mixture should be well blended, a nice green colour.

The mixture can be used straight away, but this quantity will give you enough to fill a couple of small jars. When filling the jars pour a little oil on top of the pesto to seal them and help preserve them. They will keep for a few weeks.

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