Posts tagged ‘wild food’

July 7, 2013

Foraged Food Indian Style – Creamy Buttered Nettle Panir

by Ciaran Burke


When I mention foraging to people, one of the first remarks made is often in relation to nettle soup… It seems that it is probably the best known foraged food, and while nettle soup can be tasty and delicious, it is a pity to limit the experience of harvesting wild food to the same old recipes. Nettles are delicious and tasty, and can be cooked in a number od ways as a vegetable, steamed and eaten with melted butter and freshly ground black pepper, saured in rape seed oil and eaten with new potatoes or even raw in a salad! If you rub nellte leaves roughly between the palms of your hands you remove the stinging hairs. It must be done firmly and with confidence, as the old saying about grasping the nettles says…

Nettle pesto is also delicious, used as a topping for potatoes or crostini, and of course, mixed with pasta and some finely grated cheese, I like a hard goats cheese with my nettle pesto. One of the most delicious ways that I have cookeed nettles this yerar though, is replacing spinach in the classic Indiam Saag Panir recipe.

While nettles are usually used as young shoots in the spring, older nettle clumps can be chopped back now and the new growths can be harvested in afe weeks time.

Creamy Buttered Nettle Panir – Recipe

Panir is a soft cheese that is easy to make at home. Bring one litre of milk to the boil then add about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, to make the milk curdle. Then pour the curdled milk through a muslin cloth. Squeeze the cheese in the cloth to emove remaining fluid and then shape into a flat block, like whenyou buy feta. Place the cheese in the cloth on a plate and cover with a chopping board weighed down with a tin of beans or a bag of sugar. Leave for two hours and then either refrigarate or use.

Homem ade panir cheese cut into cubes

Home made panir cheese cut into cubes


  • About 30 young nettle shoots
  • block of panir cut into cubes
  • 125 butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion seeds (nigella seeds)- nothing to do with onions nor Nigella damsecena
  • 4 curry leaves
  • clove of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 150ml of cream
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 red chilli choped (optional)
mixing the panir and wilted nettles

Mixing the panir and wilted nettles


  1. Put nettle leaves in a steamer and cok until wilted. then cool and set aside
  2. Melt 25g of butter in a large saucepan and slowly fry the panir cubes until browned, then remove and place on some kitchen paper
  3. Melt the rest of the butter, add the remaining ingredients except the lemon juive and chillies. Stir for a few minutes.
  4. Mix the spinach and panir cubes and then add to the mix.
  5. Add the lemon juice and sprinkle the chillies on top.
  6. Serve with brown basmati rice or home made Naan bread- delicious!
Creamy buttered nettle panir

Creamy buttered nettle panir

October 22, 2012

Blackberry Ketchup Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Blackberries are coming to the end for this year, but you might still be able to pick a kilo for this delicious recipe, Blackberry Ketchup. It is delicious with all sorts of savoury foods, use it instead or tomato ketchup. I love it with organic pork sausages that I buy at the market. It is easy to make too…

Backberry ketchup ingredients


  • 1 Kg of Blackberries
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp of dried chillies
  • 1 tbsp of yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 200ml vinegar
  • 250g of light brown sugar


  1. Put blackberries in a large saucepan with about 200 ml of water and start to cook.
  2. Press the garlic cloves into the berries and add all the other ingredients
  3. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for about 25 minutes until the fruit is soft.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little
  5. Blend with the hand blender.
  6. Press through a sieve to remove seeds
  7. Bottle in sterilized jars.

When the ketchup has thickened it is ready to be sieved

October 2, 2012

Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake

We have collected quite a bunch of wild carrot seeds from along the bog road that leads to our house. It is a quiet road which does not have much traffic travelling along it. The concave seed heads make them easy to identify and they are quick to pick. Harvest them when dry and remove from the infloresence. Store them in a box in a cool dry place.

Hanna baked a delicious cake using the seeds.


Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake – Recipe


  • 125g Butter
  • 1 Cup of dark muscavado sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ tsp of baking soda
  • ½ tsp of baking powder
  • 150ml of kefir (or buttermilk)
  • 200ml of wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/2tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp of cried ginger
  • 3tsp of ground wild carrot sed
  • pinch of salt


  1. Melt Butter and sugar
  2. When cooled ad spices and kefir
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour with soda and baking powder with pinch of salt then whisk in the egg.
  4. Add the flour mix to butter mixture.
  5. Fold in the flour.
  6. Put into cake tin, sprinkle some whole wild carrot seeds over the top and bake at 175 degrees Celcius for about 50 minutes.

Wild Carrot Seed Spice Cake

Kefir is a fermented milk  originating in the North Caucasus region where it was commonly used by shepherds. Traditional kefir was made in animal skin bags that were hung near a doorway where by it would be knocked against by anyone entering, this would ensure that the milk would be mixed well with the kefir grains. The kefir grains are produced during the fermentation process, a small amount of kefir acts as a starter for the next batch. Luckily you don’t have to be a shepherd or have an animal skin bag to have kefir. It is sold in Polish and Eastern European food shops. In the recipe above kefir can be replaced with Buttermilk.

Daucus carota- Wild carrot seed heads on our road

September 23, 2012

Dock Seed Wafers – Finally a reason to have dock leaves in the garden

by Ciaran Burke

Dock seed wafers and nasturtium flowers

Rub them on a nettle sting. Apart from that what are dock leaves good for? Well, for a long time I have struggled to find a reason to allow a dock leaf to exist in the garden. Rumex obtusifolius the broadleaf dock is a deep rooted perennial, a thick tap root that is almost impossible to dig from the ground without it breaking. Any portion that remains in the soil will regrow, causing annoyance for most gardeners. Their large oval leaves with wavy edges are not pretty, coarse and rugged, the flowers greenish brown on a ribbed stem that reaches 60-90cm (24 – 36in) high. The flowers each form a pod which turns a dark reddish brown. The wind shakes them free and into the soil they fall, a new dock leaf will grow.

Dock seeds on plant

It is the seeds that have given the dock leaves in our garden a reprieve. Easily rubbed from the stems they can be ground up to make a fine flour. Mixed with spelt or heat flour they can produce a tasty mix, a crispy cracker to enjoy with cheese or pickled cucumber.

Dock seeds in hand

Harvest the dock seeds when they are dark brown. Make sure they are dry, best to collect them when the weather is dry.

We first placed the seeds in a coffee grinder and then ground them finer using a pestle and mortar.

Dock seeds ground to a flour

Dock Seed Crackers- Recipe


  • 100ml dock seed flour
  • 100ml whole meal spelt flour
  • 1 – 2 teaspoon of mixed hedgerow spice:
  • 1/3 hogweed seeds
  • 1/3 wild carrot seeds
  • 1/3 lovage seeds
  • Water


Mix ingredients to a dough that is not sticky.

  1. Sprinkle some flour on a wooden or glass surface, and then roll the pastty very thin.
  2. Place on a baking tray, which has been rubbed with some oil
  3. Cut into squares.
  4. Bake in an pre-heated oven at 170 degrees Celcius for 12 minutes or until crisp.

Cutting the pastry into squares

Dock wafers ready for the oven

A stack of dock seed wafers

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September 22, 2012

Picking Blackberries and Blackberry Jam Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Blackberries are an abundant fruit in the Irish countryside

Shining and black, tightly packed and full of flavour. Each segment a tiny drupe, like a miniature stone fruit, they line the lanes and roadsides of the Irish countryside. Blackberries are abundant, their prickled stems arch over the hedgerows and back to the soil where each stem can take root at its tip and continue its colonization of the earth.

Blackberries, Rubus fruticosa are a bit of a  Jekyll and Hyde for gardeners, sometimes hated. Then it is called a bramble or a briar, a sharp prickled vigorous and multi-stemmed woody weed; Mr Hyde, wild vagabond and unwelcome. Brambles are sometimes loved. In September the sweet and juicy black fruits ripen to the darkest black, picked for jam making and delicious pies, then they are blackberries; Dr Jekyll, most welcome.

I have spent hours, days, maybe weeks chopping bramble stems in our garden. Gloved hands dragging their roots from the soil after vigorous hacking at their toots with a spade. It is a constant battle, more like war, where battles are sometimes won but the enemy always return to the same front or ambushes you somewhere else. Yet I love them, yes, I love my enemy.

Rubus fruticosa is a variable species and there are said to be hundreds of varieties occurring in the wild. Plants around our garden produce small hard fruits without great flavour so I take cuttings from plants that I find with good fruit. I will plant these into the woodland bordering our garden so I don’t have to travel looking for good berries in the future, reducing my carbon footprint! Until our new introductions of superior blackberries produce fruit, which will be a couple of years as they fruit on previous years growth, Hanna and I have been picking the fruit along the roads in our locality.

Rubus fruticosa – its a love hate thing!

One of the reasons I enjoy food foraging and discovering more about the edible properties of the wild plants that grow all around us is that It gives me a new respect for plants I previously called weeds. It also creates a link with the past. This is something our ancestors would have done. Foraged food played an important part of their diet. It also bring back fond memories of my childhood. I have happy memories, of purpled hands and face, plastic buckets filling slowly and the sweet taste of blackberries in my mouth. Sometimes I ate more than I picked on our family expeditions to the countryside, where we would walk along the country roads gathering the fruit, falling in ditches, getting scratched and dyed. Recently when visiting Turlough Monastery and round tower near Castlebar in Co. Mayo I tasted delicious berries. They were big, juicy and sweet. Picking berries beneath the towering presence of a thousand year old stone tower, watched by a statue of Jesus and passing by the old yew trees brought a connection of site and action that goes back to pre-christian Ireland where probably this old monastery was preceded by a holy site where our ancestors probably nibbled on a berry or leaf when they visited.

Round tower and blackberries -Turlough, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

You also have amusing encounters with people of the present when they see you picking berries. Last Monday on a country lane, we were filling our buckets ripe sweet fruit. A blue Nissan  car approached and slowed to a stop. An elderly local lowered the passenger side window, an amused look on his face. We greeted each other and he asked “ are ye gettin’ many?”. I replied, telling him that there were lots of berries, he laughed and said “they will have lots of maggots by now” and drove away.  Our relationship with the bramble in modern Ireland is a curious one, while the roadsides are filled with their free fruit, people buy farmed and imported blackberries instead, €3.95 for 250 grams! Last Monday we picked a small fortune of fruit in a couple of hours, and no maggots!



  • 2kg Blackberries
  • 3 cooking apples cored and chopped
  • 750 g of organic sugar
  • Juice of one large lemon
  1. In a  sauce pan I cooked the chopped apple  with about 150ml of water until the apple had gone to a soft pulp. (Leave on the skins if organic and remember to wash them well)
  2. In another larger saucepan I added 150ml of water and the blackberries and the juice of half a lemon.
  3. Cook the berries slowly until they have become soft this can take 20 to 30 minutes
  4. Then press the apple pulp through a sieve into the blackberries.
  5. Slowly add the sugar, stirring to help it dissolve.
  6. Turn up the heat and stir occasionally. The jam should be boiling really hard and it will splatter. I always leave the lid partially covering the pot to reduce the mess on the walls!
  7. The jam will start to thicken, when set you pour it from a wooden spoon it will form thick droplets that are slow to leave the spoon. I like my jams to have a little give, not like a jelly. This boiling stage will take about twenty minutes, a little more if you want your jam more set.
  8. Then transfer the jam into jars which have been sterilized.

I use my new jam funnel, it cost about €6.50 and it reduces the mess, in fact there is no mess and it speeds up the process of jar filling. I put on the lids immediately.From these quantities of ingredients I got eight jars.The best part of jam making is continually having to taste the jam before it is ready, making sure it is sweet enough and the fruit has softened, and the smell of the cooking fruit is delicious too.

My new jam funnel used here to fill pots when making plum jam.

Taxus baccata “Fastigiata’ _ Irish Yew and the round tower at Turlough, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

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