Friday, 28 February 2014

Sassy seafood salad with wild greens + flowers


'Burnt lime squid and king prawns on a bed of quinoa and bulgar wheat, wild salsa verde, avocado, slow roasted cherry tomatoes and yellow pepper, with an array of foraged greens and flowers, topped off with a sorrel yoghurt'


This has got to be my favourite wild food dish thus far.  Not only does it require you to get creative in regards to what plants and flowers you pick, but it's easy to make, looks great, can be scaled up easily (great if you've got guests), and tastes delicious.

What I love about this dish is that you needn't follow a set recipe - you can chop and change what plants and flowers you use depending on what's around, you can use fish instead squid and prawns - I think flash fried whole sardines would be lovely with this - you can substitute quinoa for cous cous, the salsa verde for pesto etc etc.


Although this is an easy dish to make, it is a time-consuming one - there are five or six different components to the dish - I've split the instructions/recipes up for each component to make it easier to digest.


Top row (L-R): Three-cornered Leek, Cow Parsley, Nasturtium
Middle row (L-R): Sorrel, Ox-eye Daisy, Hairy Bittercress
Bottom row - flowers (L-R): Gorse, Rosemary, Hairy Bittercress, Red Dead-nettle


Three-cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum):

For ID information, see a previous blog post here




Cow Parsley / Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris):

Cow Parsley is in the carrot (umbellifer) family, which contains deadly plants such as Hemlock Water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) and Hemlock (Conium maculatum).  Be VERY careful when picking Cow Parsley, as it can grow side by side with Hemlock and looks almost identical to those not in the know - this is not a plant for beginners!  




Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus):

A common garden plant and a great edible species - the peppery flowers are often used in salads, leaves are used as a garnish or can be made into pesto, and the seeds can be made in to 'poor man's capers'.  I saw this lot in an overgrown front garden, so helped myself to a few of the younger leaves - urban 'reclamation'.




Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa):

For detailed ID information, see a previous blog post here

Big leaves were picked for the Sorrel yoghurt and the smaller ones for garnish.




Ox-eye Daisy (Luucanthemum vulgare):

This herb can be found growing in meadows, fields, disturbed areas, and also my back garden.  You don't need much as it has a strong flavour.




Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta):

For detailed ID information, see a previous blog post here




Gorse (Ulex europaeus):

Gorse flowers have a mild coconut-y aroma and can be used to make syrup, wine, ice cream etc.  Flowers can also be crystallised as you would a Sweet Violet, or simply eaten au naturel.  When eating raw I find that although you get a slight coconut taste to begin with, the overriding taste is an unpleasant bitter one.  Because of this, I picked individual petals from each bud and used them to garnish the salad, instead of using the whole flower heads.




Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum):

Prior to flowering, the leaves and young stems are usually eaten raw in a salad or steamed as a veg, however, I picked this plant not for the leaves but for the tiny pink flowers - although they don't have much of a taste, I think they look rather quaint.




Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):

Those that have eaten this widely-used garden herb raw will know it is not a particularly pleasant experience; the flavour is too acrid - the same can be said of the flowers, so use sparingly.





Foraged plants and flowers used in the salad

Slow roasted tomatoes and yellow peppers:

This is super easy and can be done a few hours in advance to make things easier for yourself.

Ingredients:

- 10 halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 yellow pepper cut in to chunks
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- Salt / pepper


Preheat the oven to 100ÂșC. Toss the tomatoes and yellow pepper in olive oil, mix in the thyme, season well.  Slow roast until they start to caramelise, turning sweet and succulent, but don't be tempted to turn the heat up - low and slow is the key for this.  When they're done take them out and put them in a plastic freezer bag and seal - this is to prevent them from drying out. When the salad is nearly ready, simply put these back in the oven to warm up.





Wild salsa verde:

This recipe is pinched straight from one of my favourite blogs - Hunter Gather Cook.  I didn't use the same plants as the recipe states as I don't leave near the coast so can't readily get hold of Alexanders, nor could I find any Ground-ivy whilst out in the woods.  Instead, I used Cow Parsley, Ox-eye Daisy and Hairy Bittercress.


Click here for HGC blog post -->   Hunter Gather Cook Salsa Verde Recipe



Ingredients:

- 1 handful of Sorrel
- 1 handful of Three-cornered Leek
- ½ handful of Hairy Bittercress
- ½ handful of Ox-eye Daisy
- ½ handful of Cow Parsley
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 4 anchovies 
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Black pepper


Finely chop the wild greens and anchovies - if you blend them they'll turn into a green paste. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and adjust if necessary.

I forgot to take a photograph of the salsa once completed, so check the Hunter Gather Cook blog post for more info / pics.



Finely chopped wild greens


Sorrel yoghurt:

The key to this yoghurt is to not blend it for more than 5 seconds or so, as it'll become thin and lose it's viscosity.


Ingredients:

- Greek yoghurt
- Handful of Sorrel leaves
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Salt / pepper


Put all the ingredients bar the seasoning in a blender and blitz for 5 seconds or so, season to taste. 






Burnt lime squid and king prawns:




Ingredients:

- 1 lime
- 1 whole squid
- 4 raw prawns


Cut the lime into slices and fry on a high heat with a splash of olive oil until they start to caramelise and burn.  Take the lime slices out the pan and rub into the flesh of the squid and prawns to baste the flavour on.  In the same pan, fry the prawns and squid - prawns will take a minute longer, so put them in first.  Stuff the squid with burnt lime slices and continue to baste the seafood until cooked.






Building the salad:

The base of this salad is a mix of red / white quinoa and bulghar wheat, you can buy this pre-mixed from Waitrose. Boil for around ten minutes and drain. 

Pick only the youngest Sorrel, Cow Parsely, Hairy Bittercress and Nasturtium leaves to use as garnish for the salad. Have all the flowers and greens pre-prepared ready to scatter on the seafood once it's cooked - you don't want it to go cold!


To build the salad;

  1. Place quinoa and bulghar on platter
  2. Evenly spread salsa verde on quinoa / bulghar
  3. Scatter roasted veg and avocado chunks
  4. Sprinkle chopped mint 
  5. Place squid + prawns on roast veg
  6. Garnish with wild greens and flowers
  7. Dollop with Sorrel yoghurt
  8. Tuck right in!


This was enough for two greedy people to have a real feast.  The taste was oh so sassy and oh so scrumptious - I'll be doing this again!  


A veritable feast







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