Foraged Food: Onion weed, wild fennel and potato soup

Foraged Food: Onion weed, wild fennel and potato soup

I’ve been foraging far and wide. Well, actually just at my parent’s place but foraging none the less!

I was out gathering a persistent little bulb that is the bane of many people’s existence, but I love this stuff. ‘This stuff’ is in fact, onion weed or ‘Allium triquetrum’. It’s considered an invasive weed as the bulbs multiply very quickly underground and in spring they pop up everywhere.  Invasive it is, but it’s delicious. It’s super similar to spring onions when raw in both taste and looks, and similar to taste in leeks when cooked and the entire plant is edible. Take care not to confuse it with similar looking bulbs like snowdrops which also have white flowers, though they are much more bell shaped and won’t smell like onions when squished.

I wouldn’t go out and actively grow onion weed myself because once it’s established it will spread and be very difficult to get rid of, but I’ll definitely take advantage of the stuff that’s already out there.

While I was out I also grabbed a bunch of wild fennel. This stuff is like regular fennel on steroids. It’s huge and bushy, and it’s the fronds that I gathered for this recipe. They have an amazing aniseed kick.

In today’s post, I’m going to be using the onion weed in the same way, I would use a leek in a leek and potato soup. These edible onions impart a brilliant green colour to the soup since I’m using all the green leaves as well as the bulbs. The gorgeous wee flowers I save till the end as a garnish.

The fennel fronds, I put in the soup whole, so that they can cook in the water and flavour it, but at the end, I fish them out. This is because wild fennel is very fibery and it’s hard to blitz it into a smooth soup if left in.

Then I just foraged for potatoes in my own garden and I had all the recipes for a delicious, nutritious soup.[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:13]

 

Healthier Homemade Ginger Beer

Healthier Homemade Ginger Beer

It’s perfectly fizzy, has an awesome kick of ginger and packed with probiotics. I promise you, you are going to want to try this homemade ginger beer!

The fizziness and the probiotics come from something called a ginger bug, a jar of lacto-fermented ginger. The ginger bug is made up of filtered water, fresh ginger and sugar. You feed a bit of fresh ginger and sugar every day to a jar until it starts bubbling away. The bubbling will tell you your ginger bug is active and full of the Lactobacillus bacteria, which is responsible for turning all the sugar in there to lactic acid, which in turn, is responsible for the probiotics and good digestive health.

This ginger bug will also carbonate your drink so it’s so fizzy and delicious without the need for any gadgets like a soda stream. This recipe is for a ginger beer, but this ginger bug can carbonate any fruit juice, or tea you like.

Ginger Bug

To make the ginger bug, start with pouring 500ml of filtered water into a sterilised glass jar. Add to it 2cm of freshly grated ginger and 2 teaspoons sugar. I just use plain cane sugar for this part. Cover the jar with a cloth and keep in a warm dark place.

Every day for the next 2-6 days (depending on how warm your home is), feed the jar another 2cm of ginger and 2 tsp of sugar. After about 4 days you might see it start to bubble and the ginger will rise to the top, though again depending on the heat of your home it may take longer.

Once your bug is bubbling and active* (put your ear by it, you should also be able to hear it bubble), then you can make your ginger beer base.

*After you have used your bug, top it up with water, ginger and sugar. Then you can store it in the fridge in a sealed jar until you next use it, but feed it once a week to keep it alive, 2cm ginger and 2 tsp sugar. If you want to use it again, take it out of the fridge and feed it at least 6 hours before you need it.

For this recipe, I filled two 750ml beer bottles.

In a saucepan, I combined 1.4 liters of filtered water, 1/3 cup – 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it), a pinch of salt and 3cm fresh ginger, grated. I used coconut sugar in this step because it adds flavour and a gorgeous caramel colour. Warm this up to a simmer, until the sugar dissolves, then let it cool down.

I also added in 4 pieces of my dehydrated limes. Lime or lemon is definitely necessary for flavour but they don’t need to be dried. That’s just what I use because that’s what I’ve got. I add my limes in at the start when the liquid is warm so they can rehydrate quickly. If you are using fresh lemon or lime, add the juice of one lemon or lime, once the sugar water has cooled to room temperature.

Once your liquid has cooled, it can be strained and the grated ginger can be discarded. To this strained liquid, add in 1/3 cup of strained active ginger bug. Pour into the two bottles (use a funnel, or a jug with a spout) and seal them airtight.

Store in a cool dark place for 2-3 days, though I would check for carbonation after 2. If it’s fizzy you can put it in the refrigerator, if not, seal it back up and let it sit another day.

Once ready, serve chilled. Enjoy!

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Homemade Sourdough Step by Step (plus video)

Homemade Sourdough Step by Step (plus video)

I started trying to make sourdough a couple of years ago with mixed results. With a bread that takes as long to make as sourdough does, mixed results isn’t a great outcome. I absolutely love the taste of sourdough and the idea that you can make a delicious bread with just flour, water, and a little salt was too good to give up.

There are so many recipes out there, some knead, some with no-knead, some with a stretch and fold. Which is the right one? Two main recipes I studied were the ones from www.perfectloaf.com and the Rustic Sourdough from Homegrown Kitchen. I mention these two as they both produce a-m-a-z-i-n-g sourdough breads but one has many more steps than the other.

In the recipe at The Perfect Loaf, the temperature is mentioned a lot, there is a levean that needs to be made first (a mixture made of the initial sourdough starter and a little water and flour), an initial autolyse (a mixture of the water and the flour) and the levean is added afterwards. In the Homegrown Kitchen book there is no levean and the sourdough starter is added with the flour and water at the autolyse stage. Water temperature was mentioned a little but not as much as on The Perfect Loaf.

Phew! If you’re a beginner it’s no wonder this can be overwhelming. After initial copying of both these recipes and a little tweaking and adapting of my own, I’ve made my own recipe of a sourdough that works every time and is easy to follow. I’ll document the steps I’ve taken and I’ve made a little video so hopefully, you’ll see how sourdough isn’t as daunting as you may have thought.

A quick note on flours: A strong flour with a protein level between 12% and 15% is necessary to create a nice sturdy loaf. The flour I mainly use is the organic white flour from the bulk bins at Commonsense Organics in Wellington and that happens to have a protein level of 12.4% so it’s perfect to use. Most wholemeal flour will have a high protein level too. I also use rye and wholemeal flour in my bread but use mainly the white flour and the wholemeal to provide the protein and structure. If I make it with too much rye, it makes a denser bread.

Step by Step Sourdough

Before you start, you’ll need an active sourdough starter (naming him something cool like Orlandough bloom or Breadly Cooper is completely optional). Nicola Galloway from Homegrown Kitchen has a great sourdough starter recipe here, which is from where my Orlandough starter was born.

Step 1:

In a large bowl, combine the water and the flour to start the autolyse stage. Use wet hands to mix it into a rough dough, then cover with a towel and leave to sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

Step 2:

Now it’s time to add in the salt and the active starter (one that has been fed in the last 6-12 hours)

Use wet hands to mix this into a sticky dough.

Step 3:

I use a stretch and fold method to work my dough. You’ll need to stretch and fold your dough around about every 45 minutes for three hours to develop the gluten strands in the dough. At the start of this step your dough will tear when you stretch it up. By the end of all your stretch and folds, you should be able to stretch it right out and it won’t tear quickly, in fact it can get really thin, almost see-through. This is called a window pane effect.

How to Stretch and Fold.

To stretch and fold, scoop a wet hand under the dough and stretch it up, then fold it down. Turn the bowl and do it again for at least 5 turns each time.

Here is my dough at the start of this process, it rips very easily.

And here it is after 3 hours of stretching and folding.

Step 4:

Now it’s time for the bulk ferment which is when your dough will proof in the refrigerator for anywhere between 8-20 hours. I usually start my bread at about 4 or 5 pm so that it’s ready to proof overnight when I go to bed and I can bake it in the morning.

You’ll need some sort of basket or bowl for the dough to hold its shape while it proofs. I use a traditional banneton basket. Whatever you use, flour it well so the dough doesn’t stick. Place it in the refrigerator, covered with a damp tea towel.

Step 5:

Fast forward at least 8 hours later and it’s time to get baking! Preheat your oven and a large pot with a lid to 220 Degrees Celsius. If you have a dutch oven that’s perfect to use but I just use a large stainless steel soup pot with a lid.

Tip your dough out onto some baking paper and slash it. It doesn’t really matter how you slash or score it, your bread just needs somewhere for air to escape. I use a razor blade for this job. You can brush the dough with some extra flour which will create a pretty effect when you slash it.

Then place the bread in the preheated pot and pop in the oven, with the lid on for 40 minutes for its covered bake. Capturing the steam inside the pot is what helps create that delicious, iconic sourdough crust.

After the covered bake is done, remove the lid and place back in the oven for 15 minutes to brown up the crust.

Now here’s the hardest part: let the sourdough cool before cutting it.

Want to see me actually make it? Here’s a video!

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Happy baking!

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