In the midst of this seemingly never-ending lockdown, finding motivation to get out and do stuff is getting harder, I find anyway I know I’m not the only one. There is a beautiful walk near to the house that is quite long and is tough going in parts, it’s a beautiful place to find peace and quiet away for the 4 walls that are closing in ever faster as the days go by in the mental countdown to get back to work, into a kitchen, back to the humm of the combi oven firing up. The whoof of the gas lighting on the ring the rattle and bang of a pot or a pan. The eternal “I busy” followed by laughter from the kitchen porter, even the sound of this rings in my head as I write this piece, brings a smile to a dull evening
Anyway, tangent and mental word soliloquy over (thanks Alexa). While wandering now through the forest I can’t help notice the herbs, flowers, catkins, mushrooms and shrubs all start to wake from their winter hibernation.
Every year around this time we begin to plan for a wild garlic forage, with a group in a forestry, I know it seems totally foreign at the moment, it’s not just wild garlic that’s coming up at the moment, there is a multitude of different greens, over the next few pieces I’ll be talking about different ones and their uses, not in a fancy manner just humble food, everything from wood sorrel to primroses, from chickweeds to nettles, yes you read that right nettles.
It is spring time and the vast majority of our natural mineral reserves are depleted after the winter, on a typically Irish food diet now we do have supplements and a wider variety of foods available to us than we ever had before, which has lessened the knowledge that we generally have about the world around us, people are often surprised when they see me in a ditch or of a beaten track picking stuff, I will nearly always get asked what have you got there, how will you use that now, I didn’t know you could eat that, or Ive got that near the house or in a flowerbed and never knew you could eat it and dismissed it as a weed.
I love this type of interaction, as I can see them smile and that makes me feel that little bit happier, whether or not they do anything with it, doesn’t faze me at all if they do, they do if they don’t well, they don’t I’m not going to force myself or my opinion on anyone, for some people its too far outside a comfort zone and that’s ok, for others they will give it a go and think yes, this is for me or no, not a hope thanks, but no thanks.
There is a book that we have put together for uses of wild garlic available from the website or Croi restaurant, follow the page on Facebook for updates on forages and little titbits of info on a variety of different subjects
As always follow along @chefpaulc
Since lockdown began at the start of wild garlic season picking was slim, beaches off limits even slimmer pickings I’ve always had hedgerows to pick from fraughans are beginning the fruiting process at the moment so they are small green berries now when ripe they will look like small blueberries and wild strawberries are ripe for the picking at the moment get them while they are ripe as birds love them and have infinitely more time to grab them than you.
Also fushia nss elderflower coming in thick and fast with the beautiful weather best to get them early in the morning to keep the best of the goodness before the bees take all the goodness.
Some people say it smells like cat pee in the evening, I’ve never picked it in the evening so no comment here.
I’ve always adored the smell of elderflower and this year I have acquired some water keifer from a friend to make some elderflower drinks fotr the year with a little fizz. Big Mason jar at the ready. Stay tuned for results. This could work amazingly or fail miserably. Fingers crossed.
A recent wander in ballyseedy woods revealed a number of pheasant back mushrooms or Dryads saddle mushrooms tasty mocerls I dried the larger ones that I found and had some for dinner myself.
How to cook them. You cook them the same as any regular mushroom, it just has a stronger “mushroom” flavour.
How I dried the larger mushrooms I hear you ask. After cleaning using a damp cloth and a light rinse of water to flush out any bugs I sliced as thin as I could and placed them on some parchment paper and into a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes and then turned it off. When I turned it off I opened the oven to release the steam that will build up.
Check in the morning they should snap quite easily if they bend they are not done. Repeat the procedure once more if necessary.
Our shop has now gone live tralee culinary gangsters t shirts, beanies and vegtopia books availablr for sale.
As always stay safe, support local
To eat or not to eat?? Pretty garnish or dish component??
Well for me as a child of rural Ireland eating flowers was something that was never done, even now the mention of eating flowers brings strange looks to some people’s faces.
As a general rule flowers were a no go area for us. The echo of my mother “mind my flowers” still rings through my head, also remember a boot or Welly being thrown in the direction of a dog that was taking apart a flower bed.
However as a forager, chef and culinary gangster being open to new items comes almost as second nature at this stage. Many new finds for me are because of the flowers that i noticed them in the first place. Many of these are not just pretty they pack a flavour punch. I no longer fear the flower patch eat the evidence so to speak. Many flowers are beautiful pickled or in a light batter and deep fried.
Are flowers here to stay i believe they are seasonally at least. There are companies dedicated to growing edible flowers for restaurants and hotels. Now it’s a trend that is growing rapidly as well as foraging however at a much slower rate, I feel that the vast majority of people could be converted to at least trying a flower, I’m not going to force anybody to eat flowers or only wild food eating .
I think we overlook a lot of the possibility for flavour by not trying flowers either raw or cooked as sometimes they change and often give a beautiful scent to compliment a dish.
Flowers are no longer the reserve of the fancy restaurant even pubs are using flowers now as they are more available to everyone.
Let us know what you think in the comments @traleeculinarygangsters.com or to me directly @chefpaulc on Instagram and Twitter