Courgette and Mint Soup

The courgettes have just started cropping and as we know, they're not going to stop for a while yet! So we need every courgette based recipe we have close to hand, and here's a nice simple one for the collection. I'd never thought of souping courgettes until I tried some a couple of years ago that took me by surprise. It was absolutely delicious! Since then I have never balked at the sight of a mountain of these summer staples on the kitchen bench, or a friend arriving with arms laden. This soup is a taste of summertime which can be enjoyed hot or cold, with or without cream. And it's this easy.....

2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5 medium courgettes, sliced
2 medium potatoes, diced
2 pints vegetable stock
60ml cream
a small handful of wild mint leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Fry the onions in some butter or oil until soft. Add the courgettes and garlic and fry for a minute over a medium heat then cover for 5 minutes to allow the courgettes to sweat. Add the potatoes and stock (stock should completely cover the vegetables but only by half an inch) and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Do not simmer for too long or the courgettes loose the deep colour on their skins and turn a bit murky.

Add the mint leaves and blend until smooth. Taste and season as necessary then stir in the cream. Serve hot or allow to cool and refrigerate to serve cold.


Japanese Wineberry and Apple Mint Sorbet

(Rubus phoenicolasius & Mentha suaveolens)
Serves 4 – 6
450g wineberries
A small handful of fresh applemint
170ml boiling water
50g sugar
1 egg white
Take the apple mint leaves and push them into a measuring jug. Pour over the boiling water and allow to steep until cool.
Blend the wineberries in a food processor or liquidiser until pureed. Pour the puree through a sieve into a bowl and discard the seeds and pulp left in the sieve. Strain the mint leaves from the water and add the water and sugar to the wineberry juice. Stir together well and transfer to a plastic, freezer-safe storage container. Check the sorbet periodically and remove when it is semi frozen- solid at the edges and slushy in the middle.
Whisk the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks. When the sorbet is semi-frozen remove it from the freezer and add it to the egg white. Whisk together briefly and return to the container, and then to the freezer. The sorbet is ready to eat once it is completely frozen, but you may want to remove it from the freezer 10-20 minutes before eating so it is easier to scoop.
Decorate with apple mint leaves and serve.
This basic sorbet recipe works well with any fruit and combination of fruits. You may need to alter the amount of sugar you use depending on the tartness of the fruit you choose, and some fruits will benefit from being cooked so that you can make a smooth puree. Delicious combinations include:
  • Blackcurrant and apple
  • Wineberry and melon
  • Autumn olive and mulberry


Good King Henry Stuffed Mushrooms

350g Good King Henry leaves
8 large flat mushrooms
2 large onions
3 cloves crushed garlic
800ml single cream
25g butter
80g grated gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper
Peel and finely chop the onions. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and fry for 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the crushed garlic and fry for another minute.
Rinse the Good King Henry leaves, but don’t dry them. Transfer them to a large saucepan, put on the lid and place over a low heat for 2 or 3 minutes until the leaves have wilted. Add the leaves to the onions and stir in. Add the cream and half the gruyere, return the pan to a medium heat and bring to almost boiling, stirring continuously. Turn off the heat before the mixture boils.
Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stalks. Lay the mushrooms upside down on a baking tray and spoon the mixture evenly between them. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each stuffed mushroom and finish with a twist of black pepper. 


Elderflower or Meadowsweet Champagne.

12 flower heads
1 kg white sugar
8 litres water
3 lemons
4 tbsp white wine vinegar

 Give the flower heads a gentle shake to dislodge and insects hiding in them. Place the flower heads in a deep bowl and cover with 2 litres of boiling water. Cover and allow to steep over night.

The next day, boil up another 2 litres of water and stir in the sugar until fully dissolved. Place the flowers and water in to a large bucket (wash well and rinse first with boiling water - if made of plastic it should be 'food grade'.) Add the sugar syrup and the remaining 4 litres of water. Slice one lemon and add it to the bucket. Add the juice of the remaining 2 lemons to the bucket with the vinegar and stir well. 
Cover the bucket with a tea cloth and leave for 7-10 days, checking the flavour and stirring well every day, until you begin to see bubbles when you stir. At this stage strain the liquid through a muslin cloth and discard the rest. Pour the liquid into clean, sterilised bottles and label. If using glass bottles make sure the glass is thick and strong, and preferably use swing top stoppers. I use 2 litre plastic bottles which I don't fill to the top, and then squeeze in a bit before I screw on the lid (see photo). The champagne will become more fizzy as it is stored, so there will be a build up of carbon dioxide in the bottle which can cause little explosions, so make sure they are stored somewhere safe where they can't do any damage! It is best consumed within 2 weeks as it is quite a volatile drink and is best when the flavours are still sweet and delicate.


Alexanders and Nettle Quiche

One good handful of nettles
One good handful of Alexanders leaves and tender stems
2 spring onions or Welsh or Egyptian onion leaves, cut into 1cm/½” rounds
5 ramson leaves (optional)
80g mature cheddar cheese, grated
4 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp crème fraiche
3 tbsp milk
20g butter
½ tsp dried tarragon
For the pastry:
200g self raising flour
100g butter or margarine, at room temperature
A dash of milk
A pinch of salt
For a 25cm/10” flan tin. Serves 4 – 6.
Preheat the oven to 180c
Grease and flour the flan tin and put to one side. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt. Chop the butter or margarine into small pieces and work it into the flour with your finger tips to form a crumbly mixture which should form a loose ball when squeezed together. Add a sprinkling of milk – a little at a time, and continue working the mixture until it forms a cohesive ball in your hand. Gather up all the mixture and form one ball.
Dust a flat surface and a rolling pin with flour. Press the ball of pastry into a flat disk and roll it out, turning from time to time to prevent sticking, to a circle of roughly 30cm/12” in diameter. Carefully lift the pastry, draping it over the rolling pin, and lay it over the flan tin. Lift the edges and tuck the pastry into the corners of the tin. Slice off the excess with a knife and prick the base with a fork. Line the pastry case with baking parchment or foil and fill with baking beans. Bake for 20 minutes.
While the pastry is baking melt half the butter in a saucepan and sauté the onions over a medium heat until soft. Add the nettles, Alexanders and remaining butter with a tablespoon or two of water, cover and allow to the nettles to wilt for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir all the ingredients together.
Sprinkle half of the cheese over the base of the pastry case, then add the vegetables in an even layer, and then finish with the remaining cheese. Whisk the crème fraiche and milk into the eggs with some salt and pepper and the tarragon and pour over the ingredients in the flan tin. Place into the centre of the oven straight away and bake for 25 minutes.
Serve hot or cold with salad and potatoes.

Ramsons Pesto

2 large handfuls of ramsons leaves, washed
500ml olive oil
100g walnuts, pine nuts or hazelnuts
100g parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp fine sea salt
Pour the olive oil into a large jug (if using a stick blender) or a liquidiser. Add a handful of ramsons followed by the nuts, cheese and salt. Blend until smooth (or to the texture you like), then add more ransoms, a few at a time, until you have a thick paste. Taste the pesto to see if it needs more salt, then transfer it to sterilised glass jars or plastic storage container to be frozen. In jars it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, pour a little olive oil on top of the paste to form a seal and keep out mould. In the freezer it will keep for three months, and after defrosting will keep in the fridge for a week or two – remember to add oil to the top.
Pesto can be stirred into pasta, used to flavour stews and sauces, or spread onto bread and grilled to make bruschetta.  
You can make a dairy-free version of this recipe by leaving out the parmesan and using cashews in place of or along side other nuts. When blended with the oil the cashews break down to become soft and creamy, giving the pesto a rich texture and flavour without the use of cheese.

These and many other recipes can be found in 'Food From Your Forest Garden' by Caroline Aitken and Martin Crawford. Available to pre-order from Green Books:

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