Well, it was a time for another foray into the fields to find today's dinner for my willing companion to taste test. This time I had consulted my battered copy of Food for Free by Richard Mabey to get inspiration and discovered that Jack-in-the-hedge is not only edible but tastes of something between onion and garlic. Yesterday I rather warily tried a leaf and had to agree that Mabey is quite right. It does indeed have a subtle but sharp taste not unlike something in the onion family. Besides this, we have still got an impressive quantity of nettles, which I have been continuing to dry for tea, either on their own, or in combination with other spring leaves: fennel, marjoram and a few dandelion heads for colour. I like making combnation teas, especially when one can add flower heads as they are so pretty.
Nettle and Peanut Roulade:
Pick nettle tops as in the previous recipe and wash thoroughly. You need a big bowl full as they do cook down. Cook these in a small amount of water till they are soft and limp (about three or four minutes) You can then strain the nettles, and once cooled, squeeze the excess water out of them. This has an amazing green colour which has to have a use. Its a lovely squishy feeling squeezing them out, then you need to chop the nettle so you have a rough puree.
Meantime (or maybe sequentially) you need a dough. I used a mix of sarsin (buckwheat) and regular flour, with margerine and a small amount of soya milk and a pinch of baking powder. This is really a scone mix, and you could vary it or add other ingredients if you are feeling inventive. i was cooking vegan, but I imagine a cheese dough could be very nice with this combination. The dough is then rolled out into an oblong, about half a centimetre thick and as big as you can get it. This needs to be done on a floured surface or you'll have trouble later. I guess if you were really being posh you could use greaseproff paper to aid rolling, but I didnt have any.
Spread the dough with a thick layer of peanut butter. I used crunchy which I think is nicest and gives you bits of peanut in the finished roulade. Spread the nettle puree on top of this so you have a coat of each across the whole piece of dough. Now comes the tricky bit, because you have to roll up the whole thing into a sausage. As I say, greaseproof paper may help, but I did it without and if I can, I'm sure you can too.
All you need then is to bake it. The time will vary with your oven. Here in France we cook on bottled gas so you can multiply cooking times by three. Anyway once done it should look brown and.. well.. baked. You can then lift it onto a board and slice it in big chunks, which should have a satisfying swiss roll spiral of green nettle puree through it.
Mabey says that this plant makes a good accompaniment to lamb. Well it certainly goes well with spinach roulade. Wanting a tasty sauce that was a bit different from the salad, I went off collecting along our hedge rows. I picked young hawthorn leaves (commonly known as 'bread and cheese' by country kids like my mother), jack-in-the-hedge leaves (of which we have lots) a tiny piece of apple mint and a few tops from goose grass stems. I blanched these in the water I had cooked the nettles in and then blended the mix with a large soft tomato and some chick peas (yes they were left over from the tin I opened the other day) The result was a very spicey tasting sauce. Surprisingly potent!
Today's salad was quite similar to the one I made the other day with a few additions. Today we had dandelion, chickweed, marjoram, fennel, jack-in-the-hedge, onion top, and a little lemon balm. Wow. Happy picking...