Spring brings a huge burst of edible leaves most notably wild garlic and nettles. Every part of the wild garlic plant can be eaten though be careful as the smell and taste are very strong - only use a small amount in your recipes. Nettles on the other hand can be gathered in large quantities and turned into a whole range of dishes including delicious Nettle and Wild garlic soup. Nettles are full of vitamins and minerals so make a valuable addition to our diet, and they are everywhere and easy to find. Using rubber gloves to protect from stings and scissors, cut off the top two sets of tender leaves. Nettles can be added to a huge range of dishes - curries, omelettes, soups, pakoras, stews etc but we love to use them in a simple nettle tea. Infuse the leaves in hot water for a few minutes (a cafetière is perfect for this) until the water turns green, sweeten if you like and enjoy this calming and nutrious drink.
The heady perfume of the elderflower is like no other,some people find it's scent beautifully sweet whilst others think it smells of cats' wee. If you are in the first group then you might already buy elderflower cordial from the supermarket. It is surprisingly easy to make your own though along with elderflower wine and fizz, and elderflower delight, a different form of the more usual Turkish delight which is made from roses. Elderflowers can be added to a huge range of sweet dishes including biscuits and cakes. Our favourite recipe though is the oh so moreish Elderflower Delight (once tasted never forgotten). The best recipe is from John Wright of River Cottage fame and can be found at the following:-
Elder plants can be found across the UK in hedgerows and gardens. In May/Jun the large, flat, cream coloured flower heads start to open. Pick them just after they have opened and before they start to go brown and this way you will get them at their best. Important tip though - make sure you give each flower head a good shake as you pick them so that all the tiny beetles and other insects are left behind in the hedge.
Delicious (yes honestly) and very pretty, these cupcakes make any spring teatime a bit special - and they're packed with nutrients.
Makes 12 cupcakes
40g nettle tips (tip and first pair of leaves from the stem)
150g self raising flour
150g caster sugar
100g butter or margarine (at room temperature)
2 medium eggs (at room temperature)
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Icing:- Juice and zest of half a lemon plus enough icing sugar to make a thick but still runny icing ( the amount of sugar will vary depending on how much juice you get out of your lemon).Edible flowers of your choice - primroses, violets, cuckoo flowers, daisies
1. Turn oven on to 180 deg C or 160 fan.
2. Wash nettle tops (use tongs or rubber gloves) and then blanch in simmering water for 5 mins. Drain, cool rapidly in running cold water and then leave to cool completely. You will be able to handle the nettles now as the stinging hairs have been deactivated by the blancing. When cold, squeeze as much water out of the nettles as possible then chop finely and put in a large bowl.
3. Mix all the cake ingredients together in the bowl and mix well with an electric hand whisk or a wooden spoon. Don't over whisk as the cupcakes will come out rubbery but make sure all the ingredients are properly incorporated.
4. Put large cupcake or fairy cake cases in to a cupcake tin and divide the mixture equally amongst the cases. Put into the oven for 14 - 16 mins. The cupcakes are done when you can press the top gently with a finger and the cake bounces back when you lift your finger. If they're not quite done pop them back into the oven for another couple of minutes.
5. When the cakes are cooked remove them from the oven and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.
6. When the cupcakes are cold, make up the icing - if it looks too runny add extra icing sugar and if it's too thick to run over the top add a tiny amount of water until it looks right. Ice each cake and top with the edible flowers of your choice.
7. Leave the icing to set and then remove the paper cakes so that the green is on show. A super pretty treat for any Easter celebration.