Seasonal Wild Food Foraging: Nettles in Autumn

September 29, 2017

I’m currently planning an Autumnal walk in the South East area; if this interests you contact me in advance for an early-bird booking and keep an eye out for details on my website here & social media @kitchenbuddy

We may affect our energy levels and even our emotional balance are affected by seasonal changes. Nutritionally speaking, seasonal, fresh & wild foods provide us with the best source of vitamins and minerals. Luckily, these are available and growing naturally in our local areas. If suffering from low energy levels, stress, menstrual cramps\emotions and mental health concerns may indicate a lack of Iron, Magnesium and Calcium. Fortunately, these minerals are widely found among Nature’s Pharmacy; particularly Nettles! (Urticae Dioica)

A good remedy is to use the tips (top 4 freshest & greenest leaves) and simmer in a pan of a little water, to make a tea; this is a multi-vitamin & mineral drink in itself!
For a further boost, blend the dark, Iron rich liquid together with the leaves (cooking in hot water softens the leaves) & add your favourite vegetables eg. sweet potato & onion plus any seasonings to form a soup.

To preserve the leaves and the seeds over Winter, Nettle stems can be dried by hanging them upside-down in a warm dry place eg. A garden shed.

Autumn is the perfect time to use the protein enhanced Nettle seeds; as they hang down from the stems (they remind me of an old man’s beard!) These look great sprinkled on to your soup (or any other dish too.)

To improve your health this Autumn & Winter, here are recipes to use Nettle leaves & seeds in a variety of ways.

*Warning*
Always take good care to use a safe picking technique, to avoid skin irritation when collecting and picking Stinging Nettles. Dock, Plantain (Plantago Major) & Dandelion leaves can relieve the sting irritation by rubbing the leaf onto the skin. Alternatively wear gardening gloves or use a scarf or scissors to safely cut off & collect your nettle leaves!

Have a wonderfully wild & healing Autumn!

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The Oxford Food Symposium on Food & Landscapes; a breath of fresh air…?!

July 26, 2017

smog menu smog2smog3 smog4

It was with great joy that my dad stumbled upon reading The Times Saturday (book) ‘Review’ section and passed it to me today; suggesting that I read the following article: ‘Atomic sex, the Fartomaniac and Einstein’s fridge’ (!) This is a book review based on ‘Caesar’s last breath; the epic story of the air we breath’ by Sam Kean (which seems a fairly jolly recount of how breathing and air are historically linked, inc. the fact that it might be possible for us all to be breathing in the air which Caesar once inhaled & exhaled.) The reviewer, James Marriott, shares social historical facts from 1830 when laughing gas was routinely used (as a prescription for scolding wives, among other things) and various anecdotes inc the French ‘performer’ whose routine was based upon his flatulence and how Einstein invented a fridge. All of which reminded me of a lecture I recently attended at the Oxford Food Symposium: Landscapes held at St Catherine’s College.

This article also reminds me of the laughing gas used relentlessly at the Glastonbury Music Festival (their users leaving behind the shiny, tiny canisters behind for litter pickers & Worthy Warriors \ permaculture Village Green volunteers to pick up.. although I found far fewer used canisters this year than in any other previous year). As for the idea of festival flatulence;  I won’t bother you with reporting on that…

Preferring to divulge in the delights that was https://www.oxfordsymposium.org.uk/ On Friday 7th – 9th July a group of over 250 delegates from 45 countries arrived to participate and share in a love of international food & landscapes. 🙂 some kind of heaven here, surrounded by a crowd of international food historians, authors, publishers, professors, chefs, inventors etc. Happy, heady days. Not only surrounded by great teachers but also meals & menus. On Friday I entered into the realm of WikiEdits again, arranged by the British Library’s head curator, Polly Russell, where we learnt again, more about the ways to engage an audience by having new female entries on Wikipedia. I found out about my entry on Lady Eve Balfour.

At our meal times, diners were treated to an array of fresh produce, from selected countries inc. Ireland, Greece & Armenia. In fact, I opted out of the Irish dinner as it contained beef ‘from nose to tail’, preferring the plant-based delights at the local Japanese restaurant, Edamame around the corner. The college was beautiful in its cubist architecture; a far flung away from the gothic images of Christ church college. There, in the grounds, we sampled the brandy, whiskey (complete with Irish singing & Seamus Heaney recitals) wines and ciders from Ireland and later Armenia… It was not a time to be sober, I felt (however, afterwards, I conceded that this was debatable)… We sampled the finest array of fresh olives which reminded me of my time working at Borough Market.

In fact, Borough Market isn’t the quietest, most tranquil place to spend a Saturday, so it felt a little intrusive (but not much).

Air quality inventiveness with meringues 

The obtuse lecture which amazed me the most, was regarding meringues, made from egg whites whipped in different air quality zones. Egg ethics aside, this is a fascinating subject… one which began by the observation that when whisked & beaten, egg whites are amazing in their air-trapping ability. So when one scientist discovered that their quality understandably varied depending upon the air quality involved, she set about to engage in a project for meringues to be made in cities around US with different air quality levels. Smog meringues were born, and sampled at stalls in local markets! See the above images… consumers thought that the small black specks might be tasty vanilla bean… when in fact, it was simply, Smog, from LA… Aeroir: air flavours; trapped within egg white!

 

 

Lent, WI & Gut Health

March 21, 2017

Following my talk & demo on Women’s Health (for International Women’s Month) at the local Lee Green Women’s Institute recently, I’d like to follow on with advice for those experiencing a sugar-craving concern.

In the Christian church, Lent is a time which invites us to observe our own unique habits and in response, challenges us to adapt our behaviour favourably for 40 days until Easter Sunday. Some, I know have given up alcohol (specifically, beer), others reducing their coffee and now for one of the first times, I hear about reducing meat and also, sugar (or specifically, chocolate).

Since much has been documented about sugar in recent times, including Gut Health (& related conditions eg. Candida Albicans) it now feels relevant to share my blog post from two years ago, for this time of year 🙂

It feels appropriate to write about sugar substitutes at this time, when, it appears in April, that at least half the population will gorge and double their average weekly Chocolate intake in a single day as we acknowledge Easter Sunday!

However, for the few  of us who have essued the dark stuff since before March (feels almost like 1989…ie a long time!) this is a time for presents in my family, over excessive gifts of sugary sweet confectionary.

We love to Celebrate Easter in my family but since some of them are unwell, diabetic, on medication or simply seeking to not become unwell\overweight etc, we have universally chosen to celebrate rather more demurely, with small Easter gifts to bring great joy instead. I now like my new Easter\Spring shoes and Tea (which I have since becoming less interested in cooked foods, discovered an interest for, later on in life! 😉 )

For those who ‘shouldn’t’ have sugar (inc.most if not all of us…) here is a run down of the chosen alternatives available on the shelves…

  1. Agave – ALERT! I have rarely ever used it as it is a highly refined product (not a ‘nectar!’); v.sweet syrup or powder. I have found it to be a strong stimulant. When I recently asked the Store Manager at Planet Organic in Westbourne Grove, he agreed “it is too much” he stated; “it is simply too much for our system to handle”. Which does he prefer, I enquired {Q} “Date Syrup, Coconut Palm Sugar and Syrup…” He replied
  2. Date Syrup
  3. Sweet Freedom (fruit blend mix) Syrup
  4. Stevia: Syrups and powders (though still processed & refined) pref. natural state ground green leaf. Huhis ndreds of times sweeter than sugar cane or beet. 🙂 My Brighton based colleague grows it in his flat…
  5. Xylitol: Birch Tree sap
  6. Jaggery (conscious foods): I’ve never tried this Indian\Asian sugar but I hear from the followers that it is v.good, with extra vitamins & minerals (so they’d say…)
  7. Coconut Sugar and Nectar \ Syrup: 2 of my all time current favourites: for sweetness and the effect isn’t overly stimulating at all 🙂
  8. My favourite is: Yacon Syrup: I watched these being planted out and sown down out in Monkton Wild Court in Dorset many years ago on a Wild Raw Food Retreat I held over a weekend. These are like the gold of the tuber world! 🙂 Very nice (yet v.expensive in comparison…)

So if you are baking or making sweet creations this weekend (or ever) care to think about the substitutes which can be used instead of the standard sugar, which overly stimulates the pancreas, adrenal glands and overly numbs us as a result (not least robbing us of our vital nutrients).

I am seeking a healthier world view on all these areas, since I quit eating sugar back in 2003 and have rarely eaten it and no chocolate in general since Lent began. I am seeking also to find the best options for alternatives and to utilise them in my own and commercial foods. Less is most definitely, more! 😉

Wishing you a Happy Easter from Kitchen Buddy friends & crew! 🙂 

New Year; new Seasonal Delights!

January 23, 2017

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A vase of Wild Mistletoe gathered from the Winchester countryside in January.

Winchester is fast becoming one of my favourite cities in which to enjoy, largely because I visit various friends occasionally in academic times for the University & the excellent new Animal Welfare Dept (lead by fellow vegan athlete Dr Andrew Knight) plus my colleagues in Raw Food & Fertility Gardening; Muriel & Eddie, who are the experts in fermentation & wild foods, organic permaculture \ fertility gardening and growing sprouts\wheatgrass etc. I was fortunate enough to be stay with them both, on the occasion of Eddie’s workshop (on the above subjects) on one evening for the community centre spiritual event that night. Muriel set to making all things related to pumpkin for a delicious hot & cold buffet with the help of myself & James, who joined us to create a series of home picked shredded brussel sprout & carrot coleslaw, Wilted Kale and a hearty Pumpkin & Curried Vegetable Soup with Pumpkin Chai latte (milkshakes) and Pumpkin Ice-Cream Cake for dessert.

a-pile-of-pumpkins

Catering for a Women’s Retreat in London with Organic Pumpkins!

 

Posh Pumpkin Recipes

Roasted Pumpkin & Red Miso Soup

This recipe uses Miso & Seagreens as tasty alternatives to salt, for their Sodium content.

Ingredients: several inch-wide slices of pumpkin (ideally 1 segment per serving)

1 Onion

2 Parsnips, 2 potatoes

Sprig of fresh Rosemary -finely chopped

1 tsp Red Miso Paste

1 tbsp Olive\Coconut Oil

1 tsp Seagreens granules

 

Method

  • Prepare the pumpkin by slicing off the outer skin either with a vegetable peeler or knife. Slice into 1 inch pieces to roast.
  • Prepare the other vegetables accordingly and slice into 1-2 inch length pieces. Place on a roasting sheet and drizzle with olive or coconut oil. Bake in the oven for 30-40 mins until soft.
  • Place all the vegetables into a pan  with the Miso, Rosemary, Seagreens granules and mash then blend together, using a hand blender stick. Alternatively, using a food processor to blend together, adding water where necessary to blend to the desired consistency.
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One of Eddie & Muriel’s finest; their allotments in Winchester yielded 43 pumpkins of several varieties in 2016!

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

This makes a delicious alternative to traditional pasta dishes; chick pea flour pasta is rich in protein and is very similar in texture to the traditional durum wheat-based pasta dishes. http://www.naturbit.com

Ingredients

1 portion of Pumpkin Soup (as above)

1 serving of Gluten-free Pasta eg. Naturbit chickpea flour spaghetti.

2-5 x Sundried or fresh cherry tomatoes

1 tsp Sunflower seeds (plain, sprouted \ soaked or toasted!)

Method

  • Cook the pasta for 12 mins, as per instructions; strain and rinse in clean, hot water. Return to the saucepan.
  • Stir in the sauce and heat for up to 5 mins until warm. Add sundried and \or fresh cherry tomatoes, seeds and any additional seasoning.
  • Serve with the gluten-free pasta and a fresh salad or steamed\lightly fried seasonal fresh leaves eg spinach or kale.

pumpkin-paprika-pasty

Pumpkin, Paprika & Poppy Seed Pasty

This recipe is inspired by the addition of Paprika from Spain (& the intention to not use any peas!)  http://www.naturbit.com

Ingredients

1 portion of Naturbit Gluten-free Pastry Mix

1 x 1 inch slice of pumpkin (peeled & sliced into chunks)

1 tsp poppy seeds

Pinch of Spanish Smoked Paprika

Method

  • Pre-cook the pumpkin in a little water in a pan (or steam over other vegetables) for approx 10 mins
  • Prepare the pastry according to the instructions: mix the flour with a little water until a dough consistency is reached and the mixture forms into a ball. Press the dough between your hands to form a circle (chapati style) the size of a small plate.
  • Place the pastry onto a grease-proof sheet or tray and scoop the pumpkin into one half side of the pasty disc. Sprinkle with the Smoked Paprika and fold the pastry over, to cover the filling, like a pasty. Sprinkle with poppy seeds (& press them into the surface of the pastry).
  • Bake at 180 degrees for 20 mins until the pastry has turned slightly brown & is cooked.
  • Serve with lightly stir-fried broccoli florets with tamari sauce, freshly sliced peppers and a fresh tahini sauce (or dressing).

 

Autumnal Seasonal (un)foraging: Richmond Park, nature walk

December 2, 2016

The first Autumnal Kitchen Buddy Nature Walks & Foraging expedition took place last Sunday, in South West London, in Richmond area. Our site of choice was the Richmond Hill (& ideally river side area) by and in Richmond Park https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park . However due to foraging flora & fauna restrictions, we weren’t able to legally forage in that area, so observation and identification powers were more useful. For this purpose, I had brought out a collection of literature from my library; books and tree identification cards for the children (& adults) to enjoy!

After enjoying lunch of a super spicy-chickpea curry at the Hollyhock Cafe http://www.tidetablescafe.com/  in the terrace gardens, I went up to meet the group of 10 adults & children … we all later met at the park gate and went out from the park to explore the area beneath the trees and by the public toilets, where we discovered a huge array of fungi, hiding beneath the leaves of the Plane (Platinus) and Cob nut trees. The children took great delight in gently moving the leaves around with their sticks, supervised by their parents and uncovered a great array of mushrooms inc. Chanterelle, Bolettes, Jelly Ear and possibly a Chaga mushroom formation. These were met with great delight and I tried to identify the species without disturbing their mycelium \ roots beneath the ground.

We went up to King Henry’s Mound, one of the main historical sights inside the park, with a view over SW towards Windsor and NE to the city and St Paul’s Cathedral. Despite it being a rather overcast day, we saw a very clear view of the Cathedral through the trees, through the use of the telescope on the mound. This mound dates back to when King Charles I and King Henry VIII were in residence and the park is still a royal residence today. It was sad to see the Deer Cull signs up indicating that their numbers are still being controlled in the area.

As dusk approached, we went on towards Richmond Hill site, to find an array of Nettles (Urticae Dioca), Mallow (Malva), Plantain (Plantago) and Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) plus a further family of fungi in a cluster, by the pathway leading back towards the cafe. In the terrace area itself and at the entrance of the Cafe, stood several, huge, old Yew (Taxus baccata) trees laden with bright red berries (containing toxic, black pips). We collected several each and noted the slight sliminess of the outside berry; it too has a mucus benefiting digestion; spitting out the seeds (like cherry stones) to avoid any poisonous effects.

Discussing the 5 Humors in Greek Medicine, lemon-distinctive flavours of sorrel, the various uses for medicinal Mallow to sooth the digestive tract and ease heart-burn by wrapping canape style morsels with the leaves and decorating with the pink flowers. Nettle leaves for relieving arthritic cramps (if you’re bold!) and Iron rich tea, soup, juice and even risottos! Seeds for a protein garnish and in pesto. Yew Berries are best eaten individually to remove the poisonous seed from their centre.

 

Festival Foraging; still eating the Clover & Hawthorn

October 3, 2016

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I’ve recently returned from the Into The Wild Festival, near Lewes, where we held a series of Seasonal Foraging walks and talks.

Additionally at the Buddhafield Green Earth Awakening Camp, with daily walks and finding delicious new herbs along the woods adjoining the field.

What’s in season September – October – November:

In SE (& SW) UK, we have a selection of fresh fruit, berries, fungi, nuts & seeds, in addition to the leaves and roots from Summer.

Blackberries are still ripening if you’re lucky to find those still sweet or to keep and make apple & blackberry pie\crumble desserts or to juice or to turn into a smoothie to drink.

Elderberries are dark burgundy red in colour and are a rich source of Vitamin C and have been used in syrups (though often made with sugar). I prefer to add them into fresh fruit salads or to use as a garnish on other desserts as they have a rich but slightly bitter taste. To collect Elderberries, from the tree tops, they hang in clusters from the branches with tiny round berries (smaller than a petit pois!) Snap the branch holding the berries (it should snap cleanly off) and then using a fork to prize of the pretty berries, prize them off into a container, ready to turn into a liquid (through juice or heating with a little water in a saucepan). This is by far the simplest method I have found to use so far.

Sea Buckthorn berries however grow near to the coast, on prickly bushes which makes harvesting a little of a challenge. Nevertheless, these little orange berries are highly prized for their nutrient content and have been used to make into juice and their seeds for oil, for centuries, in China, as they contain many Omega EFAs including 3, 6, 7 & ( which is quite unusual in the world of plants). The berries themselves are useful to protect against Type II Diabetes (by stabilizing blood sugar levels) and contain Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D & K. It may also help to prevent anaemia by improving Iron absorption. There are many more amazing benefits to these sharp flavoured, little berries. They make an excellent juice: The Peasant’s Lunchbox provides foraged berries in Somerset area and can be found here: Little Brympton Renewable energy micro-farm. My favourite combination is the mixture of Orange & Sea Buckthorn juices (with a dash of Hawthorn berry elixir tonic too)!

 

 

 

Tales of the Urban Forager: Hawthorn Berries, for the Heart

September 12, 2016

According to Herbal Medicine (Herbalism) Hawthorn berries have long been heralded as a helpful remedy for the heart & circulation; whether for the blood and balancing blood pressure or to assist against heart disease or for romantic love & the heart … Also popularly known as ‘bread & cheese’ to those who ate them to live on during harvest time; the young leaves and ripe berries have been eaten for centuries in Great Britain.

This year I could no longer simply walk past bushes laden with red little berries (containing pips) without a thought as to what to do with them. Hawthorn berries are often found to be useful for decorative purposes at festivals or events which utilise parts of the natural world for their decor. I was recently invited to lead several foraging related activities and events at the Into the Wild festival near to Lewes, a few weeks ago, where both Hawthorn berries and branches adorned their decorative archways. We stayed until the end to witness the pack-down and was given a whole heap of them to take home to turn into anything remotely edible.

It was too good an opportunity to miss, so last week I therefore attempted to make good use of them by turning them into a savoury spread\pate and an end-of-Summer totally natural botanical tonic.

Sorting: Remove the berries from the branches by hand and discard any tough stems and leaves which  them out from their leaves. To clean them; soak in fresh water.

Soaking: Soak overnight to remove any dirt from the skins. Following this, discard the soak water and retain the red berries by placing them into a saucepan or container to cook with water for 1 – 4 hrs for their pulp. Add just enough water to cover the berries into a saucepan and simmer until the liquid has turned red\orange and the berries are soft and pulpy (turned from red to green).

Tonic elixir: after cooking, strain the liquid off and allow to cool. This is the tonic; pour into a bottle and store in the fridge. Keeps for at least one week. Recommended dose 5-10 ml daily.

Mash the cooled green berries by hand or with a spoon through a sieve to remove their skins and pips, until a grey\brown spread is reached.

Place the spread into a storage container & keep refrigerated. Keeps for 1 week +

Serve with veggie (fake) cheese on crackers or with a salad as a condiment.

 

 

Clinic patients with eating disorders

August 20, 2016

This week, it became apparent to me that since returning from the camping festival at Gaunts that at my Nutritional Therapist clinic has received no less than 3 requests for support with eating disorders.

Maybe there’s a link, maybe it’s the full moon, mid-Summer \ August that allows us to ‘wake-up’ and seek help in this way at precisely the same time of year.

My first client this week showed how emotionally linked, with family concerns, psychological responses to childhood; there are many reasons as to why an eating disorder develops.

That evening, as I watched the film, ‘The Breakfast Club’ from 1980’s, about a group of disaffected high-school students\teenagers, each with their own problems, linked to their family lives, I observed at least one character with an eating disorder \ sugar addiction. There was a line which stood out by Emilo Estevez which implied that all of us have some ‘issues’ with our parents or their parenting styles and it reminded me of the conversation held earlier in confidence, in my clinic, where a desperate young woman confessed and shared times from her childhood which were so distressing, that the time flew by and by the time we’d ascertained her initial treatment plan, 3 hrs had passed since our original start time.

Now it highlights a situation known as ‘Insulin resistance’ where an individual no longer experiences an ‘off-switch’ for hunger and the body thinks that it is still hungry, so the individual continues to eat (predisposing them to diabetes and obesity) This is biologically part of the problem, in addition to motivation and will power, the excess sugar ingested from over-eating or severe binging.  Dr Gabriel Cousens, M.D. describes this further in his documentary ‘Raw for 40 days’ reversing (Type II) Diabetes.

To begin with acknowledging that this person is not simply ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’ but hasn’t the same biological function as someone without a compulsion to eat or ‘stuff-themselves’. I say this in the knowledge that it is perceived in this light on occasion, when in fact, the internal insulin receptor sites are functioning differently in this instance and the individual remains hungry, even after consuming a large meal. They had inadvertently altered their insulin resistance so that their body no longer recognises the insulin flooding around in their system and they gain excess weight.

A Naturopathic Treatment plan includes daily health practices, herbs, dietary advice & equipment recommendations plus exercise and fresh air activities to encourage and motivate our clients. This, in turn with repeat sessions, aims to reduce their weight naturally for a few months until the patient feels sufficiently successful to continue alone, with a positive and healthier relationship to their own body and lifestyle.

 

 

 

The Green & Juicy Cafe @Gaunts House Summer Gathering

August 19, 2016

It was so lovely to go back to Gaunts House again; set in acres of gorgeous Dorset countryside it is one of the most beautiful estates to work and enjoy a festival with friends old & new.

Thanks to our awesome team lead by Muriel & Eddie, with Lulu, Marisa & Delilah, her daughter who trained in wheat-grass production, aged 9.

Friends joined me for the day or the weekend which was delightful and we enjoyed a very busy few days out on the land; all women on the whole setting up and running the show … we delighted our customers with a varied menu including wild dandelion root ‘coffee’, smoothies, juices, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate torte, millionaire shortbread, a selection of pickles\sauerkraut, sunflower & pea shoots with different salads, bread\crackers, dips and dressings, daily. These were all prepared freshly and in the dehydrators & using a ‘Thermomix’ blender\processor! 🙂

I’d found an old\disused wooden cable reel in a field (which looks like a giant cotton reel) which I realised, when placed on its end, would make a very useful dining table; an interior design project was begun, using great fabric offcuts & samples that I’d previously found at a haberdashers in Poole, we set about transforming the ‘table’ in front of the stall & placed a parasol in the centre; hey-presto! A superb upcycled cafe table was born, complete with a beautiful tree log seat and a hay- bale with cushion as another. Our table was an instant hit as the surface provided much needed preparation and demonstration space to decorate cakes and to spiralise yellow courgettes for supper & the parasol provided some much needed shade… Our little vegan cafe drew much attention from all the customers and despite long hours in the relentless heat, we were successful overall. 🙂

gaunts '16 debs

 

Foraging events this Summer

August 19, 2016

Once again, this year I am privileged to have been invited to lead walks at several of the greatest festivals and events in the UK including Buddhafield & RawFestUK recently and these upcoming festivals:

Into The Wild – August Bank Holiday weekend 28th – 31st August 2016 in the Wise Owl Woodland area 9.30 – 11 am and Q&A with all foragers 1-2.30pm.

Buddhafield Green Earth Gathering – 14th-18th September, Permaculture area on 15th, 16th & 17th September.

Plus Edward of @EthiVegan & I are also planning to film a mini-series this Summer-Autumn based on Seasonal foods & foraging. Here is a short clip of us filmed in Russel Square Park, London. Next stop: Jam making: Berry & Plum picking!