Nature - Nurture - Nourish
Nature & Nurture
Well these are strange times indeed, which is why something as normal and everyday as taking a walk down our country lane or through our lovely woods has become so extra special. Last week Tony and I grabbed the opportunity of taking a short walk across the fields and into our woods, and wow what a treat it was for body, mind and soul.
The woods are always a sanctuary from the hurly burly of work but even so you can never get away from hearing the distant clatter coming up the valley from the railway line, or the occasional throb of a helicopter flying over from the Royal Navy air base at Yeovilton. On this occasion however all we could hear was the sound of birdsong, a woodpecker drumming against a tree trunk, the humming of bees and the rustle of little mammals as they scurried through the undergrowth. The recent rain seemed to have enhanced everything, the vibrant green of the newly opening leaves, that fantastic earthy smell you get after morning rain and the scent of the flowers.
Hilton Herbs moved down to Somerset 27 years ago, the farmhouse was in a terrible state, and the woods which appear on a 13th Century map had been abandoned years before and were virtually impenetrable. Over the years with a huge amount of help, advice and guidance from our friend Tim ‘the woodman’ we have slowly but surely cleared the dense undergrowth and fallen trees, opened up and restored the original paths and more recently removed all the ’soft wood’, leaving only native hard wood trees, which has allowed so much more light into the woods.
Nature has responded to this attention by putting on her best show ever, and carpeting the ground beneath the trees with swathes of beautiful native Bluebells – Hyacinthoides non scripta, bright green aromatic Wild Garlic – Allium ursinum and lily of the valley scented Early Purple Orchids – Orchis mascula.
Early Purple Orchids
I love foraging so of course as soon as I saw the Wild Garlic I just knew what I would be doing later that day! I picked three large handfuls of the leaves plus a few of the lovely delicate white flowers that were just starting to open, making sure I didn’t take them all from one area, so I could make some delicious Wild Garlic soup and tasty Wild Garlic Cheese scones.
Note: when you are foraging for Wild Garlic, the leaves can look similar to Lily of the Valley leaves, so always crush the leaves to check they smell of garlic before you pick them.
If you are too late to collect the Wild Garlic then you can always replace them in the recipe with 300g of young tender Nettle leaves but remember to protect your hands from the sting by wearing gloves when you pick them! The sting will go once they are cooked.
Wild Garlic Soup
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion chopped
2 large potatoes diced
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
3 large handfuls of wild garlic leaves,washed and roughly chopped.
Keep a few garlic flowers you pick to use as a garnish
110 ml double cream
- Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and potatoes, stir until everything is well coated and then season with salt and pepper.
- Turn the heat down, cover the pan and sweat gently for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring every now and then to make sure the vegetables don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
- Next, add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the wild garlic leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the leaves have just wilted, you don’t want to lose the lovely fresh green colour or delicate flavour.
- Remove from the heat, tip into a food processor or use a stick blender and blitz until smooth.
- Return to the heat, stir in the double cream and test for seasoning.
- Ladle into warm bowls or mugs and top with a few wild garlic flowers.
- Serve with warm Wild Garlic and Cheese scones or crusty bread.
Wild Garlic Soup
Wild Garlic Cheese Scones
340 g self-raising flour (the original recipe was 170g wholemeal & 170 g white self-raising flour, but as I didn’t have any wholemeal flour I used all white self-raising)
85g diced butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
55g grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped wild garlic leaves (I used more like 2tbsp)
60mls natural yoghurt
- Weigh all the dry ingredients (flour,salt & dry mustard) into a bowl.
- Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Mix the milk and yoghurt together in a separate bowl, then carefully stir into the dry ingredients. I use a flat bladed knife.
- Add the grated cheese and wild garlic and lightly mix until combined.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface, knead lightly and gently flatten with your hand until approximately 2cm thick.
- Using a regular cutter cut out the scones, or you can do as I did and just cut the round dough into 8 triangles (like a soda bread), which does make a bigger and more rustic scone.
- Place the scones onto a greased or lined baking tray, brush with milk and sprinkle with a bit more grated cheese.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown.
- Leave to cool before slicing and buttering, or have them warm with your soup!
Wild Garlic Cheesy Scones
Hilary Self Bsc MNIMH
Photographs by Tony Self