Today a very speedy look around the park, in the late afternoon sunshine…
Roses are opening up all over the city. Perfect weather for them to bloom. This is one of my favorites in the park, Rosa arvensis, the Field Rose. Very pretty now and produces excellent hips in autumn.
Birthwort, NL: Pijpbloem (Aristotolochia clematis) highly poisonous, with some historic uses (and recent infamy from causing kidney failure when accidentally incorporated into ground wheat flour). I am looking forward to finding out what the Latin name is all about.
Lime leaves (Tilia) are mostly covered in something sweet & sticky at the moment. Either excrement from the masses of insects seeking out nectar from the new flowers, or the nectar itself dripping down onto lower leaves. I’m not too sure which it is but at the moment this sticky stuff is clear, but visible and certainly delicious. Wash it off or not, the leaves taste great and many blossoms are already present so let the harvest begin! In a short while the sticky covering will thicken and blacken. Then it needs a good scrub and or soak in clean water to get it all off. The leaves do stand up well to such treatment and can then be dried thoroughly for storage or used directly.
Sage, (Salvia officinalis). Beautiful and so tasty! Beware the power of Sage if taken in higher than culinary doses and stay away for it during the few few months of pregnancy. Not a tonic herb but a very useful one for the body and mind.
Crumpets (English muffins to Americans) are a delicious comfort food and should be served hot, topped with butter, honey, melted cheese or jam. Usually crumpets are made with plain flour and are cooked in metal rings so that they become 2 – 3cm deep bread honeycombs. I prefer to eat crumpets with a savoury topping so have created this sugar free recipe which includes fresh sage, Parmesan cheese and wholemeal flour. Fresh sage (Salvia officinalis, NL: Salie) is readily available throughout the year, has many medicinal uses such as relieving cold symptoms and goes wonderfully well with Parmesan.
The crumpet batter can alternatively be poured from a tablespoon onto the cooking surface to make a thinner version, which is quicker to cook and could be called savoury Pikelets. If you try this method cook the first side until the top appears to be dry, then flip them over and cook for a further minute or two.
Wholemeal Sage and Parmesan Crumpets
(makes 16 – 18 with rings or 36+ if poured)
425g strong wholemeal flour
45g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons fast action dried yeast
(plus a frying pan or griddle, four metal biscuit cutters or small flan rings* and oil)
N.B. A bread maker may be used for steps 1 – 3. Simply add all ingredients to the bread pan with paddle attached and run the dough program straight away. Check after 1 hour and remove when you see the batter is full of bubbles.
- Warm the milk and water in a small saucepan, over a low heat. Don’t let it get hot as that will kill the yeast which you will soon add, lukewarm is fine.
- Put the flour, chopped sage and Parmesan in a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast and salt.
- Add the warm milk and water to the flour mixture, little by little as you stir, to form a smooth, thick batter.
- Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or cling film and leave at room temperature for between 60 – 90 minutes, until the batter has expanded and is full of bubbles.
- Lightly oil the inside of the metal rings and the frying pan or griddle surface, then gently heat the pan/griddle.
- Place the rings on the griddle or frying pan and spoon about 1cm depth of batter into each ring. N.B. The batter will further expand as it cooks so adding a greater depth will only result in overflowing rings or crumpets which are uncooked in the middle.
- Gently cook until the batter has bubbled and the top of the crumpets looks dry (about 5 – 8 minutes)
- Loosen the edges of the crumpets with a small sharp knife before removing the rings and turning the crumpets. Cook the other side until golden brown.
- Clean and re-oil the pan/griddle and rings before cooking the second and subsequent batches.
The crumpets can be reheated in a toaster or under a grill. If your crumpets turn out too thick and are undercooked in the middle, you can slice them in half through the middle and finish them off under the grill.
*If you don’t have small flan rings or biscuit cutters you can easily use clean tuna cans or something similar. Remove both ends with a can opener and use the can as a ring.