April Food

Hello there! It is April and that means real spring is here. Anybody in Scotland or Northern Ireland, of course, will be most bemused by that last sentence. Real spring means that there is plenty of wild food beginning to pop out, though cultivated fruit and vegetables are still a bit thin on the ground. It’s also the end of the game season – there’s really just rabbit and wood pigeon around, though some places have extended the game season for venison.

This month I’m going to try and concentrate on the Fish chapter – I have recently discovered an excellent company called The Fish Society. They sell all the fishy things you’d expect, plus some things that are hard to get hold of. I have made full use of this and received a big order of bloaters, smoked sprats, pike and smoked cod’s roe amongst other things. This is not to say that I have stopped going to Out of the Blue, my favourite fishmonger’s shop, it’s just that some things are not in demand.

Anyways, here’s the list of seasonal foods for April:

Vegetables: broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, spring and winter greens, lettuce, radishes, sea kale, sorrel, watercress.

Fruit: rhubarb.

Wild greens and herbs: alexanders, chickweed, chives, cow parsley (wild chervil), dandelions, fat hen, hogwood shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet leaves, nettles, sea kale, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild garlic, wild rocket.

Wild flowers and fruits: primroses

Fungi, nuts and saps: morels, St. George’s mushroom

Fish and shellfish: cockles, crab, oysters, pollack, salmon, sea trout

Game: woodpigeon, rabbit, venison.

#237 Hot Cross Buns

It is approaching Eastertime and that means it is the perfect excuse to fill your face with hot cross buns. There are few things as delicious. Grigson says that the bought buns simply don’t live up to proper old-fashioned, home-made ones on account of the omission of the butter, egg and milk and the reduction of spices. I was, therefore, quite excited about the prospect of eating my first real bona fide hot cross bun.

To make them start with a quantity of the basic bun dough that has had spices mixed in with flour. You’ll need one level teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and mixed spice, plus half a teaspoon of ground mace. Once you knock back the dough, knead in 3 ounces of raisins and 2 ounces of candied chopped peel. Roll and stretch out the dough into a long sausage and cut it into 18 discs. Roll them into balls and place on baking sheets that have been lined with greaseproof paper. Make sure you leave space enough for them to rise. Brush with beaten egg. Now roll out three ounces of either marzipan or shortcrust pastry and cut strips for the crosses, gluing them onto the buns with beaten egg. Cover the buns and let them prove for about 30 or 40 minutes. Bake at 230⁰C for 10 to 15 minutes. Toward the end of cooking, make a bun wash by boiling together 2 ounces of sugar with 5 tablespoons of water until syrupy. Brush the buns with this whilst they’re still hot and sprinkle over some crushed sugar lumps.

FYI: hot cross buns have nothing to do with Christianity. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and many people think that the cross symbolises the crucifix upon Jesus was crucified. Not so. The buns were eaten by Saxons to honour the goddess Eostre – the real reason why Easter exists. The cross itself symbolised the four quarters of the lunar cycle.

#237 Hot Cross Buns. These were very delicious indeed. The dough was very light, yet rich at the same time and the marzipan cross really added to the indulgence. The truly were better than a bought bun – in fact, a totally different creature. Have a go at making them yourself over Easter; they may not be the most pretty-looking hot cross buns you’ve ever seen, but they will be the tastiest! 9/10.

March Food

White rabbits!

Yes, the days are getting longer and I have seen sunlight outside working hours, all this must mean it is spring. We had a nice cold winter, but now we’re all a bit sick of it now. The in season list is getting a little more interesting now there are some green things finally appearing in the hedgerows. In particular, I want to try and get my hands on some sea kale, not sure how I’m going to get hold of some. Advice please!

Vegetables: broccoli, cabbages, chicory, spring and winter greens, leeks, sea kale.

Fruit: forced rhubarb.

Wild greens and herbs: alexanders, chickweed, chives, cow parsley (wild chervil), fat hen, nettles, watercress

Wild flowers and fruits: primroses

Fungi, nuts and saps: birch saps

Fish and shellfish: cockles, crab, oysters, pollack, salmon, sea trout

Game: hare