Three Recipes for Dandelion
It really wasn’t my intension to post another recipe this month, let alone another soup recipe. But with the lowered air pollution due to the enclosure, we are currently experiencing, the cleaner air quality has brought glorious weather and a bounty of flowers and foliage ripe for the picking.
Foraging is a favourite pastime of mine. I need little excuse for long walks with basket and secateurs in hand, heading to wherever the pickings are riches: wilder areas in parks, small woodland enclosures have there place for the urban forager in the absence of rolling fields, forests and hedgerows.
Our bodies, and especially our livers, yearn to cleans themselves at this time of year, and nature provides us with the foods to do just that. And so, in the spirit of replenishment, detoxification and self-care, this months post brings three simple recipes to bring forth your inner wildling and assist your body’s natural spring detox.
It almost seems too perfect that the humble dandelion, considered a pesky weed by some, should be so abundant in springtime just when our bodies need their cleansing and replenishing powers after long winters of starchy foods and inactivity. Dandelions have a long list of nutritional properties: vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K. And minerals in the form of iron, boron, calcium, silicon, magnesium and potassium. Plus amino and essential fatty acids. It has been used for centuries across many cultures for its healing potential; as a liver tonic, to stimulate bile production aiding the digestion of fats in the diet, and a stimulant for a sluggish immune system.
Folklore is rich with positive dandelion tales. In Medieval times dandelion flowers were woven into wedding bouquets to bring good fortune to the newlyweds; a charming Medieval childhood game was to hold a dandelion flower under the chin to foretell if the child would grow up to become wealthy. The stronger the glow, the more prosperous they would become. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, dandelions were a symbol of love, wishes, faithfulness, divination and represented the sun. Dandelions were also considered an excellent natural barometer; the feathery pappus hairs which close when they detect moisture in the air were used to predict the onset of bad weather.
As a food, everything about this plant can be eaten from root to flower. In French cuisine, leaves are used in a salad called Salade de Pissenlit (the French word for dandelion is Pissenlit because of its diuretic properties), and a dandelion vinaigrette is considered a delicacy. During the first and second world wars when coffee and other commodities were scarce, dandelion roots were used as a coffee substitute. And, of course, let’s not forget dandelion flower fritters.
These are only a few of the almost endless uses for this little gem of a weed whose appearance is as welcome as the spring sun. Disdained by many, yet giving of-itself in a multitude of ways.
You Will Need
2 Generous Handfuls Dandelion Leaves (young leaves are best)
1 White Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Celery Sticks
1/2 Litre Vegetable Stock
Rind from Parmesan Cheese (Optional)
Knob of Butter or 1tbs Olive Oil
Zest of 1 Lemon
Handful Dandelion Petals (reserve a few petals or a whole flowerhead to garnish)
Handful Dandelion Buds
Salt and Pepper
Clean the dandelion leaves and flowers in a bowl of cold water and about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Drain in a colander, then spread out onto a clean tea towel removing any unwanted bits.
Have a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water ready. Chop the dandelion leaves, blanch them in the boiling water for a minute or two, then plunge into the ice water. Drain then set aside.
Next chop the onion, garlic and celery, and sauté in a large pan with your chosen oil. Cook until the celery has softened slightly. Add the stock, then the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30-35 minutes, occasionally stirring, until all ingredients are soft. Once cooked, remove the Parmesan rind, adjust the seasoning, then remove from the heat and blend the soup with a stick blender. Garnish with the reserved flowerhead or petals.
Dandelion Petal Butter
This vibrantly golden butter melts beautifully over boiled new potatoes or spring vegetables.
You Will Need
125g unsalted grass-fed Butter (at room temperature)
Sea Salt Flakes
14 Flower Heads (inner petals only)
In a mixing bowl, add the butter and petals, whip together with a wooden spoon, and salt to taste. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.
Dandelion Flower Tea
Dandelion flowers contain antioxidants, and is naturally high vitamin A which is beneficial for eye health, it alleviates headaches, backaches and menstrual pain. And, in Korean folk medicine, dandelion flowers are used to improve blood circulation, skin infections and oedema.
You Will Need
2 Generous Handfuls Dandelion Flower Heads
1 Litre Boiling Water
2 tbs Honey
Mint Leaves (Optional)
Place the flower heads (and mint if using) in a large heatproof bowl or jar, pour over boiling water, cover and leave to steep for 20-25 minutes. Strain the tea through a sieve, transfer to a sterilised container, add honey to sweeten and store in the fridge. The tea is delicious warm with a slice of lemon or cold over ice.
Soup recipe inspiration: The Art of Edible Flowers by Rebecca Sullivan.
French Roasted Garlic Soup | Recipe
While this current pandemic sweeps the globe, we are being forced, in some ways, to take stock of our day-to-day. Grappling with a new lack of freedom and movement, new routines in our lives, in surreal situations akin only to Hollywood movies. It brings into stark reality the fleetingness of our lives, and how precious time with our loved ones truly is.
My hope through all of this is that we become more compassionate. Not only with people with we interact with daily, but that we have more compassion for people who live in countries that experience restrictions, fear and uncertainty which we are now temporarily living through as a never-ending occupation.
Staying at home with our families, eating out less and cooking in the home more, has for me at least, encouraged me to be more diligent with the ingredients I have available, be more creative, resourceful and keep things a little more basic.
This recipe uses ingredients you are likely to have to hand on any given day: garlic, onions, herbs and broth. Garlic, especially, is highly nutritions with potent health-giving anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. A simple soup, greater than the sum of its parts.
This is a very challenging time for many people. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you all the very best of health.
You Will Need
2 Large Garlic bulbs
3 Banana Shallots
1 tsp each Fresh Oregano & Thyme Leaves
1 Ltr Vegetable Stock
Small Bunch Parsley
Knob of Butter
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven at 180°C.
Break the garlic bulbs apart but keep the skin of each clove intact. Retain two cloves and spread the remainder out on to a baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes until lightly roasted.
Remove from the oven, and when they are cool enough to handle peel away the skins. Then set them aside.
Peel and chop the shallots, plus one of the garlic cloves retained earlier, put into a large heavy-based saucepan or casserole with the butter. Fry gently over med-high heat until lightly cooked but not brown.
Add the oregano and thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and fry for a further three minutes or so before adding the stock and roasted garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. At this point, you might like to taste and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat allowing the soup to cool for a minute or two. With a stick blender, blend the soup until reasonably smooth.
Thinly slice the remaining garlic clove, and in a dry frying pan over a medium heat brown the garlic slices. Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with the garlic slice and chopped parsley leaves.
You can serve the lovely soup with toasted baguette (or any leftover bread that’s gone a little dry) and parsley butter which easy to put together. Take about a quarter of a stick of butter at room temperature, stir in a tablespoon or two of chopped parsley leaves, mix well, then spread on the toast nice and thick. Delicious!
Schinken und Ei Flammkuchen
This tasty ham and egg pizza-like tart is something we always have at Elli’s Snackeria, a water-side cafe we like to visit when on the Baltic island of Fehmarn, a short drive from Hamburg, close to the Danish border.
The saltiness of the ham and creaminess of the crème fraîche make a delicious combo and a very welcome lunch or snack. It also takes only 12 minutes to bake, so it’s a perfect quick and easy weekend lunch.
You will need
1 Sheet of Flammkuchen Pastry 85g approx. (substitute with puff pastry if Flammkuchen Pastry is not available)
1 Small White Onion
Grated White Cheese 50g
Schinken 50g thinly sliced (or other cured ham)
1 Hard Boiled Egg
Crème Fraîche 75g
1/2 tsp Dried Wild Oregano
Salt and coarsely milled Black Pepper
Chopped Coriander Leaves and Chives or Thyme Sprigs to Garnish (Optional)
Preheat the oven 200 degrees Celsius or equivalent.
Slice the onion and gently fry until translucent then set aside to cool slightly. Place the pastry on a lined baking sheet and spread the creme fraiche over evenly leaving a little space around the edges. Place the onions evenly over the creme fraiche, followed by the grated cheese, then the ham. Slice the boiled egg using an egg slicer or sharp knife, then place them over the ham. Season with salt, pepper and dried oregano then drizzle over with a little olive oil before popping in a preheated oven. Bake for 12 minutes.
To serve, sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs and serve with a green salad.
St Petersburg | Russia’s Opulent Second City
As a child, my earliest knowledge of Russia were news stories and documentaries of Soviet defectors looking for freedom and success in the west. I recall watching with absolute intrigue as reporters and filmmakers followed defected sports stars, spys, dancers and musicians as they wondered through European and North American cities wide-eyed with a new sense of freedom and wonder. Why don’t these people have the liberties that we enjoy? And why are they guarded so strictly while abroad? These were the questions my younger self would ponder. Awe-struck and captivated, I watched as they began their new lives, and I would wonder if, as an adult, I would ever get the opportunity to visit this vast, intriguing country secretly guarded behind the impenetrable Iron Curtain. This was a long time ago, of course, and things have changed significantly since then.
Although it’s only 3.30 in the afternoon when we arrive in St Petersburg, it is already dark. The December chill I left behind in Hamburg seems positively balmy compared to the Russian cold which bites at my cheeks and prickles in my lungs.
St Petersburg, or Peter as it is affectionately called by locals, has a conflicting cityscape. From the airport, we head towards the city centre, passing imposing Soviet era government buildings and war memorials all as great in stature as Russia itself. In the centre though, you are transported into Tolstoy novels and Pushkin poems.
Built on the brisk Baltic sea, St Petersburg is the dream made manifest of Peter the Great who envisioned a Russian city to rival the best of Europe. It is a menage of the Canals of Venice, the sophistication of Paris and the shipping harbours of Amsterdam (he even named his shipyard New Holland). The Neo-classic and Baroque style architecture in edible fairy cake pastel shades, flank wide boulevards and plazas. Gilded dome churches sit handsomely on canal banks, ornate palaces and museums are plentiful and will pique your interest for days if not weeks. St Petersburg is the stuff of Anna Karenina, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. And everything here is on an epic, expansive scale. A European city and then some.
In my mind’s eye, Russia has always been about hardy people, hearty food, dancing Cossacks and plentiful vodka. Some may prefer the endless white nights of the northern summer months, but I prefer St Petersburg’s winter vesture. To me, it just says Russia. It is vibrant and invigorating, and although Peter’s Baltic winds may nip at you on the first encounter, it then gently caresses you in its wintery embrace, and you feel blessed to have made its acquaintance.
Just off the famous Nevsky Prospeckt is this restaurant serving authentic and incredibly delicious traditional dishes from Georgia, Imereti, Armenia and more. I chose a creamy walnut soup with boiled chicken, and my companion decided on a curious dish of porridge oats (eaten in the evening here too!) with herbed curds and slices of local cheese. Quite unlike anything I have eaten before, but very tasty and satisfying.
Petrov-Vodkin Russian Tapas & Vodka Bar
Wash down Russian style tapas, most of which are topped with caviar of various types, with a flight of carefully selected vodkas as you are entertained by local Gypsy musicians. A little touristy perhaps, but lots of fun when in good company.
Museum of Russian Vodka
This is a must see when in St Petersburg, not only for the history lessons and tasting of Russia’s national drink, but also for the intriguing traditional Russian food on offer at the adjacent restaurant. Interestingly, the museum is inside the Stroganoff building from which the famous dish was named.
Dusks/Dreams Restaurant & Bar
One of many trendy restaurants and bars in St Petersburg. If you are in the mood for something contemporary, with great food, fantastic cocktails and stylish decor then head here.
Church of the Saviour of Spilled Blood
A short walk from Nevsky Prospekt is this uniquely beautiful Russian Orthodox church, built by Alexander III as a memorial to his assassinated father Alexander II. The inside of the church is as impressive the outside, which is decorated in 7500 square metres of mosaic tiles depicting biblical figures. For me, this stunning church was high on my to-see list.
The State Heritage Museum at the Winter Palace
Founded by Catherine the Great, the Heritage museum has the largest collection of paintings in the world, and occupies six buildings which make up the Winter Palace complex. The artefacts on display at the museum are said to be so vast in number it could take over a month to see them all. If you don’t have a month to spend perusing this museum, then you might want to take a strategic approach to your visit and plan ahead.
Known by its moniker “The Russian Versailles” Peterhof (German for Peter’s Court) was modelled on the French Palaces of Versailles which Peter the Great visited. The foundation of the Palace is in the Petrine Baroque style seen throughout St Petersburg, the symmetrical grounds and gardens are famous for their impressive gilded statues, Grand Cascades and Samson water fountains. Unfortunately, they are only on display during the warmer mouths.
Kupetz Eliseyev Emporium
Positioned on Nevsky Prospekt, the exterior is a wonderful Art Nouveau design with full glass frontage in coloured stained glass, and has a movable display of The Nutcracker in the window. The inside decor continues in the Art Nouveau theme, and is full of glass cabinetry filled with sweet and savoury delicacies, and shelves packed with sweets, chocolate, pickled walnuts and caviar displayed to entice. Stay for lunch or afternoon tea and you’ll be enchanted and entertained by the residence pianola player.
Singer Book Store
Built in 1902 on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Griboyedov Canal, the Singer Sewing machine company purchased this site for its new Russian headquarters. The stunning exterior was an innovative design for Russia at the time, and used metal frame-work more commonly used in the U.S. which made the building of high-rise skyscrapers possible. Although the interior is not as elaborate as the exterior, it is worth a visit to pick up some famous Russian literature. The literary cafe on the first floor is an ideal spot to take a window seat and watch people on the Prospekt float by.
Rosemary Infused Chocolate Mendiants
Like most people, when it comes to cooking with herbs, I generally stick to the tried and true. A bit of mint with spring peas or scattered over buttered new potatoes, a dash of dill over fish, and roast lamb wouldn’t be the same without a generous bunch of rosemary.
But lately, I’ve been playing with these herbs in sweet treats too; chamomile custard tarts, minty ice cream, and chocolate Mendiants, infused with hint of voluptuous rosemary will pique the tastebuds with intrigue.
Mendiants are a traditional French confection; chocolate disks which are studded with dried fruits and nuts representing the 4 monastic orders.
Try these little gems this holiday season to offer your guests at gatherings, or make them as lovely edible gifts. Happy holidays!
You Will Need
100g of Mild Flavour Dark Chocolate
5 Sprigs of Rosemary Plus 1 Extra for Decoration
Toasted Pine nuts – approx 24
1 Sheet Edible Silver (optional)
Begin by toasting the pine nuts in a moderate oven for 2-3 minutes until just golden.
Put a small amount of water into a Bain Marie (or small saucepan with a tight-fitting bowl), place it over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, place 2/3 in the bowl and gently melt. Take five rosemary sprigs, use the back of a wooden spoon to lightly bruise and put the sprigs into the melted chocolate. Infuse for 2-3 minutes before removing the Bain Marie from the heat.
Press the rosemary into the side of the bowl with a wooden spoon to squeeze out as much of the chocolate as possible. You can then discard the rosemary. Add the rest of the chocolate, stirring gently as it begins to melt, then leave it to cool for a minute or two.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a flat surface, drop a teaspoon full of chocolate for each disk onto the paper leaving a 3-4 cm space in-between. Decorate with rosemary leaves, pine nuts and small pieces of edible silver, and allow them to cool for about 20 minutes. I usually pop mine in the fridge for a few minutes, which gives the mendiants a little snap when you bite into them.
100g chocolate makes 10-12 Mendiants.
Another chocolate recipe you might also like to try.
An Asian inspired Salad
with a Wasabi Mirin Dressing
This sumptuous salad has been a favourite in my home with family and friends this summer. It is light and exotically fruity with a hint of spice from the threads of Julienne ginger intertwined among fresh herbs and cooling cucumber. I serve this salad with grilled Ahi tuna gently marinated in sesame oil and Chinese five-spice, grilled limes, wasabi mayonnaise, and perhaps jasmine rice. Hope you enjoy it too!
You will need
For the Salad
a generous handful each of fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves and Thai basil leaves
1 mini cucumber
1 green onion
1/2 ripe but fairly firm mango
1 heap tbs of peanuts
For the Dressing
1 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp peanut oil
2 tsp mirin
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp Wasabi paste
First, mix all of the dressing ingredients together thoroughly and set aside to allow the flavours to infuse. Take the coriander, mint and Thai basil and gently pull the leaves from the stems and roughly chop. Now the onion. Cut into thirds then cut lengthways into thin Julienne strips. Thinly slice the cucumber and a long piece of ginger, a mandible works best for this, then slice the ginger into Julienne strips. Using a sharp knife, remove the skin from the mango and cut the flesh into thin slices. Arrange the salad ingredients on serving plates, spoon the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.
It is a rare thing for me to miss an opportunity to visit the little town of Vejer de la Frontera whenever I’m in Andalucia. To visit this region of Spain is to reminisce the pages of Paulo Coelho’s fable, The Alchemist. I recall in the early chapters how Santiago the Shepard boy, looked out from the green pastures of Andalucia, over the Strait of Gibraltar towards Tangiers dreaming of adventure and finding his treasure in the distant Arabian lands. The Moorish Arabs occupied Southern Spain for almost 700 years, of course, and Vejer is one of many places in Andalucia where Arabian and Spanish cultures intertwine. I am forever an admirer of the Spanish climate and culture: leisurely warmth, laid-back, unhurried living and the Moorish love of symmetry and intricate design, and of cuisines prepared to bedazzle. This fusion of two worlds in this region is the reasons I never tire of coming here.
Perched high on a hilltop, Vejer is a quintessential Spanish town which looks like icing on a cupcake from below. It’s early spring, and the sun is already high, stark, and casts chiaroscuro light and deep shadows on the brilliantly whitewashed edificios. We venture up the steep, winding, narrow roads heading to our destination: El Jardin del Califa. Entering at street level the lobby is as whitewashed as its exterior. Following the stairway, however, you are lead down towards the intriguing cavernous depths of this 16th-century building, passing stone vaulted wine cellars leading to the dining areas.
The hotel and restaurants display Moorish and Spanish accents throughout; lanterns, rugs and tapestries add to the ambience. You’ll find an express restaurant at street level, a bar, restaurant and a teteria – tea shop – and, of course, the palm tree-filled-walled garden. As with the decor, the menu is an exquisite menage of Arabian and Southern Spanish dishes: Tagines (naturally), jewel-coloured couscous dishes, barbequed meats and fish and classic meze starters.
In the spirit of Moorish opulence, we dine on meze sharing platters, an exceptional beet salad with whipped feta, spiced roast lamb with grilled aubergine infused with almond crumb and rosewater, completing our meal with baklava and a classic Moroccan mint tea. The hotel terrace gives way to expansive vistas of the surrounding countryside and out to sea where the Mediterranean opens herself to the Atlantic. I image myself here at dusk, sipping a vino de narañja, soaking in history while watching the sun setting over this beautiful part of the world. How magical that would be.
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Although this year so far has taken me to Sweden (post to come later), the UK twice and Spain for a birthday celebration, my focus for the rest of the year will be on hearth and home, creating a family retreat in the English countryside; a little cottage surrounded by woods and daffodil fields not too far from beautiful beaches.
So this month’s post takes a slightly different turn; aside from my usual format, I want, instead, to share with you a small selection of articles from some of my favourite travel magazines.
Some of the articles listed here are of places still on my bucket list for future exploration, and others are familiar to me; past journeys rich with memories of pinnacle moments in my life. So, find your comfortable reading place, relax and enjoy.
This article reminds me so much of my first trip to the city of love many years back with my boyfriend at the time. And as quoted in the article; I too was young, young, young, smoked cigarettes and fell in love in Paris. Of course, being in the city of romance, that same boyfriend took the opportunity to propose atop the Eiffel Tower. We have been together ever since.
This article, however, aims toward a different kind of love; the love of books and takes us on a trip through the celebrated haunts of many literary icons.
This is by far my favourite magazine for travel literature. Every article is exquisitely written, and accompanied by clear, uncluttered imagery in a style all its own. It’s hard to pick just one article to share, however, the words of writer Richard Aslan send me to an ethereal place every time I read his words. This article is about what is said to be the happiest place on earth: Butan.
Anthony Sattin is an author and journalist specialising in travel and history. His writing usually focuses on off-piste journeys through the middle east, on which he has written several books and is a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveller. I often dream of an old style slow cruise down the Nile, and Sattin’s words evoke vibrant mental images of the culture and lavish history along the Nile river and the countries along its banks.
Toast is a fashion company with an online magazine of the same name. The magazine is presented in a beautifully gentle way and focuses on artisan makers from the UK and the world over. Its Travel and Place section is a favourite read of mine, from which I am sharing this article with you. Jessica Seaton, the company’s co-founder, has also written a delightful cookbook called Gather, Cook, Feast, which focuses on foraging and seasonal eating.
I said it was hard to choose just one article by Richard Aslan, so here is another. The aforementioned property which we recently purchased, is in the area in which this story is set. Cornwall, UK is a favourite holiday destination for Brits and a muse for many artists and writers. In this article, Aslan ponders the childhood memories of Virginia Woolf’s family holidays in Cornwall. The lighthouse in this story also holds fond memories for my husband, whose childhood home overlooked Godrevy.
Reflections of Mexico and a Mexican Salad Recipe
Rome | La città eterna
Rome is a city that barely needs an introduction. Walking through Rome’s cobbled streets, history oozes from every pore of its stylishly dilapidated dusky pink and terracotta buildings. It’s a city that is intimate yet grand and is in absolutely no hurry. With evidence of occupation in the area of Rome dating back 14,000 years, Rome truly earns the moniker La città eterna, the eternal city.
We started our all too short trip to Rome with lunch at a small Taverna, frequented by locals and clergy, steps away from the Saint Peter’s Basilica. What we thought would be a quick lunch before launching into sightseeing, turned out to be a superb ten-course affair only the Italians know how to do. Plate after plate arrived at our table; risotto, ravioli, grilled seafood including lobster, sorbets, desserts, wines and digestives, traditional dishes simply presented yet utterly mouth-watering, and at very reasonable prices.
Along Rome’s ancient cityscape two of many iconic landmarks attract tourists amass: Vespasian’s Colosseum is the beating heart of Rome, and one of the most recognised ancient monuments in the world. Vespasian–the eighth emperor of Rome–wanted to show his devotion to his people, and so sponsored the Colosseum as a great venue for entertainment. As the centre of Catholicism, the Vatican has for centuries been a place not only for Christian pilgrimage but also an artistic pilgrimage. The lavishly decorated Vatican museums, including its halls and corridors, house the largest collection of ancient Roman artefacts in the world, plus works ranging from the ancient Egyptians through to the Renaissance.
With centuries of history surrounding you, Rome is a living, breathing museum; a place of classic ruins, stunning baroque fountains, outstanding art, architecture and places of worship, both early Christian and more recently the Mosque of Rome–the largest Mosque in western Europe. Rome is a city that deserves your time and unwavering attention. It should be absorbed very slowly, little by little.
Where to Eat and Drink