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Foraging For Food!

Scrambled Eggs with Wild Chicory – Serves 2 as a starter

Let’s keep our spirits high with some yummy food! In this day and age we have completely forgotten how to forage because everything is available in all the supermarkets. So, let’s pack our backpacks and together with the children, head to the woods to get dinner! There are many wild plants and herbs but at the moment let’s focus eyes on a very easy herb to spot: the wild chicory. It helps the liver and kidneys to cleanse. *Wild chicory is easy to recognise (see photo) as the leaves are stalked and unlobed, the flower heads are 2 to 4 cm wide and usually yellow.

Don’t forget 2 very important rules:
1. Some wild herbs or plants can be poisonous so stick with the easy ones to recognise.
2. When foraging always try to avoid the side of roads and cultivated fields as pesticides used in agriculture can be present in the soil.

My favourite recipe using chicory is sautéed with olive oil, chilli and garlic but the kids are not big fans of chilli, so I’m using the recipe my grandmother used to cook when I was a child.

*Wild Chickory leaves unlobed and pointed lanceolate leaf – a leaf shaped like a lance head; tapering to a point at each end.

Ingredients
300g fresh wild chicory
500ml of water
30g of butter
3 eggs
salt
black pepper
30ml of olive oil

Preparation
1. We will start cleaning our wild chicory by removing the roots with the help of a small sharp knife as we only need the leaf. We will then place it in a mixing bowl with cold water and rinse it until they are completely free from soil and impurity.
2. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. When the water is boiling add a pinch of salt and place the wild chicory to boil for 7 minutes. Drain our wild chicory and place it in a plate.
3. Now take a medium frying pan and place it on a medium heat adding the olive oil and the butter. Once it is hot add the wild chicory and cook it for 3-4 minutes. Then add 3 eggs and with the help of a wooden spoon scramble them, the butter will help to keep the eggs creamy to cook them to your personal taste. Once ready just serve it on slice of crusty toasted bread.

Recommended Wine: Gewürztraminer (Austria)

Pasta, Meatballs, Parma Ham & Peas – Serves 4

I usually never do pasta recipes mainly because is a bit of cliché for an Italian, but I keep reading that one of the most purchased food products right now is pasta. I noticed in our local supermarkets that all the pasta shelves are empty, so for all the people who’ve overstocked with pasta and are running out of ideas on how to prepare it, this recipe is delicious and brings together 2 of the best comfort foods ever! Pasta and meatballs, and we are just in the beginning of peas season too.

Ingredients
1 Egg yolk
400g of beef minced meat
100g of Parma ham
25g of chopped fresh mint
100g breadcrumbs
75g of grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon olive oil
200g fresh or frozen garden peas
75ml of double cream (or you can use a creamy cheese)
400g of pasta (you can choose the shape you prefer)
Salt

Preparation
1. Place the beef mince meat, Parma ham, chopped mint, breadcrumbs, egg yolk and the parmesan cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with our hands. Add seasoning, then roll the mixture into little balls about 4cm across.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the meatballs one by one, make sure they are not to close to each other. Cook carefully, turning over each meatball individually so they cook evenly, for about 10 minutes, until cooked through. Make sure to drain any excess fat from the pan, add the double cream (or creamy cheese) and cook gently for 5 minutes.
3. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water, adding the peas after 4 minutes so they will cook together.
4. When the pasta is cooked drain and toss with the meatballs. Cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes until is all well blended together.
5. Serve with parmesan cheese and a bit of black pepper. Enjoy!

Recommended Wine: Pecorino (Italy)

Whipped Cream & Strawberry Cake – Serves 6

The month of May marks the beginning of the strawberry season. This cake, along with some delicious whipped cream, is a perfect strawberries feast. The soaked in orange juice lady fingers will give you a citric taste, but if you choose to go with the sweet white wine it will taste a bit sharper.

Ingredients
400g of whipped cream
550g of lady fingers
3 punnets of strawberry’s
300ml of orange juice or sweet white wine

Preparation
1. Start by washing the strawberries and cut them in slices. Then we will place them in a large mixing bowl and cover them up with either the sweet white wine or the orange juice. Leave them to macerate for 2 hours.
2. After 2 hours remove the strawberries from the mixing bowl and place in a clean mixing bowl adding the whipped cream and gently stirring it together. Don’t throw away the juice/sweet wine because we will need it to soak the lady fingers.
3. Now grab a cake tin or baking tray, don’t worry about the shape of it. It just should be 12 inches wide/long. Place the orange juice or sweet white whine in a small bowl. Soak the lady fingers one by one and place it on the bottom of the cake tin until fully covered. Add a layer of cream and strawberry on top of the lady finger until well covered. Repeat this process layer after layer until you use all ingredients.
4. Once ready we will place it in the fridge to settle for 2 hours minimum. We are now ready to serve and enjoy!

Recommended Wine: Sauterne’ (France)

I would like to take the chance to thank everyone in Cranleigh for their amazing spirit, dedication and kindness shown during these really hard times of Coronavirus. I wish you all the best, hopefully soon we will be able to get together again with our families, friends and co-workers. A special mention to all the key workers from the NHS staff to the supermarket staff, bin collectors, carers, police and fire man and volunteers because they are true heroes, God bless you.

SIMONE CONTI

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