Neutriceuticals

I recently gave a talk at the RGBE for the current herbology class. I loved that course when I was on it, what 3 years ago now, 4?

The current crop of students are dedicated and enthusiastic and it was a pleasure being with them. I say ‘talk’ but I never even got around to introducing myself properly, never mind giving my presentation! It was all about the chocolate 🙂

During the herbology course one of the many projects is to write up the health benefits of 3 foods; hence the term ‘neutriceutical’, as you are looking into the potential pharmaceutical effects of nutritious foods. I did my neutriceutical project on cider vinegar, chilli pepper and chocolate.

The course leader is keen for all projects to have a practical element to them, so I decided to make herbal chocolate with pepper in them for one of my practical elements to this – a 2fer, as it combined 2 of my projects. And that, as they say,was that. So my herbology neutriceutical talk is what gave birth to Hedgetables! So, needless to say I’m keen to impart some of my own enthusiasm to the subject.

IMG_8033

As soon I got into the class and starting unpacking my somewhat large number of supplies the students were rummaging and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, all very satisfying 😉

IMG_8032

Last year I started with the talk and then we made various chocolates, with the idea of combining ‘superfoods’ with chocolate. We sadly never managed to fit in a herb infused cream to make a ganache that could then be used to make truffles. I wanted to remedy that this time around, so without an introduction to the theme we started making an infused cream.

One wee group made rose and lavender infused cream. They infused the herbs with the cream directly over a low heat for about 20 mins, then strained out the herbal material. The cream was then scalded before pouring over double the amount of chocolate. Once all the chocolate was incorporated this had to be left to cool and harden up in the fridge.

IMG_8034   IMG_8035

The other group had a person in it with a bad dairy intolerance so another truffle mix was made using the raw chocolate truffle theme, they used dates and pecans blitzed in a blender, with some added coconut water and coconut flour,  maca powder, raw cacao powder and a generous dollop of ground cardamom. Very tasty.

IMG_8036

Both mixes were then shaped into balls and chilled before being either dipped in various outer coatings or, of course, chocolate. We were using raw cacao powder, or dried, ground orange powder, or rosehip or roe petal powder, or ground spices,  or ground up crystallised herbs such as mint, as our external coatings. This is a good way to incorporate some more herbal goodness to the finished product and gives a finished look.

IMG_8037

This took us to about lunch time so just before we broke for lunch I snuck in a very informal talk about chocolate, mentioning the benefits of it, the difference between varieties, chemotypes, the process of making it etc. All of which was illustrated with a taste sample where possible. I think they were beginning to OD on chocolate 🙂

After lunch we cheated with tempering, though it was discussed, as I’d brought in a tempering machine, so we had more time to concentrate on incorporating the superfoods and less time having to fret about making enough to do all the planned things. We made barks and decorated them with all mannner of things, dehydrated berries; strawberries, raspberries, cherries, goldenberries aka physallis, smoked chipotle pepper (I liked the South American theme of chocolate, goldenberries and chilli), nuts, seeds and all manner of goodies were used here.

The group dipped fruits and nuts in the chocolate, mango and brazil nuts being favourites. They also learned the potentially very messy art of dipping, losing, and re-finding their truffles 🙂 Some were dipped, dropped,and repeat several times, so much so that by the time they emerged from the final saving of them that we had gobstoppers of truffles! 🙂

So, all in all they used herbs, powders, superfoods and fruits in, infused, on and covering the chocolates, and, lest I forget, they used tincture and syrups that they’d already made, added directly to the chocolate to make an easy truffle too. Whew! A busy day, with much learning (I hope!) and fun to be had. I’m still unpacking, I think the only thing I don’t bring is the kitchen sink!

Although I had brought my camera I had a ‘Doh!’ moment as I hadn’t checked that it had enough battery power so I only have a few piccies of the day.

Here’s a  recipe we used as a base, taken from my notes to the class:

Raw Date and Cardamom truffles

We’ll work with raw cacao first as no melting or tempering is needed, but time for chilling often is.

Pit and chop 10 dates, put in blender and whizz.

Add a handful of Pecans, or other nuts/ seeds of your choice, and 2T cacao powder

Add a T of coconut flour, a T of coconut water, and 2t, or to taste of ground cardamom. Whizz in blender until a thick paste is achieved. Too runny? – add some more cacoa and or flour, too thick? – add a drop or 2 of the c. water.

Once reached a thick paste, roll into small balls and coat in a powder of your choice.

The finishing powder can make quite a difference to your end taste so feel free to experiment again here – how about more cacao powder – extra chocolatey goodness, but can be bitter, so try mixing and matching/ replacing with other powders? Dried fruit powders – orange pulp powder would be nice, rosehip powder, maca powder for extra superfood punch? You can try dipping these in melted/ tempered normal chocolate for a wonderful treat with the knowledge that you are also having a refined sugar free, healthy snack that is good for you!

Advertisements

Raw Strawberry Fudge- ish

I harvested a lot of small wild strawberries from my garden the other day. Most of these are being dehydrated whole for decoration to my dark Rosemary bars (Rosemary with dried strawberry and crystallised mint). I had some left over and added more locally grown strawberries to the start of the fudge.

IMG_4159

IMG_4156

IMG_4168

This fudge recipe is adapted to one from  http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2014/07/10/chocolate-covered-strawberry-fudge-bars/.

The recipe for the truffle/ fudge is raw and you can use a raw chocolate to coat, or cheat and use normal chocolate. If you coated in dark, it will still be dairy free. The recipe in the link above gives a proper fudge while the runnier fudge that I made can be used as a desert, mousse, ice cream substitute, or used as a filling for chocolate.

I had some issues; being American there is of course the cups to grams measurement and a slight difference in language, or at least, my understanding of what is meant, which may well be a different thing entirely! 😉

This all may have lead to my fudge being more fudge-‘ish’ than fudge. ‘Ish’ to the point of being entirely different, but it’s still tasty and being thoroughly appreciated by Helpful Husband. So here’s the fudge-ish recipe:

Sightly less than a pack of creamed coconut – 180g

IMG_4174

A punnet of strawberries- 200g

Good couple of turns of salt mill

1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp of ground cardamom

1 1/2 tbs of syrup (Agave or maple was recommended, but I used my Blackthorn flower syrup that I made earlier in the year for a more herbal component)

Tempered chocolate for coating

Method

1. Hull and blend the strawberries with a stick blender. Use a high sided container or by the time everything else is added the mix will attempt to coat the kitchen walls, your hair, glasses etc! 😉

2. Melt the coconut cream and blend it in with the puree. The original recipe called for coconut butter, which is apparently the solid white version of coconut oil, which I have loads of but that is ‘oil’ to me, not butter. So my version is much softer than the original recipe turns out to be. If you want a more fudge consistency – use 1/2 cup of melted solid coconut oil.

3. Add the salt, spices and syrup, and blend again. (Bet you’re wishing you’d gone for the taller container now, eh?)

4. Fill up a plastic container and smooth out. Put container into the freezer for a while.If you used the solid oil this will turn into proper fudge like consistency that you can cut easily and dip in chocolate if you want. If, like me, you used creamed coconut this will never really firm up to being solid until it’s totally frozen and will start to melt almost immediately. Don’t panic.

5. The softish mix can be used a desert in and of itself, almost like a mousse. It can also be left to become firm in the freezer. Then it can be shaped into small balls. Put these back in freezer to firm up again (the handling will have softened it up quite a bit).

6. The firm balls (ooh err missus, that didn’t turn out as I’d intended!) can now be dunked in the chocolate of your choice. I had some Jasmine flavoured white chocolate that I had left over from making bars of said flavour. I thought it would be nice with the strawberry. I found that the white chocolate was warm enough, even when tempered, to start melting the truffles. This meant that the coating was decidedly patchy, and so needed to be left to dry and then be re-coated.

Though I felt that the jasmine hint complemented the fresh strawberry taste that was still strongly present, I find that the white addition was a bit sweet overall for my taste, but I’m not big on white, I like my chocolate like my men, as the joke goes, rich and dark! 😉

Not many pictures here, as I got incredibly sticky, oily and covered in pink goo. I didn’t think the camera would appreciate being handled by me in that state! Bad Jill, hangs ears down in shame, must try harder.

Enjoy your messy pink goo and dipping in chocolate. There is a knack to that in itself which really only comes with practice, and I’m still hit or miss getting a good finish, so feel free to do lots of chocolate kersplunking!

 

Re-purposing the garden

Weedin’ Wednesday comes round quickly. I’ve been trying to pace myself as I find pulling up weeds hard on my hands, so it’s been little and probably not often enough for any noticeable difference. although the brown bin for compostables is full and there is a healthy pile of weeds sitting in the drive ready to go to compost recycling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It all feels a bit of a waste. I thought that there must be something I can do with the weeds. So far in the area that I’ve been tackling the main weed varieties have been Rosebay Willow Herb  (Epilobium angustifoilium aka Chamerion angustifolium)and Nettles.

Rosebay Willow herb (RWH) is a stately plant with a striking  pink  cone of flowers. Tees rather likes it, so do I for that matter, however it spreads like wildfire, reminiscent of one of it’s other names ‘Fireweed’, as it has an impressive root spread and growth and a full head of cottony seeds that billow and spread easily.

So to find other uses for this invader.. I tried a variety of things today…

1. RWH tea – I tried a variety of leaves in different cups of tea. I tried young leaves in one teapot and older leaves in another. I know that they are quite astringent and that’s why you choose young leaves to eat in salads in Spring (note; this is Summer, perhaps the young leaves are still not young enough?) I’ve read about them being used as a drink and with the tannins thought they might be relatively ‘tea-like’… No. Both cups of tea were strongly Green tasting and not very pleasant. If I thought I was getting a great deal of good out of them I might persevere, but while it may help with diarrhoea (which I don’t have) and may help with a respiratory condition (thankfully nope again to that) there are plenty of others that I would go to first.

IMG_4166

2. A syrup from the flowers. In one word…Ugh! I gently heated up several racemes of the flowers and got a beautiful tinted infusion, strained it, tried it and thought it tasted revolting. Undaunted I thought a bit of lemon juice might help and went on to make a syrup by adding equal amounts of sugar to the infusion. Nope, still revolting.

IMG_4164

IMG_4171

3. Using the canes from last years stems. This works pretty well if you use the really sturdy ones. They are lighter than bamboo, and still quite strong due to the hollow nature of them. I put them around my young sweet pea plants for support. We’ll see how they last in the weather away from other stems to protect them.

4. Dyeing. I tried dyeing a paper bundle a la India Flint using the RWH and a few other plants I picked from the wilderness that is the front garden. The paper worked surprisingly well and coped with the saturation and steaming process, which I wasn’t sure it would. It was a pretty standard water colour paper.

IMG_4161

IMG_4163 A good way to use up herbs past their use by date too – just throw them in for good measure!

Unfortunately, my weight arrangement wasn’t great and so the bundle didn’t stay effectively clamped. It was a proper bodge job as I hadn’t thought I was going to do this, it just sort of happened and so didn’t have all the kit and caboodle required.

IMG_4165Impromptu wight arrangement, oops, no disrespect intended.

I got nice tints to the paper but no prints. I know I can get them as I managed before on the workshop. Ah well lesson learned.

IMG_4170

The seeds aren’t ready yet but they can provide tinder for fire lighting, and the inside of the stems has fibre that can be dried and used as tinder too, though there are easier sources.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARWH leaves giving a good print on India’s workshop. The flowers didn’t and were hard to seperate from the paper as the mucilage in the flowers became more glue like.

All in all a good day for experiments, tho’ not many were overly successful. The books definitely make RWH sound much more appetising than it actually is, though I have eaten the young leaves fine in Spring. I don’t plan on keeping lots of it around as a salad crop or plant supports.

 

 

Fermentation class with Russell James and Amy Levin

The day after my raw chocolate course with Amy (https://hedgetables.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/raw-chocolate-course-with-amy-levin/) I had a class on fermentation. This was held in the same place; in the lovely, light filled kitchen cum studio of Russell James.

Now I’ve never had much luck with yeasts and fermenting – be that from a bread or alcohol producing point of view, but looking into the raw food phenomenon and it’s health benefits I was seeing articles on Kombuchu and Kefir all over the place. I’d had some difficulty in imagining the taste so it was hard to know if I wanted to make it. The course also encompassed lacto-fermentation. A lot of foragers know of this and it had also been highly recommended in various books as a method of preserving seasonal greens,lacto-fermentation is more commonly known as the method for producing Sauerkraut. So, definitely wanting to know about the Sauerkraut method and curious about a couple of other things that the course was offering, and not wanting to go to London for just one day, the decisions to go the fermentation class was a pretty easy one.

The day was started with James going into the benefits of making nut cheeses. Nut cheese I thought, I’d barely heard of them… wonderful things. Not as bland as I thought they’d be as nutritional yeast is added for flavour along with any spices, dried or fresh herb you want. They take only a couple of days to make – and that is due to overnight soaking first, then after blitzing in the, you guessed it – the Vitamix (getting one for sure! ), there is the process  of pressing the nut pulp to get excess water out; which takes several hours.

There is no waste – the water and ‘milk’ that is pressed out – effectively the curds and whey, is bulging with healthy bacterial cultures from the probiotic powder that was added to the nuts when they were blitzed in the blender. This curds and whey can be added to smoothies and drinks, or used to start another culture of cheese.

The almond cheese is particularly good, in that it can be aged to give a cheese that is genuinely tasty and can be cut like cheese, unlike the others, like macadamia, that make a soft cheese that is best made and eaten frequently.

The cheese can be used for sweet as well as savoury, as James proved with a wonderful, coffee, maple and vanilla almond nut cheesecake, needless to say it was deemed likely to get damaged in transit and had to be disposed of immediately :-), sorry HH – just have to make another one now…

Kimchi was not something I’d even heard of, but loved when I tasted it – a hot, tingly, zesty dush made from sturdy vegetables coming from Korea, so lots of chillis can be added.

We tackled the weird fungal bacterial hybrids that makes Kombuchu and Kefirs and got to sample lots. Amazing the differences that the second fermentation makes. You can add herbal and floral infusion, spices and all sorts here to make really flavourful, refreshing drinks.  We not only got to taste lots of variations but got to take samples of the cultures and ‘mothers’ home with us. Lots of practicing to be had…

IMG_3954  Kombuchu ‘scoby’ – the bacterial/ yeast symbiote floating in black tea and sugar mix to ‘feed’ it.

IMG_3957  the kefir grains that grow in water with sugar medium. They feel quite firm and gelatinous.

The lunch provided was flavourful and healthy. We were given a tasty raw salad and cumin-y dressing with a variety of the chutneys, cheeses, krauts and salsas that were also to make that day.

I left the class fizzing with kefir juices, excitement and new ideas. Thanks you James and Amy for an enlightening and tasty day.