Spring green risotto with wild garlic (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring green risotto. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Every year at this time my local river bank becomes swathed in lush greenery and develops a distinctive oniony aroma. A walk on a sunny afternoon can make you feel very hungry indeed.

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River-side wild garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

On a bright afternoon at the end of last week, I went on a foraging expedition and picked a small bag of the fresh, lush wild garlic leaves, also known as Ramsons (Allium ursinum). As with any wild food, only ever pick if in abundance. Take leaves from several plants rather than stripping leaves from just one or two. Pick the vibrant green, broad leaves (shaped rather like those of the tulip) when young and before the delicate white star-shaped flowers bloom to enjoy them at their sweetest.

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Fresh Ramsons leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

For safetys sake, take extra care to make that sure you are only picking the leaves of wild garlic. Wash very well before using. I usually put the leaves in a colander and dunk several times in a bowl of cold water before shaking dry.

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Washing wild garlic. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As with most soft herbs, wild garlic is best used within 24 hours of picking, but once rinsed and shaken dry, I find it well for a few days sealed in a plastic bag in the fridge.

My recipe this week combines the wild garlic leaves with baby kale leaves (or kalettes) and leek in a stir fry. It is delicious served as a vegetable dish in its own right, but is also makes a delicious stirred to a mushroom risotto.

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Spring greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the stir fry:

  • 1 medium leek
  • 30g wild garlic, washed
  • 175g baby kale (or kalettes)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the risotto:

  • 1l vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and chopped
  • 400g Arborio rice
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 25g wild garlic, washed and finely shredded
  1. Trim the leek. Split lengthways and rinse well to remove any trapped earth. Shake well to remove excess water, then shred finely.
  2. Shred the wild garlic leaves. Strip the leaves of baby kale from the central stalks. Mix all the vegetables together.

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    Preparing spring greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Heat the oil in a  large frying pan or wok, add the greens and stir fry for 2 minutes. Season well, reduce the heat to low, and cover and cook gently for 4-5 minutes until tender. Serve immediately as a vegetable accompaniment, or put to one side whilst preparing the risotto.
  4. For the risotto, pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until everything is well mixed.
  5. Pour in half the wine and cook gently, stirring, until absorbed. Add the remaining wine along with a ladleful of stock. Cook gently until absorbed.
  6. Continue adding the stock in this way, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is thick, creamy and tender. This will take about 25 minutes and should not be hurried. Keep the heat moderate throughout the cooking.

    Making_mushroom_risotto
    Making risotto. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. Season the risotto to taste, stir in all but a few shreds of wild garlic, and cook for a further minute until the garlic has wilted. To serve, reheat the spring greens and gently mix into the risotto, then serve sprinkled with the remaining wild garlic.

    Variegated_wild_garlic_growing_in_a_Perthshire_woodland
    Variegated wild garlic leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

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Curly kale – recipe ideas and serving suggestions

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Green and red curly kale. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The hardiest of all the Brassica family, and probably the closest to wild cabbage, kale (or kail) is one of the most traditional of Scottish vegetables. The robust leaves withstand harsh frosts and snow, and are said to taste all the better for it. In the past, kale was dismissed as animal fodder, but today it is one of the most trendy vegetables on the menu.

Kale is one of my favourite greens. I love the strong flavour, it is bursting with vitality in every bite, and it is one of the few vegetables tasty enough to stand its own on a plate with other bold flavours.

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Keeping kale fresh in a bowl of water. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As with all leafy vegetables, cook as soon as possible after purchase. Choose firm stalks with fresh, dark or bright green leaves. If you do want to keep them for a couple of days, arrange the stems in a bowl or large jug of water as you would a bunch of flowers, then put in the fridge. I find kale is one of a few vegetables that doesn’t freeze very well – it loses texture and flavour, and becomes a bit slimy when cooked.

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Kale leaves. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Simple to prepare, just rinse kale well in cold, running water to flush out any trapped earth caught in the tight, curling leaves, and then shake off the excess water. Pull off the lower, frilly leaves and keep to one side – these softer leaves are perfect for eating raw in winter salads. Slice out the central stem, and then shred the leaves into the desired size.

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Preparing curly kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you are steaming kale, pack the wet leaves into a steamer and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Alternatively, pack the wet leaves into a saucepan, turn on the heat and when the contents begin to steam, put the lid on, reduce the heat to medium and cook with the lid on, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes – don’t have the heat too high otherwise the leaves will dry and burn. Drain well and chop finely.

For baking and deep-frying, rinse the leaves then make sure you dry them as much as possible in order to cook them to a crisp. Blotting them between layers of absorbent kitchen paper is a good way. If the leaves are too damp, you will end up steaming them in the oven rather than drying them out. In hot oil, the contents will spit and hiss if water still clings to the leaves.

Recipe ideas and serving suggestions

  • Shredded kale makes fantastic “crispy seaweed”: deep-fry in hot vegetable oil for a few seconds, then drain well and toss in a little salt and white sugar. Season with Szechuan pepper or Chinese 5 spice.
  • Toss raw, small, tender kale leaves with finely shredded raw leek and grated apple in a lemon vinaigrette and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve as a crunchy, bold winter salad sprinkled with toasted walnuts.
  • Steamed kale is delicious, finely chopped, tossed in butter or good quality olive oil and seasoned with black pepper and ground nutmeg. An ideal accompaniment to a bold, red wine gravy based game, meat or bean stew.
  • Add finely chopped, steamed kale to a garlic mash. See My favourite mash (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan
  • Mix finely chopped, steamed kale with cooked brown rice or pearl barley, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan (or Vegan cheese) and use as a filling for baked Portobello mushrooms.
  • Tray-baked kale leaves make a healthy sprinkle for salads, soups, rice and pasta dishes. Here’s what to do: preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven, gas mark 2). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Prepare 200g kale leaves as above, then rinse and dry thoroughly. Roughly chop the leaves and place in a large bowl. Toss in no more than 2 tbsp. sunflower oil and arrange over the trays – too much oil will make the leaves go soggy. Mix 1 teasp smoked salt, ½ teasp ground black pepper and 1 teasp ground cumin together and sprinkle over the oily kale.
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Baking kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp. Drain well, leave to cool, then pack into air-tight containers or jars to store. The baked kale will keep and stay crisp in this way for up to 2 weeks.

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Cumin-spiced, tray-baked kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Rumbledethumps (gluten-free; dairy-free & vegan alternatives)

 

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Freshly baked Rumbledethumps. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Great name for a recipe eh? What’s more, I haven’t made it up. This is a Scottish classic, and I’ve chosen to post it now for 2 reasons. It’s been very cold here this week and this is fabulous comfort food, and also with the festive season nearly upon us, it is an excellent recipe for using up leftovers. It uses 2 of my favourite vegetables, potatoes and kale (or cabbage).

I love kale. So much flavour and texture, I think it out-strips cabbage and other greens in every way. Up until a couple of years ago, Cavelo Nero, Italian black kale, was my favourite variety, but then along came mini kale and my mind was changed. Very quick to cook, simple to prepare, with a milder, slightly sweet and nutty flavour, it looks very pretty too. The small leaves are  also excellent raw in winter salads.

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Mini kale. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Heads of mini kale, up close. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So on with the recipe. Traditionally, this is a very simple combination of leftover cooked potatoes and cabbage fried with onion and then grilled with cheese on top. What’s not to like? The name, by the way, is believed to come from the combination of the “thumping” sound associated with mashing potato and the mixing together of the ingredients (a “rumble”). Here’s my version.

Serves: 3 to 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 150g mini kale, kale, cabbage or other greens (if you have leftovers, you’re halfway there with the recipe already)
  • 500g cooked potatoes (I had some boiled small potatoes with skins on to use up)
  • 25g butter or dairy-free margarine
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed and shredded (or use thinly sliced onion if you prefer)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g grated Scottish Cheddar or dairy-free/vegan grated cheese
  1. If you are starting from scratch, prepare the greens and cook them in lightly salted water for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Drain well.
  2. Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them to crush slightly.
  3. In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil and gently fry the leek for 3-4 minutes until softened (if you’re using onion, cook it gently for longer, until tender).
  4. Stir in the potatoes and greens, and stir fry the vegetables gently together for 5-6 minutes until thoroughly heated. Season well and transfer to a heatproof dish.

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    Basic preparation of Rumbledethumps. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Preheat the grill to medium/hot. Sprinkle the vegetables with grated cheese and grill for about 5 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.
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Comfort with every spoonful. Image: Kathryn Hawkins