Monday, 9 May 2011

How to make a wild spring salad - the recipe

This recipe has a large number of variations depending on what you have growing wild near to you. Before picking however there are a couple of rules to follow: if you don't know what it is, don't touch it (there are plenty of poisonous plants out there and some that, though they aren't poisonous, could cause a few upsets or runs to the loo if taken in large quantities); and secondly pick away from busy roads or where people walk their dogs.

Wild leaves come in a variety of tastes and textures. Don't let one type of leaf dominate, go for about 6 or 7. The following are some of the commons ones to use: dandelion, dock, wild garlic, cow parsley, blackberry and raspberry leaves (both are quite dry so you will definitely need a salad dressing). I also add in early hazel and hawthorn leaves. These should be pale green and not fully grown when picked. Leave them any longer and they will be too woody to eat.

Lay the leaves onto a plate and then make your salad dressing. This is effectively a mixture of olive oil and white wine or cider vinegar which is then sweetened. Start with a table spoon of oil and two of vinegar. Mix together. Then add your sweetner. I have been using hawberry ketchup recently. I made it last year and it has a sweet flavour which I think goes well with the wild leaves. Pour in enough to sweeten the dressing to the level you want. If it remains too sharp because of the vinegar, add in a bit more olive oil. As an alternative, you can use sugar or honey.

Pour the dressing over the leaves. Then add some cold, boiled potatoes. The best salad potatoes in my opinion are pink fir apple. We grow lots of them (we planted a large quantity last weekend on our allotment). These potatoes have a slightly waxy texture which holds together well when boiled. A nice extra touch is to chop and fry a little bit of bacon until it is crisp and then sprinkle it over the potatoes.

Finally, if you want to make this into something of a feast, hard boil some eggs. Then slice them in half and scoop out the yolks which can then be mashed with some chopped wild garlic leaves. If you have plenty of eggs, mash some of the yolks with the ketchup. Spoon the yolk mixes into the egg whites.

And that's your wild spring salad ready for eating. If you watched edition 5 of the Horticultural Channel you will see me making this salad. Watch closely and you will see a bottle of homemade sloe gin on the table. A glass of it made a very pleasant addition to my picnic!

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