Nibbles

"a very small quantity or portion"

"a tentative expression of interest" Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I am totally uninspired today. I have tried all my usually fail-safe writer's block techniques, but even they have not achieved their aim. I even put one lucky dip back on the shelf, so boring it seemed to me. Maybe bored would be a better description of my mood. So as a last resort I am doing one of my regular little things posts, although I fear that even here I don't have a lot to offer this time.

Onion grass (Allium triquetrum)

It's everywhere at the moment isn't it? I find it so pretty - it reminds me of snowdrops that we used to see in the woods sometimes. Although, now I wonder whether indeed it was actually onion grass. Pretty, invasive and smelly - of onions - but did you know you can actually eat it?


"the leaves of three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrum) are tender and full-flavoured. It’s more subtle than brown onions, being a little leeky, with a smidgeon of spring onion and a cheeky hint of chive." Wildfeast


Elsewhere it's sometimes known as three-cornered leek because of the three ridged leaves, But looking at the photograph I took here it looks to me as if the leaves are in two parts not three. The botanical name is the same though. Anyway you can eat it all - flowers, leaves and the root too. Flowers and leaves as garnish - well I guess the leaves are a bit like chives. I saw one enthusiast say that although you could indeed eat the roots - which look a little like small onions - they are a real pain to use because it's so difficult to get rid of the dirt. I'm probably not going to try any anytime soon, but come Armageddon, who knows. It might only be the weeds that survive.


Horseradish?

Still on weeds - does anyone know if this plant is horseradish?

I ask because I currently cannot find jars of horseradish - pure horseradish - in any of our supermarkets in Eltham. Horseradish cream yes but not horseradish. And horseradish cream is not at all what I am after. Why is this? There are countless recipes that include horseradish out there, particularly if you are doing things with smoked fish.


Anyway I have looked at pictures online and see that the plant looks very much like this weed that grows along my route home from the shops. In England it seems to be a sort of weed. People grow it in their gardens but are always told to contain it somehow - like mint - or it will take over. Which is a very weedlike characteristic. So maybe I should just pull (or dig) one up someday and try it. But I'm rather nervous about eating wild things I have to say. Anyway if anyone knows, please tell me.


Brown butter

Every now and then The Guardian Newsletter has a brief article in which a famous foodie talks about their favourite ingredient. This time is was John Whaite, who I think is a British chef. And this is how you make it according to him.


"Brown butter is so relaxing to make. You put the butter in a pan over a gentle heat and patiently wait while it melts. Once it’s melted into a lovely golden pool, turn the heat up to medium-high; it will bubble and spit and sputter, it’s very noisy. Swirl the pan every 30 seconds to a minute, and that will prevent the milk solids from caramelising too quickly. As it quietens to a crackle, the last moisture is leaving the pan. All of a sudden, it goes silent. Then you know the butter is almost ready. The silence is accompanied by a very fine cappuccino foam on top, and the smell is gorgeous: roasted hazelnut, with the slight sour resonance of butter." John Whaite

Sound is important here. Something we don't think about much when cooking do we?


It's just a little thing but one of those things that's worth knowing really. It can be used in anything sweet and savoury almost - like lemons it "elevates anything you add it to". And here is a recent example from Ottolenghi's new book - Brown butter butter beans with spring onion pesto. The recipe is available on The New York Times website, although sometimes you have to sign in to a free account to actually get a look.


Perhaps the most well-know uses of it are as a sauce for pasta or gnocchi with crispy sage leaves, or as a sauce for fish.


A technique worth mastering anyway.

Brioche

This is very short and sweet - a painting by Manet (not Monet) - a still life entitled simply The Brioche. I really liked it and it also reminded me that this is what I thought of as brioche - the domed shape of the thing. Nowadays it just comes as an ordinary shaped loaf or bun. I think the French toast I had up in Port Douglas might have been made with brioche.


Baked peaches and cinnamon cream sauce

When summer finally comes I shall be making this - with peaches or plums or nectarines. Maybe I could make it with apples or pears right now though. Because it's one of those recipes - from Nigel Slater - who else? - that is so simple, so quick and just that little bit different that makes these things so tempting. Fundamentally you grill your fruit until soft and charred at the edges having put brandy and brown sugar in the centres. The cream is made by boiling it briefly with cinnamon and cloves, or vanilla, or cardamom ... Done.

Maple poached mandarins

In the same vein - quick, simple, tasty that is - this time from Coles, comes a recipe for cooking mandarin segments with maple syrup and spices. Mandarins are definitely in season. Maybe I should make some for dinner tonight. I would never serve them on porridge though as Coles does here. I can't stand porridge. Ice cream or cream though.

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