Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Foraged Wild Green Pancakes, and Any Flower Syrup


I've forgotten how good it feels to be able to cook in my own kitchen, with ingredients gotten fresh from people who grow them. It's my second blog post since I returned to London, but only the first one about the sort of food I cook.

I've had people ask about the way I cook, and I go 'as local and organic as I can, with Asian influences, and usually very simple'. Then they roll their eyes. ‘Oh, pretentious.’ The whole seasonal, local, organic, sustainable thing is very trendy nowadays, and I almost wish it isn’t, because now it’s become an overused chefy/ hippie/ marketing concept.  (The whole Asian-influenced bit I get away with because my skin is yellow.) Believe it or not, I cook the way I do because it's 1. much fresher (hence healthier) 2. cheaper and most importantly, 3. it tastes better.


It is spring/ summer now in London and prime season for all kinds of wild plants. This also means it is prime season for foraging, in other words pinching unloved weeds off the land for your kitchen. Yes another pretentious trend, but only if you are foraging for the sake of hashtagging it and not actually eating it. 

Just within London, there are lots of spots where you can find edible plants off nature, and these plants are unfortunately going to waste because not many people recognise them as food. I last went foraging at Hampstead Heath, one (very) early morning. I’m not the greatest at recognising the edible ones from the ones that will kill you (lesson 1: my mum has taught me never to trust strangers, and certainly not to put them into my mouth), but I was lucky enough to have a friend who does know his shit with me. We were after the elderflowers– he for a posh crowd he was cooking for, and I for making syrup– but we came across alexanders, burdock, borage flowers, nettles, and a whole patch of wild garlic. We picked just enough for what we wanted (lesson 2: forage responsibly; if you're harvesting huge commercial amounts there will be no more fun for others!) and then hurried home before work began. 


Sean heading for elderflowers; Atiqa amidst nettles

The last two plants I identify easily even without Sean's advice. Yes I got stung by the nettles (lesson 3: wear long socks that don't slip). As for the wild garlic, a gentle rub of its lush green leaves releases the unmistakeable heavenly scent of garlic. It's coming to the end of the season now but the flowers are amazing too. Instead of a single recipe-focused blog post, I thought I'll share a couple of things I did with my foraged treasures. 

The first (very pretentious, local, seasonal, Asian-influenced) recipe is one for crepes made with wild garlic and rice flour, with a sweet-sour chilli dressing. It's inspired by the Vietnamese sizzling rice flour crepes banh xeo, but more tender and almost pancake-like because of the eggs.


WILD GREEN PANCAKES
serves 2
1 handful wild garlic leaves and flowers*
2 large organic free-range eggs
½ cup rice flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour
pinch of ground turmeric
water, to loosen
1 tsp fish sauce
sea salt and white pepper, to taste
groundnut oil, for frying

sweet-sour chilli dressing
½  cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup unrefined cane sugar
¼ cup fish sauce
1-2 Thai bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Method
1. Whisk the eggs and flours together, adding water to loosen till you get a thin crepe-like batter. Use a bit of bicep work to make sure there are no lumps. Season with fish sauce, salt and pepper.
2. Heat an 8-inch frying pan till medium hot, and then add a little oil. When the oil is hot, pour just enough of the batter to get a thin layer covering the pan, swirling to distribute it evenly. 
3. Once the batter has started to set, add some of the wild garlic on top, then cover the pan for a minute until the pancake is fully cooked.  Remove the cover, and then flip the pancake over to fry on the other side, till both sides are golden brown.
4. Repeat till you finish the batter. 
5. Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the warm pancakes to serve.


*You can replace this with your choice of fragrant greens/ herbs. 

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The second is for a flower syrup. You can use any flower, but obviously it has to be edible and it has to taste of something or it's just sugar-water. I used elderflowers in this one. Another nice one would be wild rose. You can pimp up your cocktails with this, pour it over cake, stir into fruits, whip through yogurt and top over granola, the possibilities are endless and you can have fun with it over the next 2-3 weeks.



ANY FLOWER SYRUP
Ingredients
1 cup water
3 cups unrefined sugar*
1 cup fresh edible flowers

Method
1. Tap the flowers and leave for a while for any insects to crawl off. You can rinse lightly but say with elderflowers, you do want the pollen bit.
2. Boil everything together for 10 min or until the mixture thickens into a syrup.
2. Strain through a muslin cloth into a glass jar and seal. Yeah, that's it.

*You can change up the taste by using different kinds of sugar– cane sugar, coconut sugar, palm sugar etc; or even try adding honey. 

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These are very versatile recipes so you can play around with whatever wild greens and flowers you get your hands on; or if you really don't like getting your hands dirty or your ankles stung, the pancakes would work with spring onions or any pungent herb, while the syrup would work with any edible flower you can get your hands on. Don't be a sissy though, because foraging is fun, and knowing that your 'organic seasonal local sustainable' food didn't cost you a thing, makes it somehow more delicious.

Oh last lesson: Try to pick where the dogs haven't been or you're going to get pee-tainted food.


More wild food adventures:
Wild garlic foraging and fried beehoon (Video!)
Steamed sea bass with crispy sea purslane
Free blackberry pie
Stinging nettle saag aloo

Thanks Sean @eatmygarden for the best outdoor lesson one can get.

Photos and tips of more of these wild plants on my newsletter. Do sign up– I only send good stuff.

49 comments:

  1. I love the wild garlic! I usually use them to make pesto sauce and the filling for the dumplings. Have to try your pancake soon. It looks wonderfully delicious.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Angie! I make pesto out of them too- so perfect because then it's extra garlicky. Haven't tried them with dumplings, that sounds fantastic and it's def on my list.

      Delete
    2. SAYA INGIN BERBAGI CERITA KEPADA SEMUA ORANG BAHWA MUNKIN AKU ADALAH ORANG YANG PALING MISKIN DIDUNIA DAN SAYA HIDUP BERSAMA SUAMI YANG SAKIT-SAKITAN DAN 3 BUAH HATI SAYA SELAMA 10 TAHUN DAN 10 TAHUN ITU KAMI TIDAK PERNAH MERASAKAN YANG NAMANYA KEMEWAHAN,,SETIAP HARI SAYA SELALU MEMBANTIN TULANG UNTUK KELUARGA SAYA NAMUN ITU SEMUA TIDAK PERNAH CUKUP UNTUK KEBUTUHAN HIDUP KELUARGA SAYA..AKHIRNYA AKU PILIH JALAN TOGEL INI DAN SUDAH BANYAK PARA NORMAL YANG SAYA HUBUNGI NAMUN ITU SEMUA TIDAK PERNAH MEMBAWAKAN HASIL DAN DISITULAH AKU SEMPAT PUTUS ASAH AKHIRNYA ADA SEORANG TEMAN YANG MEMBERIKAN NOMOR AKII DEWA,,SAYA PIKIR TIDAK ADA SALAHNYA JUGA SAYA COBA LAGI UNTUK MENGHUBUNGI AKII DEWA DAN AKHIRNYA AKII DEWA MEMBERIKAN ANKA GHOIBNYA DAN ALHAMDULILLAH BERHASIL..KINI SAYA SANGAT BERSYUKUR MELIHAT KEHIDUPAN KELUARGA SAYA SUDAH JAUH LEBIH BAIK DARI SEBELUMNYA,DAN TANDA TERIMAH KASIH SAYA KEPADA AKII DEWA SETIAP SAYA DAPAT RUANGAN PASTI SAYA BERKOMENTAR TENTAN BELIAU…BAGI ANDA YANG INGIN SEPERTI SAYA SILAHKAN HUBUNGI 085=293=577=799 AKII DEWA

























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      Delete
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  2. I think you are so cool and down to earth! Love the styling too!

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    1. Ha that made my day! Thank you!!

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  3. Wow beautiful pancakes!

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  4. oh, wish you were us in Wales. We saw so many flowers that looked foragable but I did not know what they were - one lot were elderflowers. Now I will know for our next visit. Just loved this post :)

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    1. Thank you! I still don't know a lot though. I recognise 3-4 now... but the rest I don't dare to pick. I just go away fantasising about eating them. Bet they are tons of foraging to be done in Wales- I would love to visit one day!

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  5. lovely post shu. i am going to try our your pancake recipe. i used my wild garlic to make tartines by sauteeing it with spinach, stirring some creme fraiche through it and finishing with smoked salmon. i sprinkled the flowers over and they were really delicious!

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    1. The tartines sound delicious. And yes the flowers are fantastic- they also taste of garlic and look so pretty just sprinkled on top of salads. I'm going to have to try your recipe too!

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  6. I hear you about the rolling eyes, I get that quite a bit, except that I have Italian influences rather than Asian, which perhaps are not as hip :) Duh.
    I have been foraging for wild garlic and flowers in Wimbledon Park in the middle of the day, and before then I was foraging nettles, and also dandelion. I have NEVER found anyone else foraging and I was really wondering why. Like, not even the blackberries in late summer! Oh, oh, and the elderflowers, yes, for making syrup – first time I have ever made it, I was excited like a little girl!
    Anyway, I have been seeing those little blue flowers everywhere and I second-guessed myself because I remembered borage flowers looking different – but perhaps there are multiple kinds of borage (and their flowers)? No food poisoning effects? I am sold then. Gonna go out to the park tonight! P.S: Maybe we should organise a foraging + cooking weekend :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ha! Well you get away with the Italian bit for sure ;)

      Wow you look like you've been up to a lot! I don't bump into people foraging but I see a lot of instagram photos of people's foraged treasures. I must be checking out the right people on instagram then... ;) I was really excited making syrup too! And all the time I was thinking ooh where can I throw this into.

      Yeah I'm not the expert though.. Sean said they were borage flowers so I happily picked. Even if they aren't, I'm quite alive ;)

      YES let's do something. You have my number.

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  7. When people ask what I cook, I usually shrug and say that I cook different things. But I do usually go local, organic, always vegetarian, with spices (Asian-Indian influence). I try to make sure I'm getting enough protein too. Wild garlic (ramps, right?) don't naturally grow here in California - they're available in gourmet grocery shops but they're never local.

    The syrup sounds delicious. I wonder - if you were to make a syrup of edible scented flowers (say, jasmine or honeysuckle) - would the syrup be scented. Hmmm....

    The pancakes look amazing.

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    1. Local, organic, veggie, and spices sound pretty amazing to me! I love playing around with spicesand I'm glad I'm from Singapore where it's multi-cultural so I do get away with that bit too ;)

      Wild garlic are ramps yes, or ramsons. Where do these shops get their ramps then?? Imported? I find it hilarious when I see them selling at crazy prices in artisan shops! Blackberries too.

      Yes that would definitely work. The elderflower syrups smells deliciously of eldeflower. Jasmine would smell amazing!

      THANK YOU :)

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  8. I so agree seasonal and local should be the norm and love the foraging I need to try

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    1. It's starting to gain momentum now which is really great! You should :) So much this season especially!

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  9. What an inspiring post. I think if you are at all curious about where your food comes from, it becomes less about pretense and more about sensible choices. Great photography sequence here and your pancakes are gorgeous! I love how the greens are lying across the batter - looks *so* good. The discussion around foraging reminds me of one of my closest blogging buddies who just started raising chickens in her yard -- if you have an opportunity, you should check her out at http://www.kitchen-apparel.com -- she has a beautiful post up about our connection to food and land and of course her beloved chickens :).

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    1. Thank you Kelly! Yes I am glad you think so too- it just feels like a very natural way to eat and cook! I'm definitely checking out her blog- that sounds amazing. If I ever get a large enough space, I am having my own chickens for sure. Imagine fresh organic free range eggs every day!

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    2. Hi Shu, thanks for stopping by my blog...and thanks for connecting us together Kelly!

      I just wanted to say that if foraging is pretentious then I'm happy to call myself a pretentious blogger with you :) Your blog is beautiful too! Your wild garlic is almost exactly the same as our ramps here in the northeast USA. Is it hard to finding wild garlic where you are? Ramps are very hard to find for most of us because it has been over foraged.

      Can't wait to look through the rest of your site! Happy to meet you :)

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  10. 尊敬的部落格主人,您好

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  11. Hi Shu Han, I LOVE the new look of your website!! It's so modern and elegant! Thumbs up for the beautiful photography too - I feel so left behind by you and other bloggers, since I am still using my old Canon pocket camera! - or maybe I just don't know how to photograph correctly ;)!

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    1. Hello! Ha i haven't done anything to the website! Well not for the past 2 years at least :p Been really lazy. I don't use a pro camera, usually a semi-pro, sometimes iPhone (oops)

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    2. Really, the last time I was here, it looked different - maybe I was dreaming or I just haven't back here for 2 years?? Lol, that's a long time ;)! I haven't been very active virtually the last 1.5 years, at least I didn't really blogwalk - time to get active again, I suppose ;).

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  12. Such a well said post, I've had a lot of flak over the years for trying to eat organic. I love wild garlic, I've foraged for it with my sister down in the west country. The pancakes are a great idea. I will definitely have to give them a try. Gorgeous photos too as always.

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    1. I get a lot of support for it, but also flak from people who don't understand, especially when it comes together with the words "simple, seasonal, local, Asian-influenced" lol

      Yay glad you've been on the hunt for them too! They're just reaching the end of their season so best be quick ;) And thank you Caz :)

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  13. I love the idea of foraging for wild food, and edible flowers make such a beautiful garnish on so many dishes. I need to go find some of those gorgeous blue borage blossoms!

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    1. Just make sure you go with someone who's knowledgeable about wild plants if it's your first time! Good luck- it will be lots of fun :)

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  14. Pretentious is good if the product is as superb as yours appears to be.

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    1. Ha! Thanks Stephen! I'll just stick to this reply the next time instead of explaining myself ;)

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  15. If I hadn't been confronted with the same comments or looks, I'd be surprised that people might think it... (On the other hand if you knew how people look at me when I say 80% or more of our meals are Asian-inspired... and I am unlucky to have no Asian origins).
    Your foraging sounds almost as great as mushroom hunting (which I miss horribly... since I don't know anyone here who likes it and going alone into the woods is not much fun). As you know, I'm also a big fan of wild garlic, but I have never made it in pancakes. Wonderful idea! Your photograph has reminded me I used to grow borage two years ago on my balcony... I must sow the seeds quickly! I have never tried making eldelflower syrup, but I did drink it (it's sold here in supermarkets) and quite liked it. Will you also try the sparkling "wine"? I saw it once in a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall tv program.

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    1. HAHA Sissi, if I didn't know better, I would have thought from all your blog posts, that you're Asian ;)

      Mushroom hunting = fungi foraging! Wow I would love to go into the woods with you. That is one aspect of foraging that I dare not go into- pretty sure I would die.

      Haven't tried making the sparkling 'wine', but it doesn't sound too difficult. Alas, have used up all my elderflower; might have to make another trip when I can squeeze out some time :/

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  16. This looks so cool Shu - I just love the idea of it... I've wanted to try something like this since forever. We have a butt-load of nettles in the garden on the edges of the forest so I'm gonna go and pick loads one day soon and make some soup - a traditional Swedish thing apparently, so my wife says.

    Those pancakes look seriously nice - I bet they had an amazing flavour!

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    1. NETTLE SOUP! I love it. I also made saag aloo with nettles before somewhere on this blog- think you might be up for it, if I know you well enough ;)

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  17. I love foraging for food, how fun to go with an expert friend! I also love how it's called any flower syrup!

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    1. I was really lucky to have Sean with me; pretty sure I would have died otherwise. Mm Hmm any flower syrup ;) You can use dried flowers too :)

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  18. How fun to go foraging! I'd definitely be scared to pick my own herbs...I'm sure i'd mistake a deadly plant for an edible one. Glad you had an expert with you! What a delicious recipe :)

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    1. I'm pretty sure I would have died without Sean myself ;)

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  19. Shu Han, there are so many things I want to say, it's been way too long. I've finally just signed up for your email list, so hopefully that should help me savour your work more regularly! So among the many things: 1/ thank you so much for your last adorable comment on the blog 2/ I want to come to London in the spring JUST to go forage with you! I've started foraging in LA last year (not exaggeratedly trendy yet here, I don't think... it's coming, though.) 3/ if I am ever successful enough with the blog that I need someone to help me redesign it, would you take the job? 4/ I love your mother's knife-flicker action ;-) here's some LA for you: just bought some nettles at the farmer's market to plant in my backyard! We'll see how they like sunny California! I have dreams of nettle-mash! 5/ your photography is stunning and inspiring and your writing, well... may the whirlwind of life never again come between me and your ever so honest, piercing, entertaining writing that never fails to make me smile... xo H

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    1. Oh Helene! Thank you so much!
      1. I meant every word
      2. You do not want to forage with me.. you want to forage with Sean! I will kill you..
      3. Of course. I'm not great with websites though, I can only lay it out and you'll have to pass on to a web developer...
      4. I made nettle saag aloo somewhere on this blog.. Basially think Indian spiced creamed spinach with potatoes. Think you might like that. Not very spicy ;)
      5. You made my day with this comment! Esp since you're one of the bloggers I really really admire- writing, blog ethos and your adorable Pablo! Thanks so much Helene! x

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  20. The nettle bit was supposed to come after the foraging bit... my editing skills are clearly compromised at this hour ;-)

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  21. Nice post! Foraging was one of my New Year's resolutions this year, as well as preserving. So, you've beaten me to the draw! I think that people get too much into their heads with the whole locavore thing. Do the best that you can - frequent Farmer's markets and don't beat yourself up when you need certain ingredients that aren't necessarily local or quite in season where you live. I'm not prepared to give up on olives, capers and citrus just because they aren't indigenous to where I live.

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    1. Thanks Gene! Well you can still beat me to the preserving! I haven't done any in London yet. Some (actually a HUGE BATCH of) kimchi and achar fermenting in Singapore, but just haven't gotten to the fruits and veg here yet!
      And I agree 100%. On my end not gonna give up on the lime and coconut milk :D

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  22. This sounds and looks amazing!!

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  23. Fresh and so pretty. x

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  24. Never had wild garlic before, sounds interesting!!!
    the photograph of the pancake is stunning my friend!!!

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