Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Garstang Transition Group

Helen and I were kindly invited to give a talk to the Garstang Transition Group on Saturday 3rd May at the Stransdale Centre in Garstang and we were given a very warm welcome by the group.

Helen kicked off proceedings with a comprehensive and informative talk on Spring herbs and their medicinal values before showing the group how to make a pesto but - this was no ordinary pesto, oh no! Walnuts and nettles were just some of the more unusual ingredients as well as the usual suspects: lemon, oil and basil. 

After everyone (who wanted to) had had a go at making pesto, it was time for tea or coffee and 'tasters'. 

Finally, Helen rounded off the afternoon with a demonstration on tonic-making aided by a very willing accomplice who seemed rather interested in the main ingredient - alcohol! 

For this event, after much experimenting and head-scratching (!), I finally came up with: 
nettle and feta cheese filo parcels, lemon and nettle tea bread, fennel oatcakes and fennel, orange and cardamom muffins. 
The oatcakes and filo parcels were somewhat fiddly to make although they received favourable comments as did the muffins.
For interest, I reproduce the tea bread recipe here:

200g mixed dried fruit
150ml nettle tea (made with freshly picked tips or 2 strong tea bags)
80g ground almonds
50g buckwheat flour (easily available from all good food stores)
25g honey* (difficult to weigh out so I used a measuring spoon - one generous 1 tbsp)
grated rind of 1 lemon 
1 tsp baking powder 
1 egg, beaten

* you could use agave syrup if you wanted to reduce the sugar content or don’t like honey


1. Heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4
2. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin (do NOT do what I did and use a 2lb tin - the result, whilst delicious, produces a somewhat flattened loaf!)
3. Put the fruit and honey in a large bowl. Pour over the brewed tea. Cover and leave overnight (or for as long as possible)
4. Sieve the dry ingredients into another bowl. 
5. Mix the beaten egg into the fruit mixture and fold in the dry ingredients. 
6. Spoon the combined mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40/45 minutes (you might want to check it after 30/35 minutes). The loaf is cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. 
7. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. 

This version is gluten- and dairy-free therefore suitable for coeliacs and vegetarians although you could do a wheat version as follows: 

275 g mixed dried fruit
350ml nettle tea (2-3 bags, depending on how strong you want it)
85g soft brown sugar 
grated rind of 1 lemon 
350g self-raising wholemeal flour (or you could use half and half if you preferred)
1 tsp mixed spice
1 large egg, beaten


1. As above
2. As above but use a 2lb loaf tin. 
3. As above but omit the honey.
4. Strain the fruit liquid, reserving it for later. 
5. As above. 
6. As above
7. Add the reserved liquid a bit at a time until a soft, dropping consistency is achieved.
8. As above but you may need to cook it for up to 10 mins longer.  
9. As above. 

This one is based on popular Welsh tea time recipe (showing my roots here!) called Bara Brith ('speckled bread'). It's traditionally served sliced and buttered, with a cup of tea – I defy you not to eat more than one slice!!

Note: Please be careful whilst picking nettles (gloves are advisable) and avoid those that grow by the roadside. 

Next time: pea and lettuce soup; broad bean dip....

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