Wild Food Foraging - Cultivating Skills &
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Wild Apple Curd & Hogweed Seed Meringue Pie

Mmmm, autumn is full of potential pleasures, warming foods, sweet dishes & a bounty of autumnal fruits to enjoy. Personally, I take particular interest in creating desserts with wild ingredients, so when Sara from Cotna Barton suggested we made a wild apple meringue pie on our Forage, Cook & Dine event last month, I jumped at the chance to include another wild ingredient in there.

If you’ve been on a wild food walk with me or another forager, you may well of tasted this amazingly strong flavoured seed; Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) which is found across the UK.  Commonly thought to be poisonous because if the sap gets on your skin & reacts with sunlight (classic situation is strimming the plant in a T-shirt on a hot summers day) you can come up in horrible blisters that can scar. However, several parts of the plant can be used as a food, & these seeds are excellent as a flavouring. Correct identification is essential of this plant though, especially as it is related to several poisonous species such as Hemlock.

  

So what’s the taste? Well, taste is a very personal experience, though some of the descriptions I’ve heard is; orange peel, aromatic, soapy, turkish delight, spicey…

Some people like it, some people don’t. Unfortunately, Sara, our cook for this event is not a fan of the flavour, so including it in this recipe too a little persuading. Luckily, I was convinced it would work, so in it went into the ingredients list. One of the secrets with this seed is to grind it – it really helps to release the flavour & the papery texture of the whole seed & pod is broken down.

Well, before I go onto sharing the recipe, let me tell you that the dessert was a success, 9 hungry foragers, cooks & diners polished the whole dish off, & Sara’s plate was clean too – she liked it! It just goes to show that some wild ingredients are relly worth perservering with, until you find the right combination of how to use them.

Wild Apple Curd & Hogweed Seed Meringue Pie

Ingredients

For the Curd

  • 1lb cooking apples
  • finely grated ze1lb cooking applesst & juice of unwaxed lemons (100ml strained juice)
  • 1lb sugar
  • 4-5 large eggs
  • 6oz shortcrust pastry baked in a flan case (prepared before hand)

For the Meringue

  • 4 egg whites
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • handful of hogweed seeds

Chop the apples into a pan with 100ml water & lemon zest. Cook gently until soft & fluffy & rub through a sieve. Put the butter, sugar & apple puree into a heatproof bowl & over a pan of simmering water. AS soon as the butter is melted and the mixture is hot & glossy, pour in the eggs through a sieve & whisk with a balloon whisk. (Careful: if the fruit puree is too hot when the eggs are added, the mixture will split – if this happens, take the pan off the heat & whisk vigorously till smooth.) Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick & creamy. This should take about 10 mins. Pour immediately into the pastry base.

For the meringue, use a food blender to blend the sugar & seeds until the majority of the seeds break down & an aromatic smell is released. Discard the seeds which stay whole. Put aside. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they form soft peaks, then add the sugar a spoonful at a time. Pile onto the tart & bake at gas mark 4 for approximately 20 mins, until the meringue is crisp & slightly coloured.

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