Cook up a wild feast this summer (All images crdited to Sabine Mader and ULrike Schmid)
List Words : Food & Drink | 03 April

5 ways with wild food

Spring has sprung and it's time to get creative with your food, says outdoor specialist Susanne Fischer-Rizzi. Here are her top five seasonal treats

1. Nettle Chips

Nibbles for the wild

‘Nettle chips – yuk, I don’t like those!’ is how the children of the wilderness groups I run react to the idea of this dish. But when they taste these crisps they cannot get enough of them and see nettles with new eyes.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

125g clarified butter or vegetable oil
1 bowl freshly picked individual nettle leaves, as young as possible
sea salt, cayenne pepper or paprika, salt

1. Heat the clarified butter or oil in a pan and fry the leaves in it, constantly stirring, until they are slightly curled and crispy.

2. Take them out of the pan, allow the excess fat to drip off and sprinkle a mixture of salt and cayenne pepper or paprika on them.

3. Serve hot.

Cooking utensils: A large flat pan; a board on which to let the excess fat drip off; a wooden spoon or fork for stirring and taking out the chips.

Fire: Small fire with low flames.

2. Pizza calzone

Amazingly simple

Calzone pizza pockets are ideal for a celebration or a party outdoors. Simply arrange the various ingredients on leaves as a buffet, so that each guest can create their own filling. I often make calzone pizza on my wildlife courses, and it is always a success and tastes delicious.

For 5–7 pizzas

Ingredients:

1 packet natural dry yeast (from a health food shop) or 1/2 cube fresh yeast
500g flour
salt
2 tbsp of olive oil
about 200 ml water

Filling ingredients:

1–2 mozzarella balls or finely diced cheese
3 tomatoes, sliced
tinned tuna
salami, sliced
ham, sliced
pepperoni
herbs, eg basil, thyme, oregano (wild herbs are also good)
salt

1. Mix the dry yeast and the flour well; or completely dissolve the fresh yeast in some warm water or warm milk, and then add the flour. Add the salt, olive oil and water and knead into a smooth pizza dough. If the dough is too soft it may ooze through the grill.

2. Form the dough into a ball, dust it with flour and leave to rest close to the fire for one hour in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel, until its volume has doubled.

3. Divide the dough into peach-sized balls and press flat. Put the desired filling ingredients on one half. Fold the other half over to form a half moon and press together thoroughly round the edges.

4. Place the filled pockets on the grill and bake above the embers for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough. The calzone pizzas are done when you tap them and they sound slightly hollow. They can also be baked on a hot flat stone, clay oven or Dutch oven.

Tip: Instead of the tomato slices you can spread tomato purée or strained tomatoes on the dough before putting on the other ingredients.

Cooking utensils: A bowl; a grill with as little space possible between the bars or a flat stone.

Fire: A fire with a lot of mature embers and few flames.

Wild plant information: You can also fill the pizza pockets with wild herbs mixed with ricotta, quark or crème fraîche. Fresh thyme and wild marjoram give both variations an Italian flair. You can also season them with salt and pepper and perhaps nutmeg.

3. Chicken wrapped in clay

A snug rooster

A chicken cooked in clay is also called a hobo chicken or Roma chicken. Travelling people such as the hobos (North American migratory workers) or the Roma people traditionally cooked their meat in this way, since it does not depend on a large dish; this allowed them to travel light yet be able to prepare a delicious dish anywhere where there was clay soil.

Cooking a chicken in clay is a fascinatingly primitive cooking method.The chicken is wrapped in clay soil and placed in the embers. When the clay ball is opened like a treasure chest, the cooked, golden-brown chicken emerges with a delicious aroma and juicy meat.

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp chopped fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary and mint
pepper and sea salt
1 chicken, kitchen-ready
a few large leaves eg wild garlic, butterbur or long grass
about 2kg clay

1. Crush the garlic and make it into a paste with the mustard, oil, herbs and seasoning. Rub the paste into the outside of the chicken. Put the rest into the cavity of the chicken.

2. Wrap the chicken in the large leaves or long grass and tie it up firmly with string.

3. Thoroughly knead the clay, removing any little stones, pieces of wood, etc. and pounding out air bubbles. Flatten the clay and wrap it around the chicken so that it is completely sealed. Fill any holes in the clay with more clay and some water.

4. Place the chicken wrapped in clay into the embers and cook for about two or three hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

5. When the clay has dried on the surface, cover it with embers. Take the fired clay ball out of the embers and open it carefully, as hot steam will emerge.

Cooking utensils: About 2kg of clay; large leaves; string.

Fire: Mature fire with at least 10cm of embers.

Wild plant information: You can use other wild herbs to season the chicken: wild garlic bulbs, garlic mustard, oregano, watercress,mild mustard buds or cuckoo flower leaves; or wild berries, wild mushrooms and chestnuts.

4. Baumstriezel

A fine pastry from Transylvania

Baumstriezel (tree cakes) actually look like tree trunks.Their origin is Transylvania, where they have been made since the end of the 19th century; they are known as kürtöskalacs in Hungary. Perhaps the Russian Woodcutters’ Tree Cake is a precursor of the fine baumstriezel.

For 5–6 cakes

Ingredients:

1kg flour
1 pinch salt
2 cubes fresh yeast or the equivalent amount of dry yeast
2–3 tbsp sugar
about 500ml milk, slightly warmed
1 tsp vanilla seeds or vanilla essence
200g butter
2 eggs

For spreading on the outside:

6 tsp sugar (1 tsp per cake)
4 tbsp butter, melted

1. Put the flour into a bowl and mix with the salt. Make a well in the centre, crumble the yeast into it, add the sugar and mix with about 4 tbsp of warm milk. Cover and leave to rise for about 15 minutes.

2. Then add the rest of the ingredients and knead into a smooth dough.

3. Form a ball with the dough, cover and let it rise in a warm place for about one hour.

4. Meanwhile prepare the wooden stick (see below).

5. Divide the dough into five to six orange-sized portions and roll them into strips 70cm long and 1cm thick on a flat, firm surface.One by one,wind them around the greased wooden stick (perhaps having first covered the stick with aluminium foil to make it easier to remove the cakes later; the dough sticks less on maple wood).

6. Lightly roll the stick with the dough on the work surface. Brush the cakes with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place the stick about a hand’s breadth above the embers by laying it on bricks or flat stones on either side of the fire; or lay it across two forked branches.

7. Bake the cakes for about ten minutes, constantly turning them until the sugar has caramelized and they are golden brown. Then slide the cakes off the stick.

Tip: The delicious warm tree cakes go excellently with campfire coffee, hot chocolate or elderflower punch.

Variations: Sprinkle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon or sugar and ground walnuts or hazelnuts over the cakes. The dough can be varied by adding the zest of one lemon.

Cooking utensils: A bowl or pot for the dough; a wooden stick with handles; a small pot in which to melt the butter and warm the milk; a work surface; a pastry brush (eg made of grasses tied together); aluminium foil to wrap around the stick (optional).

For the wooden stick: either take the handles out of a rolling pin and insert branches about 50cm long on both sides, or debark a 6cm-thick branch without twigs (lime and maple wood are especially suitable; do not use yew or thuja wood, as they are poisonous; oak and beech wood make the batter taste bitter). Make holes in both ends (e.g.with the tip of a knife) and insert two handles.Wrap the wood in aluminium foil or grease with oil.

Fire: A fire with a good layer of embers and without flames; a keyhole fireplace is ideal to comfortably bake five to six cakes.

5. Wilderness crunch

Too tempting

This is irresistible for young and old alike. 

Ingredients:

250g nuts, eg hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and beechnuts
200–250g acacia honey, according to sweetness desired

1. In a pan, dry roast the nuts for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Place the nuts in a kitchen towel and crush loosely with a stone.

2. Slowly heat the honey in a pan or pot, stirring constantly. When it starts bubbling and foaming, add the nuts. Simmer and stir until the honey is golden brown and smells of caramel.

3. Pour the mixture on to a flat stone, large leaf or greaseproof paper and spread out to about 2–3cm thick. Allow it to cool and then break it into pieces.

Tip: Caution, especially when preparing this dish with children: when caramelizing honey, it may spit.

Cooking utensils: A pot or pan; a wooden spoon or stick; a cooking pot lid; a flat stone; a large leaf such as burdock or butterbur, or greaseproof paper.

Fire: Fire with not too high flames.

All five recipes have been taken from Cook Wild: Year-round cooking on an open fire by Susanne Fisher-Rizzi, published by Frances Lincoln at £16.99.

 

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