Wild Foods Guide 'L'
This is the twelfth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('L' today) and will describe a wild food beginning with that letter as well as presenting a classic recipe incorporating that wild food.
Today I'm dealing with the letter 'L', the twelfth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as Lamb's Cress, Lamb's Quarters, Lime Tree (Linden), Lawyer's Wig, Little Hogwed and Laver and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to Laver and the Linden Tree.
The Laver (also known as nori), Porphyra sp, represents a number of edible seaweed species of the red alga Porphyra which, most notably, includes P yezoensis and P tenera of the family Bangiaceae, (wich are known as Nori in Japan). They generally live in the intertidal, typically between the upper intertidal to the splash zone.
In Japanese cuisine Nori is formed by the shredding and rach-drying of laver before layering in a preocess similar to paper making. Sheets of nori are commonly used as a wrap for sushi (makizushi) and rice balls (onigiri). It is also used as a flavouring in soups. In Wales and Ireland, laver is eaten as laverbread in a savory oatmeal. It is also occasionally still made into a sauce to accompany lamb.
Here I present a classic modern Welsh recipe for a dish of monkfish served with a laver-based sauce :
Roast Monkfish and Laverbread Sauce
6 monkfish steaks (about 180g each)
6 large prawns
peel of 1 orange, blanched and julienned
120g laver bread
oil for deep frying
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly ground
salt and black pepper
280ml laver bread sauce
Lightly season some flour and use to coat the monkfish, scallops and prawns. Cover the base of an oven-proof frying pan with oil then add the butter. When frothing add the meats to the pan and fry. The scallops and prawns will cook first. Transfer these to keep warm whilst you continue frying the fish. Keep frying until the fish pieces are golden on all sides then place in an oven pre-heated to 220°C and roast for 5 minutes, or until the fish is thorughly cooked.
Wash the laver bread thoroughly before cutting into strips. Dip these into flour then deep fry in oil until crisp. Scatter a few of the ground coriander seeds over the top.
Place 3 tsp of the laver bread sauce on a plate and place the monkfish and the seafood on top of this before adding he crispy laver bread and a few strips of orange peel.
Warm the sauce before serving.
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Roast Monkfish and Laverbread Sauce Recipe from the Welsh Recipes collection of the Celtnet Recipes Collection.
If you are interested in recipes for Laver then you can find a range of Laver (Nori) recipes.
Linden Tree Tilia x europaea, (also known as the European or Common Lime) is the European or common lime tree, also know as the Linden. In fact it's a hybrid between Tilia cordata (the Small-leaved lime) and Tilia platyphyllos (the Large-leaved lime) and occurs naturally wherever the two species grow together. As such, it's not truly native anywhere and often the fruit will not be viable.
It's sweet scent meant that it was extensively planted in European cities as an antidote to the 'foul airs' of the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet the linden or lime is now found throughout Britain and this makes it a valuable resource for the wild forager.
It's a large deciduous tree, typically growing from between 20m to 45m tall (with a canopy extending out about 35m) and can bear a trunk of up to 2m in diameter. The leaves are lenticulate, typically some 10cm long and 8cm broad and the underside is distinctly hairy, with more pronounced hairs on the leaf vein axis.
The tree bears hermaphroditic flowers (top, right) early in summer. Typically these are produced in clusters of between four and ten, with a leafy yellow-green subtending bract. The flowers themselves are very fragrant and can be used as a flavouring for alcohol or dried and used as a tea. However, some care should be taken as, if the flowers are picked when too old, they may produce the symptoms of narcotic intoxication.
The fruit (image, bottom right) is a nut-like drupe about 8mm in diameter with a downy surface that's faintly ribbed. The immature fruit has a chocolatey taste and is often nibbled by children. The mature fruit can be dried and used as a chocolate-flavoured coffee substitute or even a chocolate substitute.
The leaves, flowers and fruit are edible (but see the note above on the possible narcotic effects of old flowers) and the lime tree is an excellent resource for the wild forager. The younger leaves (when they are pale lime green and translucent) can be used as a salad vegetable or added to stews as a thickener. Slightly older leaves can be part-dried and used in stews.
The older leaves can be dried pulverized and when sifted the resultant powder can be used as a thickener for stews (in a similar manner to the African use of baobab leaves or American sassafras leaves). Powdered linden leaves also used to be used as a flour substitute or flour additive to make breads, cakes and porridge or pap. Indeed, it was used this way in France during the Second World War. The process is not exactly efficient, though, as 500g of fresh linden leaves will only yield 100g of linden leaf powder. Linden leaves do, however, contain a high percentage of invert sugars. As a result they are readily metabolized by diabetics and can be an useful addition to diabetic recipes.
In a similar way to birch, the tree can be tapped for its sap in spring. This can be boiled down to make a syrup, but as the sap is generally low in sugar it takes considerable quantities of linden sap to make any useful quantity of linden syrup. However, the sap can be used in place of water if making linden blossom mead.
During the 18th century the French chemist, Missa discovered that by grinding the immature fruit of linden trees with dried linden flowers he could obtain a produce that had an aroma similar to chocolate. The process was tentatively commercialized in Germany, but the large-scale production of 'linden chocolate' was quickly abandoned as it was soon discovered that the product did not keep well.
The recipe presented below is for a classic British recipe for breakfast waffles made from Linden leaf flour.
Linden Leaf Flour Waffles
160g self-raising flour
50g linden leaf flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 tbsp sour cream
4 tbsp melted butter
First you will need to make your acorn flour and to make it follow the recipe given for Acorn and Hazelnut Pap.
Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks until pale and creamy then, in a separate bowl, whisk the whites until stiff and glossy.
Add the milk and sour cream to the egg yolks and whisk to combine, then sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl stir-in the egg yolk and milk mixture. Now stir-in the melted butter before gently folding-in the egg whites (do not over-mix).
Heat your waffle iron and grease lightly with a little oil or melted butter. Add the waffle mixture about 120ml at a time and cook until the steam stops escaping and the waffles are golden brown (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes).
Serve hot with your choice of topping. This is a slightly savoury waffle and goes well with bacon, cheese and maple syrup.
This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Linden Leaf Flour Waffles Recipe from the Celtnet Breakfast Recipes Collection.
If you are interested in recipes for Linden then you can find a range of Linden recipes.
This guide is brought to you in conjunction with the Celtnet Wild Food Recipes collection.
You can find more wild foods beginning with the letter 'L' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'k', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.