Winter Foraging

There is still lots to find out there this season and some new growth treats to find –

Sloes

Sloes – it has been a great year for sloes and they continue to hang in big numbers from the blackthorn bushes along Strangford Lough and in the Belfast Hills. Look out for that small plum shape with a blue bloom and large thorns. Make your sloe gin now for Christmas gifts this year.

Three Cornered Leek

Three Cornered Leek – this is considered a spring time plant but I spotted it last weekend which made me very excited. Fresh, oniony goodness to add to any dish you would add scallions to. These have a distinctive stem with three points – hence three cornered leek – and a strong oniony smell. One of my favourites.

Sea Beet

Sea beet – I found lots of new sea beet growth last week along the coast. Sea beet is the same plant as beetroot and chard so the leaves have a similar flavour and can be used in the same way. Add them to stews, curries, stir fries or anything you would use fresh greens in. Delicious!

Sea buckthorn

Tree leaves for tea – although the leaves are now falling from the trees there is still time to experiment with your own tea blends. I gather the Autumn leaves of oak and beech and the tasty fresh shoots of bramble at this time of year for tea bases – just add your own favourite flavourings alongside like mint, apple, lemon balm or winter spices.

Sea buckthorn – This sour exotic tasting berry is still out in force this season and it’s distinctive flavour is brilliant in lots of things but especially in something sweet.

Vegan Sea buckthorn curd and Coconut Cake

There is still sea buckthorn to be found along the coast and I really recommend gathering it if you get the chance. These berries taste very astringent and sour when raw but once you cook them a little and add sugar they take on the most incredible flavour somewhere between mango and orange. I made this cake a few times this season and I’m in love with it. The curd is not essential but it is very very good and much easier to make than a standard curd. This looks like a lot of work but I promise its really simple.

For the cake

330g Fine Semolina
100g Desiccated Coconut
100g Caster Sugar
110g Neutral Oil
350g Coconut Milk
2tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt

For the Curd

70g Sea Buckthorn Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon
130g Caster Sugar
3 tbsp Cornflour
30g Coconut Milk
2tbsp Vegan Butter

25g of Sea Buckthorn Juice – heat your berries and crush with a potato masher. Strain and retain the juice
100g Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius

Line a round 20cm cake tin (this also works in a 2lb loaf tin!) with non stick parchment and brush a layer of oil on the paper. Whisk together the sugar, coconut milk, oil and salt and set aside. Mix the baking powder with the semolina and coconut. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Pour into the tin and place into the centre of the oven. Cook for 35 – 40 mins until a toothpick comes out clean.

Combine the sea buckthorn juice with the icing sugar to make a quick frosting. It should be thick and glossy. Allow the cake to completely cool before sandwiching with the curd and finishing with the icing. A few edible flowers will help beautify this too – gorse, dandelion and vetch are out now.

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