Orange and fennel chicken

20170604_120418

This recipe brings together all the winter flavours of Adelaide into a super simple dinner. Fennel seeds, orange and lemon can be foraged fairly easily. The hero of the dish is the oil that’s been freshly pressed from a friends family farm, bringing all the flavours together.

1kg chicken thighs

2 oranges

1 lemon

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons salt

2 large fennel bulbs

1/3 cup cold water

1 garlic clove, finely grated

2 teaspoons cornflour

Create the marinade by mixing together the oil, mustard, fennel seeds, salt, zest and juice of the oranges and lemon. Add the chicken, toss through so the chicken is well covered and marinate for a few hours or overnight if you can.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the tube bits off the fennel and then cut each bulb into 12 wedges. Place the fennel into a large flat baking tray and put the marinated chicken and marinade on top of the fennel. Toss the marinade through the fennel but make sure the chicken is sitting on top of the fennel when placing it in the oven. Give the chicken a last drizzle of oil and bake for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Take the baking tray out of the oven then place the fennel and chicken into a serving plate. Make a gravy out of the juices by putting the baking tray onto a high heat on the stove. Mix the water and the cornflour together until there are no lumps. Then add to the pan juices. Add the clove of garlic and using a whisk mix the gravy for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.

 

 

Winter edible weeds

cleared block

If my family had to pick one habit of mine that annoys the heck out of them its when I’m driving or walking and stop to look at plants. Today when out and about I saw a cleared house block and had to stop. Normally these cleared blocks are pretty barren and usually sprayed to keep the weeds down. This one wasn’t so I wanted to see what was growing. I was pretty surprised by the diversity of edible weeds on this block.

Most of the cover was from Mallow Malva neglecta. I really enjoy eating Mallow. It has a very mild flavour and has a slightly gelatinous quality to it. If you find it growing in your garden leave it in there and start eating it. Other plants will grow happily around it. Harvest the smaller leaves up to about the size of your palm, these can be eaten fresh. The seeds and young roots can be eaten too. It’s most likely taken over this block as this is compacted clay soil. The mallow is healing and fixing the soils on this block by aerating and breaking up the clay with it’s deep taproot and bringing up nutrients from deep in the soil up to the surface.

Other edible plants found were:

  • Lambsquarter Chenopodium album
  • Love lies bleeding  Amaranthus caudatus
  • Narrow leaf plantain Plantago minor
  • Common blackberry nightshade Solanum nigrum (only eat when the berries are at purple/black powdery bloom stage) 
  • Fennel
  • Parsley

I’m sure there was much more there but this is what I saw in a few minutes. When I got home I went out to the garden and also found stinging nettle which is also a good edible winter weed. Best to eat the young new shoots when using these for cooking. They need to be cooked first to get rid of the stinging hairs. These can be eaten like spinach when cooked, or fermented into nettle beer. As they get older the stems can be used for weaving.

nettle

 

All about oranges

orange

100 years ago the land I live on used to be a substantial orange grove. There’s still one of the original trees from the original grove in my next door neighbours backyard. Up the street another neighbour has a tree and can’t eat more than one a day because he’s diabetic so he’s been sharing the fruit with people in the street. About 10 kgs were dropped over to me one day after I’d foraged some from an orange tree that grows on public land. Needless to say I had way too many oranges.

Apart from giving a heap away we’ve been eating them fresh. I also made some juice. I have made Tunisian orange syrup cake in the past which is delicious but it doesn’t use up a lot of oranges. To use up the bulk of these ones I’ve cut them thinly into 5mm rounds and put in the dehydrator (10 hours at 70C) to make dried orange chips. They look like stain glass windows when ready. No need to peel off the rind this can be eaten too when dried. Once cooled and dried melt some dark chocolate and dip the orange chips into the dark chocolate. Put in the fridge on trays to set the chocolate. Store in an air tight jar.

Kalamata olives

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 5.03.07 pm.png

We have a Kalamata tree in the backyard that’s about 15 years old. Each year it gives us a good crop of olives without too much effort. If we don’t water or fertilise it, we still get a good crop. This year we had a huge crop and interestingly I don’t think it was due to the long wet summer because the tree by spring was absolutely loaded with thousands of babies. It was clear in spring that it was going to be a bumper crop. Last winter was quite warm and maybe that had something to do with it.

Olives are a declared weed in South Australia under the Natural Resources Management Act. They grow in many Adelaide parks and conservation areas freely. These wild olives can be collected for pickling or making oil, just make sure they haven’t been poisoned by some well meaning land care group. There are literally thousands of wild olive trees loaded with fruit right now ready for picking. Cultivated olives aren’t too much of a problem as long as all the olives are collected. This minimises it’s spread into the hills by the birds. Although I think the cat is well out of the bag on that front.

I’ve been collecting a bucket from our tree a week or two apart. I’m already up to my fourth 10 litre bucket and will probably get another two or three buckets. In hindsight, this has been a very good experiment to find the ideal time to harvest the olives for flavour and texture. I didn’t mean for it to be an experiment, I’ve just been super busy and that’s how it’s worked out. I hear the best time to pick is when the tree is 80% has turned black and 20% is still green. Then you go back when the last 20% has turned black and do the rest. When Kalamata are picked too late they go soft and aren’t as nice.

This year I am doing some Zen processing of the olives – which pretty much means I’ll find a way to process them in the limited time I’ve got however that unfolds. First, I am soaking them in a 10% salt and water mix for about a week or two then straining. Then preparing a fresh batch of the 10% brine to soak for another week or so. I’ll keep doing this until they taste ok. Then when they’re ready I’ll store in a brine using my mother in laws recipe.

100 g salt per litre of water

20ml red wine vinegar per litre of water

Top jar with olive oil

When ready to eat open jar and keep in fridge, you can add oil, spices, herbs and garlic – whatever you have on hand in the garden.

It’s also nice to hot roast the olives with wild fennel seeds, orange peel and olive oil. Serve warm.

 

 

Mushroom foraging

porcini

Over winter I finally got organised to get myself skilled up for some mushroom foraging. I did a workshop with the incredibly knowledgeable Bev Lane. She covered the principals of mushroom hunting and gave fantastic safety advice. I did some follow up research and brushed up on my plant identification skills and was ready to search out prime mushroom habitat.

I enjoyed having a good excuse to get out for bushwalks in the cold and sometimes drizzly weather. I found and tried Slippery Jacks (Suillus luteus), Weeping Boletus (Suillus granulatus), Saffron Milk Caps (Lactarius deliciosus) and Porcini (Boletus edulis). I did catch the Porcini bug once I found them and all I could think and dream about was Porcinis.

There are other varieties of edible mushrooms growing around Adelaide but I am happy with my finds for now. For example, there are plenty of field mushrooms but given they can cross breed with yellow stainers I decided against eating these.

I tried a few different ways to eat my finds but these recipes were the winners. The thing I like most about these recipes is that all the additional ingredients can be grown and sourced from South Australia.

Saffron milk cap pasta (adapted Kylie Kwong recipe)

8 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 red onions, thin sliced
1 tablespoon Murray River salt
750g Saffron milk caps
125g b.d farm butter, roughly chopped
1/2 cup South Australian extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, cracked
1/2 cup Adelaide Hills dry white wine
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Place garlic, onions and salt in a heavy-based pan. Cover with the mushrooms. Top with butter, olive oil and pepper and place, covered over high heat for 5 minutes, without stirring, to allow the flavours of the onions and garlic to penetrate the mushrooms.

Uncover. Add wine and remaining mushrooms, and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are just tender. Stir in parsley.

Serve with L’Abruzzese pasta or on top of a slice of sour dough toast.

Porcini salt

10 grams dried Porcini mushroom

1 tablespoon Murray River salt.

Dry the Porcini mushrooms on string for at least two weeks in a place in the house that doesn’t get too hot or cold. When dry put the mushroom and salt in a high speed blender and turn into dust. Use as seasoning on meat or in pasta dishes.