It all started with Mrs T’s delight at finding a rhubarb patch in the garden of La Maison Cèdre. She has for a long time loved Rhubarb and taken advantage of many overflows from friends gardens. Now we have our very own.
Does it count as foraging if it’s in your own garden?
We also have well established apple trees which were very productive in the summer, a pear tree which was not so productive with just two fruits (but that was at least one each),and a blackcurrant bush. The end of the summer brought our fig trees to life and with daily hauls of up to 40, our freezer is now well stocked.
Next came Mrs T’s first forage outside our garden as the walnut season commenced. Not far from the garden, in fact over the fence but no one else seemed to want them so she helped herself. We also have our own walnut tree and trays and trays of drying walnuts the larder. Larder? Yes a larder. Mrs T thinks it’s fab and it has the added benefit of keeping us both fit as we regularly run (Mr T walks!) up and down the stairs to ferry supplies to the kitchen.
Finally there has been an abundance of sweet chestnuts. Mrs T first spotted these when out walking in the beautiful Lot valley which surrounds Prayssac. Having done a little homework to make sure she was collecting sweet chestnuts and not their cousins horse chestnuts, her regular runs were diverted to ensure they passed lots of sweet chestnut trees. For a few weeks she ran with gloves (they are really spiky) and a carrier bag. Most of her haul is again awaiting attention in the freezer.
Whilst much of our ill gotten gains waits patiently in the freezer, some made it into the kitchen. Mrs T has been honing her keen culinary skills with a few new and some old favourite recipes. Here are some recommendations:
Rhubarb: Whilst the good old crumble takes some beating, a particular favourite of Mr T’s is Seamed Rhubarb and Ginger Sponge (Waitrose). The recipe is for individual ones but Mrs T makes one large one. Mrs T’s cousin, Nork from Ork has a fab rhubarb (which grows wild in Orkney) cake recipe, details on her blog which is well worth a read (here’s a link). We also liked Mary Berry’s Rhubarb and Lemon Pots.
Mrs T’s Posh Rhubarb and Lemon Pots.
Apples: All our apples are eaters so not great for crumbles etc but a quick surf on the internet found a new Apple Cake which has become a firm favourite and it’s dairy free too (allrecipes). The second time Mrs T made this she followed a tip on the site to halve the sugar and the oil, it was a drier mix and no-one noticed. It’s really moist and smells wonderful, Mr T won’t hear of making any other Apple Cake now.
Figs: Mrs T has long been a fan of the muffin. Her previous work colleagues were happy recipients for many years as we hope will our chambre d’hôte guests be in the coming years. Fig and Orange took her fancy and 2 recipes were combined to make her own (Mrs T’s Fig and Orange Muffin Recipe details are at the end of the post). They are moist, fragrant and the little seeds from the figs give them an interesting if slightly crunchy texture. Don’t be alarmed, they are lovely!
Figs were also the first fruit Mrs T preserved. She made a tasty Fig Chutney (from Beryl Wood’s “Lets Preserve It” unfortunately not available as an on-line link sorry) as a matter of urgency as it something we have found tricky to buy and all that French cheese is lovely with it.
Chestnuts: The tricky part of foraging chestnuts is not finding them and getting them home but persuading the little blighters to shed their outer skins. Mrs T tried several methods and has settled on the boiling water and pliers method as the best (a farm in my pocket) sounds extreme and Mr T is not pleased that his best pliers now reside in the kitchen. Once out the shells we recommend Delia’s Chestnut soup, plus the most fabulous Chestnut and Chocolate cake which is more like a tort (Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall), it is gluten free, but packed with butter and chocolate so really rich.
It’s too early to start using the walnuts yet and Mrs T has in mind to make Jam with some of the remaining rhubarb and figs. We’ve been saving jars like they’re going out of fashion. Assuming Beryl’s recipes work out home-made jam will be a regular at our Chambre d’hôte breakfast table.
Mrs T’s newly found foraging habit is not limited to food, this morning following a plea for more kindling from Mr T, she picked up these on her run and spotted lots more for next time. What must the neighbours think!
PS Oh my goodness a new find in the garden! Much of the foliage in the garden is dying back for the winter and we have just found a few Kiwis. We are not quite sure when to pick these but there are local ones in the shops so maybe that’s a clue!
Mrs T’s Fig and Orange Muffins
To preheat the oven to 200 C or 400 F or GM 6
A 12 hole muffin tin and cases
- 280g/10oz plain flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 115g/4 oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- Up to 7 fl oz of milk
- 6 tbsp sun flower oil
- 200g/8oz fresh figs (chopped)
- Juice and zest of one orange
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
- Add the sugar, orange zest and figs
- Put the orange juice in a jug, make up to 9 fl oz with milk
- Beat the eggs and then add to the milk/juice
- Add the oil to the milk/juice/eggs
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Stir gently until just combined.
- Spoon in to muffin cases
- Bake for 20 mins ish
- Allow to cool in the muffin tin
- Transfer to a wire rack until cool or you can resist temptation no longer