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(Nederlandse versie hier)

Common and spiny sow thistle (Sonchus asper and S. oleraceus) aren’t just two very common weeds, Both of them are also very tasty free vegetables, and they even do pop up right in the vegetable garden: Both are best used young, before they flower, and can be used to replace a slightly bitter lettuce or endive, were it not that they are often quite prickly, being a thistle and all. This makes them not that suitable for raw use (depending on the specimen,  some are still soft enough for a salad, and the leaves are, always very soft and tender, regardless of the spines). I mostly use them for my wild ‘andijviestoemp ” (Flemish traditional mashed potatoes with endive, very delicious with a baked  sausage), or a simple mixed vegetarian lettuce soup, like I did ​​today.

The recipe for the soup is very simple:

ingredients:
1 onion
1 small potato
2 hands of  milk thistle leaves
a borth cube, salt, pepper
water

preparation:
Cut the onion into small pieces and fry,  add potato cubes and chopped milk thistle and let simmer with a little water; Add broth and herbs, and then when everything is cooked, mix with an immersion blender.  Add water and then let it cook for the flavors to mix and develop some more …

That’s all…
It’s just a nice simple vegetarian summer-soup, made of a vegetable that you would otherwise just have disposed of as a weed …

Tip: this kind of mixed soups has an even better taste the day after you’ve made it …

tasty

Bram

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We are currently at my parents’  place for a couple of days with the children. It’s in their garden I grow most of my plants, So I can relax, and just try some experimental food stuff and do some works that need to be done in the garden  … Currently it’s a bit quiet here in terms of vegetables: pumpkins have been harvested, and a few things like the last beetroots (eh, some huge beets actually) are still there ready to be harvested. But not much exciting stuff going on at the moment…

The nocturnal frosts of last week killed off  a number of plants for this year, including the garden Nasturtiums, and the foliage of my oca’s, and I also noticed that the cold weather had done some damage to my Malva verticillata ‘ crispa ‘. I’ve noticed that this plant was totally gone last winter after a full week of temperatures below zero Celsius, and it had to come back from seed. So I tried to do something with the leaves before they were gone, but used them in for an afternoon soup. It was a recipe for a soup of Egyptian origin,  that I encountered as a child in ‘wild food’ by Roger Phillips, a fantastic book that I unfortunately do not have in my possession, but I did come across the recipe against when I was looking for recipes for Mallow on a Dutch site.

The original recipe is meant for Molokhia or Mulukhiyah, the leaves of the same plant of which jute is made (Corchorus ssp.), from the same family as our mallow species. It is apparently popular as a vegetable in (sub)tropical areas. This recipe can also be done with other plants of the family malvaceae, Roger Phillips used the common allow, and I have now tried with Malva ”crispa’. That curly mallow species (see photo) is a cultivar of an East Asian species, and also an old and not always that well-knoywn vegetable that grows quite well, and of which I still don’t know what what to do with. Except for letting it grown really big there’s not that much that I’ve ever done with it, except for some leaves in mixed salad or other leafy vegetable mixes then …

This mallow soup is very simple, but quite tasty. Mallow has a slightly slimy feel, but is otherwise a very tasty spinach-like leaf vegetable. I do not know whether an Egyptian would recognize his soup the way I made it, but I found it very tasty, and my family members who tasted it too last evening were also enthusiastic…

(My version was also somewhat ‘wilder’ than what I write down here, because due to a lack of garlic I did use some crow garlic (Allium vineale) bulbs.)

The recipe is simple, but fun to make:

Mallow Soup

Ingredients:
A large bowl of mallow leaves, very finely chopped
Bouillon (water with broth cube for example)
garlic cloves
coriander and pepper
olive oil

Preparation:
Make a soup base with water and a broth cube. When it’s boiling add the very finely chopped leaves and boil through briefly. Turn the fire off then.

Crush the garlic with a garlic press and heat it with pepper and coriander powder in a small pan with a little olive oil until the color changes, and then add to the rest of the soup. Let the tastes mingle for a few minutes.

Serve for example  with brown bread and mature cheese (like this traditional ‘oud Brugge’ cheese). (Probably not specifically Egyptian, but a very good combination…)

Tasty!

Bram

(Original version posted on blog van Brambonius in dutch on October 6th, 2011, this version is slightly edited. Dutch version here)

Late last summer, just before the frost killed off everything, I managed to find the time to try a recipe that I had been wanting to do for a long time, but I hadn’t been able to find the right moment for it yet: an African stew of pumpkin leaves with peanut . Today I made a variation on the same recipe for my family, and it was very well received and  apparently it was worth repeating, so I though to also post it here.

About the most specific main ingredient: pumpkin and zucchini leaves (actually all edible varieties of Cucurbita pepo, C. maxima and C. moschata, but in Africa leaves of other species like gourds are eaten too) are very edible, though it is not very well-known over here. In Africa, however there are more dishes based on it, and it is a cheap, tasty and original dish if you have some pumpkin plants in your garden, and a nice extra from your pumpkin patch, apart from the pumpkin harvest itself.

Young leaves are preferred since older leaves can get quite tough, and in fact you can use all the young parts of plants, including young stems and flower buds. Wash them very thorough. If you don’t have any pumpkin leaves want to try this recipe nonetheless, you can still use other leafy vegetables, although the flavor will be a bit different probably. In the African cuisine amaranth leaves are used as an alternative in this recipe, but I think spinach, tree spinach or beet greens will also work fine.

The variation on chicken satay here is one that I invented on the spot. I vaguely had ordinary satay from the supermarket in mind, but also Japanese yakitori. The use of a baby pumpkin (just a very young immature pumpkin, the size of a peach), adds a special touch. The taste is somewhere between pumpkin and zucchini if you harvest it young enough. This year I didn’t just use a baby yellow pumpkin, but a young fruit of an accidental cross between zucchini and spaghetti squash from seed that I had saved from a spaghetti squash last year. (See photo left. Taking pumpkin seed yourself without precautions against intercrossing is not the best idea if you have more varieties. Both varieties are Cucurbita pepo and can easily cross, and crosses between pumpkin varieties can be very tasty, or disappointing in terms of edibility. This one was good and fitted perfectly into the dish.)

ingredients for 2 persons:

pumpkin-leaf stew:
1 onion
1 medium tomato
peanut butter
curry powder
salt and pepper

satay:
1/2 chicken breast
1 baby-pumpkin
1 half peppers
Japanese soy sauce
chicken spices
white wine
(And skewers)

rice

Preparation:

Pumpkin Leaves-peanut stew:
Wash the pumpkin leaves thoroughly, chop them into small pieces, and fill about three quarters of your pot with it. Then add chopped onion to it, and let simmer for a while with a minimum of water with your pot closed. when the vegetables are tender and cooked thoroughly, add the tomatoes, chopped into small pieces, and season with curry powder, salt and pepper. Keep it on the fire until the tomato is tender (add a little water if necessary) and then add 2 tablespoons peanut butter) You better put the heat lower, and now stir continuously and let simmer a bit.

Chicken satay
Cut the chicken breast into cubes, and let marinate for at least 15 minutes in a mixture of Japanese soy sauce, chicken spices, a little white wine, salt and pepper. Cut the baby pumpkin into very thin slices, and do the same with half the pepper.(The second time I made this recipe I used onions instead of paprika, and that works well too!)

Thread the chicken cubes on a satay stick alternated with one time a narrow slice of pumpkin baby, the other time a slice of pepper or onion. These skewers are then baked in the pan until tender.

Rice:
Just  prepare it as you are used to. I like it with sticky rice.

Serve with a nice red wine!

enjoy!

Bram

(Dutch version here)

Quickweed, Galant soldier, or Galinsoga is one of the most terrible weeds that make work in your garden a lot harder here in Belgium, and in big parts of the world.A very fast-growing annual that  disappears as soon as the first frost comes, but it does spread a lot of seeds and will be back as soon as the temperatures climb back at the end of spring.

Less known is that this same plant, under the name of ‘guasca’, is a very important kitchen ingredient in south-America for certain dishes, like the Columbian ‘ajiaco‘,a very heavy soup with chicken, 3 types of potatoes, and whole combs of sugar-maize that are cooked as a whole, for hours and hours until the small potatoes have dissolved. If you go looking on the internet for recipes you’ll find it described as very mysterious native stuff from Anti-Americanism Mountains, but in both Europe and N-America you have a big chance it’s growing in your garden, and that you’ve even been cursing it!

There are 2 species of Galinsoga in Flanders and in this part of Europe, (G. parviflora and G. quadriradiata), and identifying them is more for specialists. Both can be used in the kitchen, but be sure to use young plants, and don’t use too much stems. When they start to form seeds the edibility of the plants goes backwards..
My first try to make something like ajiaco (but with influence of our Flemish chicken waterzooi) did not have 3 species of Andes potatoes, but 2 varieties of waxy potatoes, one with a yellowish peel, one with a red peel. Also I didn’t use combs of maize but just a simple little can of sweetcorn-grains. Recipes say that it should be served with slices of avodaco, capers and sour cream, but I didn’t have sour cream so I made some guacamole.

The result was surprisingly good, and a very strong soup good for a whole meal. The guascas contribute a very interestingtaste that is (to me at last) quite new, and that reminds me of sunflower petals (am I the only one to ever nibble on those?) New combinations with it are waiting to be invented! But for those interested, here’s the first aijaco-recipe:

ajiaco-waterzooi with guascas (for 2 persons)

ingrediënts:
1 onion
1 shallot
1/2 chicken breast
2 red potatoes
2 yellowish potatoes
2 big handfulls of fresh guascas
2 cubes of chicken broth
1 tomato
a hanfull of fresh peas
1 small can of sweetcorn
pepper, salt, chilli pepper, oregano…
1 avocado
1 spoon of yoghurt
capers

preparation:
chop the onion and shallot in small strips, and sauté them in a little oil. Cut the chicken breast into small pieces and fry it with some of the chopped Galinsoga. Then add the potatoes, diced or sliced. (I vary the shape of the pieces per variety.)

Add a can of sweetcorn grains, peas and a diced tomato, and cook everything for at least an hour simmer (don’t forget to stir occasionally)  until the potatoes begin to dissolve and a thick sauce is formed. Add new water when it all is boiled away. Add the rest of the chopped quickweed 10 minutes before you serve it.
Meanwhile, make some guacamole with a soft and ripe avocado and a spoon of yoghurt, some lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pepper. Before serving add guacamole ass well as capers like you prefer it.

Serve with red wine.

A vegetarian / vegan version should also work very great here btw!