Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Spring into action

Acelga leaves ( wild spinach beet )
Spring is just around the corner and that means green soups.In the days following my recent foraging adventures I have been experimenting with the harvest of leaves I returned home with.My second recipe using acelga ( wild spinach beet) was a spring soup- a combination of vibrant colour and the freshest flavour. A thick creamy pool of green deliciousness daringly fine- tuned with dandelion and hare´s lettuce.One word of caution, texture is as important as colour, when it comes to green soups. Spinach like cabbage can be unpleasantly fibrous, unless very young, and therefore needs serious blitzing to get rid of its fibrous nature.If you´ve ever eaten a bowl of caldo verde the famous cabbage soup of Portugal, you´ll know what I am talking about.This dark green soup is so thick you could stand a spoon up in it.
Apart from the acelga obviously,I collected two other wild culinary herbs,* dente de leao ( dandelion ) and *serralha ( hare´s lettuce, milk tassel)I am not certain if the latter can be found outside of Portugal and would advise omitting this from the recipe, if you can find dandelion,all the better but use the leaves only.I have made this soup on many occasions in the past using only the spinach and omitted the other two herbs and I assure you it is equally delicious.

Sopa de acelga com folhas dente de leao
( Spinach beet soup with dandelion leaves )
                        
                        simplicity itself to make and an ace taster.I made lots as seconds were inevitable

8oog folhas de acelga ( leaves of wild spinach beet)
100g manteiga sem sal ( saltless butter)
* dente de leao q.b ( optional )
* serralha q.b ( optional )
2 cebolas ( 2 onions finely chopped)
1 pau pequeno de aipo ( small stick of celery)
2 dentes de alho ( 2 fat  cloves garlic )
Flor de sal e pimenta q.b (Flor de sal and pepper)
1.8 litro caldo de legumes ( vegetable stock )
180-200g parmesao
casca de parmesao ( parmesan rind)
Noz moscada ralado q.b
( grated nutmeg or mace)

Peel and finely chop the onions, garlic, celery and herbs. Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot until it foams, then add the vegetables, Flor de sal and pepper. Cook slowly for 20 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and just coloured. Pour in the stock, add the Parmesan rind (optional).
Bring to the boil and simmer for a further 15 minutes. While the soup cooks, pick through the spinach, ripping out any excess stalks and yellow or blemished leaves. wash thoroughly to remove any grit, Bring the soup to the boil, plunge in the spinach and liquidise immediately ( discard the parmesan rind at this point if you have used it).. Pass the soup through a sieve and return to the pan, taking care that it does not get too hot, or it will lose its colour and spoil the flavour. Add the grated nutmeg, check the seasoning and serve with liberal amounts of grated parmesan on top.

With a spring in my step, a hoppity skip and a jump and foraging cap a kimbo I´ve got the bug for free food and next I´m off into the Sapal ( salt marshes) to gather wild asparagus and samphire grass as part of a recce. 

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