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The Sweeter Side Of Life

Welcome to Edible Leeds, The Sweeter Side Of Life, page. I hope the recipes here will inspire, excite and satisfy those with a sweet tooth! 

Candied Alexanders

Plants as sweets! Indeed and what delightful results. Alexanders aren't re-knowned for their 'subtlety' regarding taste and aroma, especially raw. However, once heat is involved, their oh so powerful attributes lessen - quite considerably so - meaning you can exercise an element of 'control' over your results. They can be added to cakes/desserts and also into more savoury dishes. Let the experiments commence! I take these along to my coastal foraging courses as a treat at break times, so far, no complaints :) To see when my next coastal courses are coming up visit:

500g fresh, young, plump Alexander stems
500g Golden Granulated Sugar
Alexander Seeds (to infuse extra flavour)

Chop the Alexanders into fairly lengthy sections, place in a pan, add water to cover and simmer until tender (approx 5-10 minutes). Remove them from the pan (retain the cooking liquid though), leave to cool and then peel away any tough, stringy fibres. Weigh the stems and lay them in a flat dish/pan that's big enough to fit them all in. Weigh an equal quantity of sugar, add to the reserved cooking liquid and add a good pinch or two of Alexander Seeds (crushed slightly in a pestle & mortar), put into clean muslin, tie up to make a pouch and add them to the sugar and cooking liquid. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, to create a hot aromatic syrup. Once boiling, remove from heat and pour over the stems in the dish/pan and leave for 24 hours. Next day, pour the syrup and seeds into a saucepan, bring to the boil and then pour once again over the stems and leave another 24 hours. Repeat this process twice more. Drain the syrup and lay the stems on wire cooling racks and dry them in either a low oven with the door open, in a dehydrator, or in a warm room until thoroughly dry. If not properly dry they will go mouldy when stored.

Chocolate, Pacheran Infused Sloe & Seville Orange Tart 

A great recipe for recycling boozy infused sloes. Pacheran Infused Sloes explained at bottom of this recipe... 

250g Plain Flour
40g Icing Sugar
125g Unsalted Butter (cubed)
1 Large Egg (beaten)

Sieve the flour & icing sugar onto a clean work surface, make a well in the centre, add the butter & egg & using your fingers mix together the butter and egg. Once well mixed start incorporating the flour/icing sugar until it forms a dough that can be rolled into a ball. Wrap in cling film and pop in fridge for 30-40 minutes. Remove from fridge and roll out, on a floured surfaced, to desired thickness. Place in a tart tin or earthenware tart dish, prick the base with a fork, line with greaseproof paper and fill with 'baking beans' (not baked beans!!) and blind bake for 20 mins at 180-190C. Remove the parchment with the baking beans and cook for a further 10 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Once cooled scatter the boozy infused sloes across the base of the pastry and add the seville orange zest. Now to make the filling below.


350g De-stoned Pacheran Infused Sloes
150g Dark Chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids - I used 100g of 70% cocoa solids chocolate and 50g Butterscotch flavour milk chocolate)
225ml Double Cream
4 Large Egg Yolks
50g Golden Granulated Sugar
Juice of 1.5 Seville Oranges & the Zest of 1 Seville Orange

Place chocolate & cream in a glass bowl, suspend over a pan of hot simmering water and heat until chocolate melts and the mixture becomes thicker. Meanwhile, place the sugar & egg yolks in another bowl and whisk until light & fluffy. Once chocolate/cream mixture is ready, add the sugar/egg mixture and mix thoroughly, add the orange juice and keep heating until mixture thickens again - do not let the mixture boil or you'l scramble the eggs! Pour the mixture over the sloes/orange zest, in the pastry case and then leave to cool. Once cool, pop in the fridge. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before eating allowing it to come to room temperature (if you so desire). 
This isn't a overly sweet dessert, so those 'sweet-toothed folk' may wish to serve with something to help sweeten it up. Why not try serving with some home-made Hogweed Seed Honeycomb (recipe below) 

What are, Pacheran Infused Sloes? click link and scroll down to Blackthorn Pacheran recipe.

Japanese Knotweed Tarts     

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:
250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter (cubed)
1 egg (beaten)
3 tsp caster sugar (add more if you like sweeter)
pinch of fine sea salt
upto 40ml cold milk

Sieve flour into a bowl. Add sugar and salt. Make a well in the flour, add egg and butter and mix the two together (get's lovely and sticky!). Once mixed and sticky slowly start to incorporate the flour, if required add small quantities of the milk until a firm dough begins to form. Roll into a ball, place in cling-film (pvc free) and place in fridge for up to one hour. When ready to use, remove dough from fridge and leave at room temperature for approx 20 mins then roll out to desired thickness, if I remember rightly I roll approx 3-4mm thick. Cut into rounds approx 10cm in diameter and place each one individually into pre-buttered, non-stick bun baking trays (mine has room for four pastry bases at a time and is larger than conventional bun trays, they may even be Yorkshire Pudding trays). Prick the bases with a fork and blind bake* in a pre-heated oven at180-190 degrees celsius for approx 8 mins, remove the blind baking beans/parchment paper and cook for a further 5-8 mins or until pastry is cooked and lightly golden. Once satisfied with cooking remove from oven and leave to cool.
(* Blind bake is where you line the inside of the pastry bases with grease-proof parchment add dried beans/peas/lentils and part bake).

Creme Patissiere:
200ml milk
50ml double cream
3 free range egg yolks
20g plain flour
70g light soft brown sugar

Heat milk and cream gently in a pan until just boiling and then take off of heat. Whisk egg yolks, flour and sugar in a bowl/large jug. Pour on the hot milk/cream and whisk together. Pour all contents back into pan and heat gently, stirring continuously until it thickens, mixture is thick enough when it coats the back of your spoon, be very careful not to overheat or the egg content will scramble. Remove from heat and leave to cool (if you dust the surface with icing sugar it prevents a skin from forming).

Japanese Knotweed Topping:
Take two/three large handfuls of fresh, young knotweed shoots and chop. Add to a saucepan with the juice of one orange and if desired sugar to taste (you may wish to add sugar once the knotweed has cooked down). Once cooked (approx 5-10 mins on a low gentle heat) remove from heat and leave to cool

Take a pastry base, add cooled creme patissiere, add cooled japanese knotweed topping and dust with icing sugar. Tuck in and enjoy! If desired you can add a pinch of ground cinnamon to the Japanese Knotweed while it cooks down.

Hogseed Honeycomb
This is so much fun to make and tastes bloody brilliant! It's like that science experiment you never did at school (the edible one!!)...                                         200g Golden Granulated Sugar                50g Honey                                              50ml Water                                               3/4 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
Put the sugar, honey & water in a pan and bring to the boil. Continue cooking so that the temperature on a jam/sugar thermometer reaches 160C. Once temperature has been reached, leave it to cool for no more than 30 seconds and then add the Bicarbonate of Soda, stir frantically with a wooden spoon and then pour contents into a greaseproof paper lined container and leave to cool fully.
NB You must bring the mixture to 160C otherwise it wont work properly. You must use Bicarbonate of Soda (I tried cutting corners the first time making honeycomb because I couldn't be arsed walking to the shops, so I used 'baking powder' - believe me it doesn't work!). At no time must you stir the mixture with any implement when it's coming to temperature, if you're worried about it 'burning' or 'sticking', just jiggle the pan in a circular motion. 

Birch Syrup Ice-Cream 
Birch Syrup Ice-Cream prior to freezing
This is the first ice-cream I've ever made and is without a shadow of a doubt the most sublimely tasting ice-cream I've had the pleasure to taste - when you pop something edible in your mouth & it makes you laugh with utter delight you know you've got something special. Given that making the syrup in the first place is one of the most labour intensive processes you can do adds to the special status. I made this after making a Pear & Chocolate Frangipane tart, I poached the pears in Birch Syrup with Clove Roots and there was no way I was going to pour any of that down the sink. I think this was a most fitting end to that particular bottle.
250ml Birch Syrup
6 Organic Egg Yolks
250ml Full Fat Organic Milk
250ml Organic Double Cream
100g Organic Golden Granulated Sugar 

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a glass bowl until pale and smooth.Bring the syrup, milk & cream to the boil and remove immediately. Gradually whisk the hot mixture into the egg & sugar until well combined. Put in a pan and heat to 80C or until it coats the back of a spoon (you'll know when it's done). Pass mixture through a sieve and into a deepish container (I used a clean, round, clip top container that I use for foraging, the depth & width was spot on for fitting the whisk sections of a hand held electric whisk - I used this because I don't have an ice-cream maker and without it your ice-cream will form ice crystal), let it cool and then pop into freezer. Check the mixture every 4 hours and whisk it to make it smooth, putting it back into freezer after every whisking. 

You could also try adding powdered Hogweed Seeds to add another flavour dimension - it works very well!

Sea Buckthorn & Apple Jelly

Tart n tasty are catch words for this tastebud tingler. Sea-buckthorn, generally a coastal dwelling shrub/tree (especially sand dune areas/cliffs) but can also be found inland. A few years ago while holidaying in Devon, sea buckthorn was top of my, 'to find' list, sadly it never happened. Exactly 1 year later while checking a site for wild food events, I discovered one, in an oasis of calm not far from Leeds city centre. If you haven't experienced the delights of this super tasting and aromatic juice-meister, I urge you to head out in search of them and try for yourself - you wont be disappointed.

1kg Sea-buckthorn Berries
500g Crab Apples
600g Demerara Sugar or golden granulated (demerara adds an extra flavour element and create a darker coloured jelly - aesthetics aren't overly important, it's about the taste!) :)

Juice the berries and then strain juice through muslin into a clean jam pan - ensure you squeeze the juice from the remaining pulp, you'll be surprised at how much hides there! Chop the crab apples and place them in another pan, add water to cover, apply heat and gently bring to simmer, leave 20mins or until apples are soft and pass through muslin, adding the liquid to the buckthorn juice (dip a finger into the juice and check that lovely tartness!). You should end up with a combined liquid of approx 700/800ml. Add the sugar and slowly bring to a rolling boil, stirring as it does so to ensure the sugar dissolves. Jelly is ready when setting point is reached( for more info on this check out my recipe for Japanese Knotweed & Star Anise Jelly:

Hogseed & Orange Cream Cake

This cake is light & airy with a subtle hint of hogweed seeds aromatic magic. Hogweed seed, especially when powdered is sweet & spicy, full-bodied and deeply warming, with hints of orange zest citrus, carrot oil, cardammon and hogweed seed - well that's what it is after all. A firm favourite on walks.

200g Golden unrefined sugar
225g Butter unsalted & softened
225g Plain flour
4 level tsp baking powder
4 Free Range Eggs
12g Ground Hogweed Seed
Zest of 1 Orange + Juice of half
300ml Whipped Cream

Put butter and sugar into a food mixer, mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, hogweed seed, 3/4 of the orange zest, all the juice and mix thoroughly. Mixture should weigh approx 950g. Divide mixture in two and place each quantity into shallow baking trays (ones I use are approx 30cm x 20cm x 3cm), lined with baking parchment. Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Meanwhile, whip cream, add rest of zest and refridgerate until required. Once cakes are cool, place on top of each other, trim edges (if you want to) and then cut into desired size slices. place a quantity of cream between each slice, dust with icing sugar. Tuck in.

Chocolate Coated Hogweed Seed Shortbread

I sampled my first Hogweed seed recipe in April 2014 when I met up with Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods, he had made & brought along a Hogweed Seed Parkin, needless to say it was gorgeous and a taste revelation. I made these Shortbread Biscuits and have been taking them on some of my walks, I've received great feedback and gone home with less biscuits than I would like to, says it all! Makes approx 48 biscuits.
225g Unsalted Butter                                           
120g Caster Sugar
325g Plain Flour
20g Hogweed Seed Powder
Pinch of Salt
100g Chocolate (you can use any chocolate you like, I used Green & Blacks Organic Milk & Dark Chocolate - Half the biscuits are coated in a mixture of the two).

Grease two large flat baking trays with some butter, add a tsp of flour and tip the trays length-ways and side-ways until flour coats the whole surface area, this provides a non-stick surface, put to one side.

Cream the butter/sugar together until light n fluffy (I use a food mixer). Put mixture into a large glass bowl, sift the flour on top, add the salt and hogweed seed powder and mix together until well combined then knead till becomes a soft dough. Lightly flour a clean working surface, place the mixture on and roll out to approx 0.5 - 1cm thick. Cut into required shapes place on greased/floured baking trays and chill in fridge for 20 mins. In the meantime, pre-heat oven to 180 Degrees Celsius. Remove shortbread from fridge, place in oven and bake for approx 10 - 15mins or until golden brown, remove, then leave to cool. Break the chocolate into pieces, put in a glass jug & pop in the microwave until melted (approx 1-2mins full power). Add to top of biscuits. 

Japanese Knotweed & Star Anise Jelly: 

1kg Japanese Knotweed Shoots  (leaves removed)
1 Litre Cold Water
50ml Lemon Juice 
800g Sugar (with pectin)

Wash and chop Knotweed. Place in a pan with water, slowly bring to the boil and simmer until soft (5-10 mins). Pour contents into scalded muslin cloth, tie and leave to drip for approx 2 hours (if you squeeze, jelly will be cloudy, be patient). 
Put juice into a jam pan add sugar, lemon juice and 3 star anise, bring to a steady boil ensuring sugar is dissolved and then turn up the heat and boil rapidly until it reaches setting point (you can test for setting point by placing a small amount of the jelly on a cool plate and if a skin begins to form when you blow on it it should be ready. An alternative is to watch the bubbles as it boils, they will become more viscous as excess liquid is evaporated, you will get the hang of it after making jellies a few times, it's all part of the learning curve!). Once setting point has been reached, pour contents into clean, sterilised jars, adding a star anise to each jar, seal and leave to cool. 

NB. Japanese Knotweed is highly invasive and failure to dispose of any remnants properly could result in harm to local ecosystems, biodiversity and could result in prosecution. If you find yourself with any remnants after prepping boil them for 10 minutes, leave to dry and then incinerate. Dont put fresh plant parts into your compost as there is the chance that it will grow and spread.  

Sweet Chestnut, Honey & Calvados Puree

This really is pure sensory indulgence and I guarantee that you really will be scraping any remains from the pan. I discovered the original recipe in Pam Corbins fantastic 'Preserves' handbook. I've tweaked the recipe by replacing honey in favour of sugar & Calvados (a beautiful Apple Brandy from the Normandy region of France) in favour of general brandy. It is a true labour of love and despite the time consuming process of picking/shelling/peeling Wild Sweet Chestnuts, it's one of my Autumnal favourites.

1kg Wild Sweet Chestnuts                                                
340g Honey - I use a local Spring Blossom Honey
100-150ml Calvados
2-3 tsps high quality Vanilla Extract 

Firstly, remove the tough outer shell of the chestnuts and place them in a heat-proof glass bowl. Pour boiling water over the chestnuts, this makes the task of removing the inner skins much easier - I do this in two batches. Once fully peeled place the nuts in a pan, cover with water and bring to a gentle simmer, simmer until the nuts break up easily when pinched between finger and thumb. Drain, reserving the liquid. Place the nuts in a food processor, adding 150ml of the reserved cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Place the puree in a saucepan, add the honey, heat gently to 90 degrees celsius while stirring continuously to prevent the mixture from sticking and covering you in hot puree. The puree will thicken as the liquid content reduces and once you have reached the temperature above, remove from the heat, add the Calvados & Vanilla Extract and stir until well mixed. Pour into warm sterilised jars.

This puree is excellent in my 'Chocolate, Sweet Chestnut, Honey & Calvados Cream Cake (see 'Desserts & Sweet Things' page of blog). Great eaten straight from jar, spread on toast and in croissants.

Sorrel & Vanilla Cream (Vol-au-Vents!)

Makes approx 14 individual pastries that resemble, 
dare i say it, vol-au-vents!

1 medium stainless steel saucepan of fresh, de-stalked & washed sorrel leaves (approx 3 very large handfuls)
1 block of all butter puff pastry
250ml double cream
2-3 tbsp granulated/caster sugar
Icing sugar approx 1 level tbsp
Good pinch of ground cinammon
1 beaten egg yolk
1/4 - 1/2 a tsp of good quality vanilla extract
1 tsp butter

On a clean, lightly floured work surface roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of approx 1-2mm. Take a round cutter and cut out 28 discs, putting half of them on to a buttered, lightly floured baking tray. Take the remaining discs and using a smaller cutter, cut out discs to form 14 puff pastry rings. Brush the first 14 discs with the egg yolk and place the rings on top and press down lightly, brush the tops of the rings with egg yolk and put into a pre-heated oven at 200 deg/celsius for approx 10-12 mins or until golden brown, remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

While the pastries are in the oven put a small knob of butter into a pan and add the sorrel leaves, cook over a low heat until dark green and 'sloppy looking' (this may only take 5-6mins) add the sugar/cinammon gradually, stirring and tasting as you go. Once your taste buds are satisfied remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Put the double cream into a glass mixing bowl, add the vanilla extract, sieve in the icing sugar and whisk until mixture firms up.

To each pastry case add approx 2-3 tsp of the sorrel filling, top with the same amount of  vanilla cream, dust lightly with icing sugar and get stuck in.

To get more sorrel and cream into/onto the pastries try breaking through a few layers of the pastry below the 'pastry ring' before filling.
Every bodies taste buds are different so do adjust, sugar/spices/flavourings accordingly
Use stainless steel everything when using sorrel as the Oxalic Acid it contains can cause staining.

N.B. Sorrel leaves contain Oxalic Acid (found in Rhubarb leaves) so shouldn't be eaten regularly and in large quantities. Eaten in small quantities and a few times a year they shouldn't cause any harm.

Meadowsweet Sorbet 

If this doesn't have you floating away into the clouds on a summers day and coo-ing with tastebud tingling delight then I don't know what will!

Approx 40 Meadowsweet flower heads collected on a hot summers afternoon.
1 Large Pink Grapefruit
2 Lemons
100g Soft Brown Sugar
100g Golden Granulated Sugar
1.25 Litres Boiling Water (Use filtered water)

In a pan, add the boiling water, sugar and juice and zest of the fruits, stir until sugar dissolves. Strip Meadowsweet flowers from stems and add to pan. Bring back to boil, simmer for two mins
and remove from heat. Cover and leave overnight.
Next day, strain contents of pan through two thicknesses of muslin cloth. Put strained liquid into a container and put into freezer. Leave until frozen. Put frozen contents into a food processor and blitz (colour will change but don't worry it doesn't affect the taste!). Put contents back into container and put back in freezer. Before use allow to warm until sorbet spoons out easily. I took this on my Wild Food Walk of 13.7.14 and we all devoured it while in the middle of a field of Meadowsweet. The scent of the flowers all around us added to the experience, utterly divine!

Woodruff & Strawberry Tart         

If you're looking for delicious as well as divine, then this will truly satisfy. 
The soul-hugging, vanilla, sweet-dry-straw, tonka bean like aroma of 
dried sweet woodruff, will have you joyfully laughing while floating in the culinary clouds. Second helpings obligatory.... :)

250g Strawberries

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:
250g Plain Flour
125g Unsalted Butter (cubed & room temp)
1 Egg + 1 Egg Yolk
Pinch of Sea Salt 
3 Tsp Caster Sugar
Touch of cold milk may be required to help bind if mixture too dry

NB* Instructions on making pastry are with the Japanese Knotweed Tarts recipe below. 

Creme Patissiere:
400ml Full Fat Milk
100ml Double Cream
120g Sugar (taste to your own spec)
40g Plain Flour
6 Free Rannge Egg Yolks (Meringue the whites!) 
Sweet Woodruff - dried. 

NB Sweet Woodruff contains Coumarin, a natural plant chemical and appetite suppressant so be sparing with quantities and frequency of consumption. Pick only on warm, dry sunny days and dry asap. Don't pick or dry when wet/damp as this could lead to the production of dicoumarol a vitamin K depletor and anti-coagulant (warfarin is a pharmaceutical by-product of dicoumarol).

NB* Instructions on making creme patissiere are with the Japanese Knotweed Tarts recipe below. Add the woodruff as you heat the milk and cream and remove it before adding to sugar/flour/egg mix.

To assemble, put the cooled creme patissiere into the cooled pastry base and top with the sliced strawberries. Enjoy :0)


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