Posts

Finished potato apple bread

Potato Apple Bread

Finished potato apple bread

I grew up on apples and even though more fashionable and fancy fruits have come along since then, none of them have replaced the apple as well, the apple of my eye. Our grandmother lived near County Armagh – with its world famous apple trees – and had an orchard of her own on the farm that produced beautiful Bramleys in abundance. A visit to her’s wasn’t complete without a slice of apple pie.

Another treat I remember when I used to stay with her in the school holidays was the Ulster classic of potato apple bread. Sheets of stodgy but delicious potato bread, filled with tart apple and fried til golden brown on the outside. It is a total treat at anytime, but particularly tastes of autumn when you could pick the apples freshly. It also used to pop up as a seasonal treat in the bakeries of Belfast as the leaves turned and the school year started.

I always thought it was a fiendishly tricky thing to make until I whipped up a batch of potato bread for the first time a few years ago and realised it’s as easy as falling off a log. It followed that the apple version couldn’t be much trickier. And after getting my hands on some Lambeth apples courtesy of Incredible Edible Lambeth and the London Orchard Project at the new monthly Make It Grow It Sell It market, the time had come to try it out.

Potato bread is traditionally made with leftover mashed potatoes, but if you manage to have leftover mash in your house then you’re a better person than I. Instead I peeled about 300g of Maris Pipers, boiled until tender, drained and dried well and added a knob of salted butter before mashing well. Don’t add milk or you’ll end up with something akin to babyfood with this recipe. The salted butter stops the potato being bland so don’t skip it.

Then add around 3/4 cup or 75 grammes of plain flour into the mashed potato and form a dough. You may need more flour ,depending on the wetness of your spuds. Mix well to form a stiff but malleable dough. Knead for a few minutes to firm it up and try to keep it moving all the time or it sticks to your surface and forms a gluey mess.

While you are making the potato dough, put your apples on to stew down. I like them fairly chunky so don’t chop too finely and don’t add more than a tablespoon of water to them while they cook. I don’t add any sugar as I prefer the tart tanginess of apple than the sweet applesauce vibe. You could add cinnamon or cloves if you like too, but I didn’t bother.

Take about a fist-sized lump of the potato dough and roll out on some greaseproof paper until it’s as thin as you can without it being difficult to work with or likely to rip. Then place on a plate and cover with your stewed apple, leaving a good lip round the edge. But don’t skimp on filling! Then roll out another fist sized lump of dough on the greaseproof paper and place on top of the appley bit and seal well with your fingers making an enclosed sandwich.

Slide into a well-heated oiled frying pan. Give it about 4 minutes either side, but keep an eye so it doesn’t burn. Potato bread seems to stay raw for ages and then cook completely before you’ve even realised. Once golden and gorgeous on either side, I like to eat it as quickly as the insanely-hot apple filling will allow without hurting yourself.

It works really really well. The slightly salted potato brings out the sweet tang of the apples and it makes a perfect breakfast if you fancy a change from standard tattie bread. You can also serve it cooled down for elevenses or an afternoon snack with a big mug of strong tea. There just isn’t a time it’s not utterly delicious. Just make more than you expected: everyone wants seconds of this one!

Respect your Elderflowers

Barely a week shy of the Summer Solstice, I think we can safely say summer is here and June’s Invisible Food Walk was ready to celebrate this good news with the lovely scent and flavour of elderflower. After the success of the dandelion fritters last month, dipping these beautiful blooms in batter seemed like a winning option!

We went to Wyck Gardens where there are several beautiful big elder trees just ripe for the picking. Several large bags were filled and as the sun came out we all felt cheered by the beautiful light summery scent the flowers left on our hands. We pottered round looking for other early summer plants and generally enjoying the day, before picking up some salad ingredients at the Angell Town community herb garden.

Read more

Dandelion Fritters

Spring was in the air at May’s Invisible Food Walk and we were on the look out for the newest shoots, buds and flowers the land had to offer. After such a long hard winter everyone was excited to see the trees and flowers returning to life and the promise in of a feast of dandelion fritters, hawthorne flower syrup, stuffed lime leaves and nettle soup only added to that feelingof optimism and newness.

Our ever expanding group began by walking over to Wyck Gardens to pick some particularly succulent looking leaves from the local lime trees. Not to be confused with those that produce citrus fruit, these towering trees are a common sight on London’s streets with large heart shaped leaves of the brightest green. We picked handfuls to take back to the centre and stuff to make a delicious light canape.

We also discovered an excellent patch of comfrey close to the proposed new site for the Ebony Horse Club in the far corner of the park. Both promise to bring new life to the plants of the area. Comfrey makes a wonderful plant feed and horses create excellent fertiliser! Hopefully the recently planted fruit and nut trees in the area will see the benefits first.

We moved onto Loughborough Park in search of dandelion flowers and hawthorn flowers. This small park is tucked away just off Moorlands Road and if you didn’t know it was there, you would never suspect that this shady park filled with winding paths, open spaces and a large playground is there. It is one of Brixton’s lesser known and unspoilt green spaces, making it perfect for foraging. We filled containers with handfuls of sunshine yellow dandelion flowers and delicate white hawthorn blossoms while the kids worked up an appetite on the swings. We also found a new variety of chickweed and picked some beautiful tender young nettles for the pot.

Back at the centre with our spoils still warm from the sun, we set to work turning them into the freshest meal imaginable. The nettle soup was first on the go, peeling and chopping potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots and garlic to form a savoury base. These were sweated down over the wood pellet stove before adding some bouillon and leaving to cook. The nettles would be added just before the end and everything blended to a creamy consistency.

Next to be prepared were the flowers. The delicate white hawthorn blooms needed removed from the stems and placed in a sturdy glass jar where they could infuse and form an aromatic syrup. Unfortunately this wouldn’t be ready for us to try today, but would be a perfect accompaniment to the next batch of dandelion fritters in around two weeks time.

The dandelion flowers also needed separated from their stems. This is easily done using a pair of scissors to snip them off and make sure they are free of any of the milky sap that dandelions produce when torn. The flowers need to be clean and dry to allow the batter to adhere to them evenly. Ceri had already made the batter before we went out foraging as the best batters need time to sit before cooking. She used a simple egg, flour, sparkling water recipe to give a light tempura-style coating to the flowers.

As the fresh lime leaves were being stuffed with rye and hand rolled by an army of volunteers, a friend of the group began to set up a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony to accompany the food we were cooking and wash down the banquet of buffet foods that people had brought. The pale green beans were slowly roasted in a pan over a portable stove and the smell of freshly roasting beans was spectacular. They were then ground and brewed in a tradional boiling pot, before being served with small chunks of Eritrean bread called hembesha. This slightly chewy dense bread flavoured with cardamom and coriander seed is delicious on its own and perfect with coffee!

In the midst of all this activity, it was time for the chopped nettle leaves to be added carefully to the soup. They will sting until cooked so should not be handled unless you like getting hives! The soup was cooked until the leaves wilted and was taken off to be blended. A frying pan went onto the stove and the butter was melted in preparation for frying the fritters as Ceri lightly dipped the flowers in batter. Each dinky little fritter goes into the foaming butter for a minute or two before being drained on kitchen towel.

They are ready to eat as soon as they are cooked. We passed platefuls of these gorgeous golden little morsels around and people who had finished eating the buffet with its Ethiopian lamb curry and injera, doused them in lemon juice and dredged them in icing sugar for a sweet treat to finish their meal. Others who had resisted the home made treats of the lunch table and had held out for soup as a main course dipped them in the gloriously savoury green liquid as the plain batter made them appealing to either a sweet or savoury tooth.

Once we had eaten our fill, fighting over the last few fritters and wiping our bowls spotlessly clean with the remaining chunks of hembesha, we savoured the coffee at the end of the meal. Sadly I was so busy making sure I didn’t miss a drop of soup, I didn’t get any photos of the coffee being brewed or poured. This made me even more determined to try a cup of it and I’m glad I did. Surprisingly light, yet rich and smooth in flavour, it was absolutely delicious. Despite not being much of a coffee drinker, I could have drunk several espresso sized cups of this. Taken black and very hot, it was incredibly refreshing and was the perfect end to to the meal.

This was another fascinating and delicious Saturday afternoon in Brixton filled with new experiences, flavours and textures. I look forward to trying the fritters again with elderflower as we had originally hoped to do, but were thwarted by the chilly May weather that had stopped them from blooming in time. I’m also a lot more keen to weed my flowerbeds now I’ve discovered such a tasty use for dandelion flowers!

Invisible Food Walks

Mister North isn’t the only one doing a bit of foraging this spring. I have been attending the fascinating Invisible Food Walks around the Loughborough Estate in Lambeth for the past few months and learning what a wealth of foods can be foraged even in this urban environment…

Read more