Last week I had yet another hospital appointment for yet another CT Scan. As the hospital I attend is on the opposite side of the city from where I live, I decided to take the opportunity to explore a new foraging area. I had picked up a tip from Twitter courtesy of @loafonline and @abundancebrum that the place to go was an area of sports ground that edged onto the North Stratford Canal. A twofer: canals and foraging, hurrah!
I set off clutching my basket, not really expecting to find much as most of what had been mentioned was not likely to be in season. However, I feel that carrying my basket sort of gives me permission to walk about on my own. A bit like owning a dog. People look at you oddly if you walk around entirely without obvious purpose. But with a basket, I suddenly appear to look like I know what I am doing. Either that, or they think I am certifiable and are too terrified to meet my gaze in case I remove the kitchen scissors from the aforementioned basket and plunge them into their necks in a psychotic frenzy. One can never tell.
Anyway. My tip turned out to be an excellent one and I shall definitely return in a few weeks. I spotted apples, damsons, blackberries, hazelnuts, elder and bird cherries all unripe. However, I did not leave empty-handed. Much to my delight, I found lime trees:
I had been flipping through Ghillie James’ Jams, Jellies & Relishes only the previous evening and spotted a relish I fancied making but it contained lime leaves. I do not know of any lime trees locally so finding them really was a joy. The recipe also contained lots of chillies so I could make good use of my chilli plant. In fact, I had to send out for reinforcements. The end results did not look particularly pleasant but pretty jars and packaging help a lot:
I first made use of it as a glaze for chicken drumsticks – extremely yummy! And given both the number of chillies and amount of garlic, not overly spicy at all. With some salad, rice and tomatoes it made the perfect Sunday tea.
2 garlic bulbs, separated into bulbs and peeled
12 long red chillies, halved and de-seeded
3 x 8cm pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 large bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves
4 lemongrass stems, trimmed and finely chopped
9 fresh lime leaves
400g Demerara sugar
6 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
Put garlic, chillies, ginger, coriander, lemongrass and lime leaves into a food processor and whizz until you have a fine paste.
Put the sugar and 250ml water into a large, deep frying pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Raise heat and boil for about 5 mins, or until the syrup has the consistency of clear honey (this took 10-15mins for me). Carefully add the paste to the pan and stir-fry for a further 5-7mins, or until the liquid has evaporated. Add the remaining ingredients plus 500mls of water and boil, stirring, for approximately 15-20mins, or until you have a thick but pourable paste. Spoon into warm sterilised jars and seal.
Use as a marinade, a curry base, a dipping sauce, a glaze or a stir-fry paste. To add extra oomph, leave in half the chilli seeds.