Edible weeds – dock

Welcome to the first in a new series (for me). I will be researching, tracking down, harvesting and reviewing edible weeds in our area. The reasoning behind this, is that my vegetable garden is refusing to yield very much due to predators of many different kinds and a general lack of water. I am attempting to remedy the situation, but in the interim I will be looking for wild harvested foods too.

Dock is one of those plants that doesn’t get noticed in the garden, until it comes time to pull it out. It is a hardy and fast growing weed that can make a lawn look like a lumpy field, but it is also a really useful green vegetable.

Identifying

There are more than 11 varieties of dock… and all are edible (that is not to say they taste good). Here at the humpy we have sheep sorrel, narrow leaf dock and broad leaf dock. Dock can be recognised by the papery wrapping around the base of new leaves, this little white membrane is one of the defining features of dock plants. It is naturalised over most of the eastern part of Australia, so if you are looking at a plant that you think is dock, there is a good chance it actually is dock.

Food uses

Dock can be used like spinach, it can be sautéed or steamed as a green vegetable. You can use dock leaves as you would any other kind of robust leafy green… think silverbeet, spinach or cabbage leaf.

Medicinal Uses

Dock root can be used to treat constipation and as a general tonic for the body. It has a balancing effect on the body and is great for building healthy blood. You can read about it’s use as medicine here.

My adventure with dock

The photo below is from one of my pots in the front garden. I dug up what I thought was a sheep’s sorrel root one day when I was out walking and planted it in a herb pot. I spent a bit of time identifying the type of dock I had found and eventually decided it is probably broad leaf dock after all.

It is growing well in my herb pot. I harvested the tender new leaves and some parsley for my experiment.

I fried some onion and garlic together with the dock and some spinach mix I had in the fridge. At the last minute I threw in some mushrooms (also found lurking in a paper bag in the fridge). Lastly, I made little nests in the mixture and fried some eggs in it.

The whole concoction was served on slices of toast and made a really lovely lunch.

I will definitely be making dock meals again. It was a delicious addition to my meal and I am using something that the possums have so far ignored. Having said that, I am now expecting to find all my dock plants munched down to stubs when the possums realise the food value of weeds.

Make dolmades from nasturtium leaf

I found a recipe for dolmades… I love dolmades! This recipe uses nasturtium leaf as the wrapper, rather than the usual grape vine leaf. I have been trying to use things from the garden that the possums and bandicoots don’t eat, my reasoning is that if I can get my family to eat what does grow here, I won’t have to be disappointed by trying to grow what they will eat, but I fail at growing.

I harvested about 20 leaves from the nasturtium plants… there were plenty. I also cut a few flowers to add to the stuffing mix while I was there.

Then I put a cup of rice and a handful of dried peas into the hay box cooker with enough water to cover. I put it on the stove and got it boiling before popping it all into the container.

While the rice cooked, I fried some onions, grated carrot and garlic with some sundried tomato and pepper. I also added some paprika at the last minute.

When it was all cooked, I chopped the nasturtium flowers and a cup of spinach (and other green things) and stirred the lot in together.

Rolling the stuffing up in the leaves with a bung hand was a mission, but I got it done in the end.

Lastly, I poured about 3/4 cup of vegetable stock over the little bundles in my Dutch oven and put it in the oven on medium heat for 40 minutes.

The result was a great tasting dolmade that had a very weak wrap. They taste spicy and flavourful, and are filling, so I think I will make them again.

Make vegan whipped cream

I recently had the most delightful desert at a friend’s house; Choc ripple cake. I have never had it before and I really enjoyed it, so, of course, I had to have a go at making a vegan version for my family.

The cake uses a lot of whipped cream, so I needed to find a vegan whipped cream recipe. This video seemed to be the simplest one to start with. I combined the first ingredients;

1 cup soy milk

1/4 cup raw cashews

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 pinches salt

Then blended them until they were smooth. Next I added 2 cups of oil slowly while continuing to blend (or whip) the mixture. Within ten minutes I had a credible whipped cream and it tasted delicious.

Then I just whacked the whole thing together and stored it in the fridge to do its magic.

I’ve got to say, this is a VERY tempting vegan dessert.

Making protein powder

Recently I decided to start paying attention to my iron consumption (having been diagnosed with an iron deficiency). To achieve this I downloaded an app called MyFitnessPal and logged everything I eat into it each day. This little app counts calories, but it also counts macronutrients (iron among them). After about two weeks of tracking, I discovered that my iron intake is fairly low and so is my protein. To combat this trend I decided to make some vegan protein powder and up my leafy greens and legume consumption.

I have a favourite YouTube channel when it comes to making interesting food for us; Chef Jana. She has a recipe for protein powder that seems to work for us. So off I went to the food cupboard looking for ingredients.

We had most of them, I did however have to substitute hemp seed for flax seed. It was so simple to measure it all out into the blender and hit the button. I poured the powder into a big jar and we started adding it to smoothies, salads, baked goods (vegan brownies… yum) and even mashed potatoes. The result has been amazing! If the tracking app can be believed.

The above information was taken prior to making the powder; as you can see, I am fairly low on protein (and some other things too).
This information is from after the protein powder. You can see the difference!

I feel a bit more energetic too. Other health issues remain, but that is the inevitable march of time (for which there is no cure).

First of the passionfruit harvest- Passionfruit tart

The harvest has started! The passionfruit are finally yellow enough to pick… just.

My daughter decided to make a passionfruit tart and it was a great success. She has been taking over a lot of the cooking lately as I really don’t enjoy it and my energy is fairly low at the moment, so I would rather save it for more enjoyable activities (like eating).

The basic recipe my daughter used is as follows;

Passionfruit tart

Base

150g arrowroot biscuits

1/3 cup coconut

100g softened vegan margarine

Blend together in a food processor until it forms a crumbly mass that sticks together when squeezed. Press into a tart plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Filling

1 can coconut cream (refrigerated and drained of liquid when opened to retain just the thick cream)

4 tblspn icing sugar

1 large passionfruit

Whip chilled and drained coconut cream with icing sugar until it is firm. Add passionfruit and spoon into tart case. Refrigerate until firm. Serve with more passionfruit on top.

This dessert tasted so lovely, we all went back for seconds.

YUM.

Mulberry/blueberry apple muffins

I was looking for a way to use up the seemingly endless supply of blueberries and mulberries we have this year (no complaint at all, I feel rich!) and thought about making muffins that I could freeze. I also wanted to use up some okara or some sourdough discard in the process. Since my daughter won’t be eating these muffins, I think I will try to use maximum eggs in the recipe too (abundance can be such a chore… joking).

Ingredients

  • 1 cups  plain flour
  • 1   cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup okara or sourdough discard
  • ¾  cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅔ cup oil
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cup soy milk (may need to add a little more milk if using okara)
  • 2 cups mulberries/ blueberries or a combination
  • 1 chopped apple 

Method

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add wet ingredients except berries and apple. Mix well to combine, but be careful not to overmix. Add fruit and stir to combine. Spoon mix into greased muffin tins and bake at 200 degrees C for 20 minutes.

You can sprinkle some granulated sugar and cinnamon over the muffin tops before baking if you are feeling fancy; it gives the muffins a nice crackly top.

These muffins freeze well, but they don’t last in the cupboard for long as the moist berries become mouldy fairly quickly.

The blue/green/purple hue is from the mulberries and blueberries combined. I actually love the colour. The muffins taste light and soft and fruity; just the way they should taste.

Making a scoby hotel

So it is time to take a break from making kombucha for a few months; I am not drinking as much as I was, and the batches are getting a bit too vinegary for my taste because of the heat and longer time between batches.

The vinegary large batch in the brewer can be used as cleaning vinegar, so I just bottled it up and left it to mature. Apparently it can be used to make salad dressings and in cooking just like apple cider vinegar.

The scoby was checked into the new scoby hotel. A scoby hotel is a clean jar with some sweet tea and a cup or two of starter kombucha. The only care it needs is a top up of sweet tea every month or so. I store the jar in the fridge and hope that the room service bill won’t be too high.

I know, scoby looks disgusting!
The new scoby hotel

I will start making kombucha again in a couple of months, hopefully the scoby will survive until my enthusiasm returns.

Vegan fried chicken with seitan

My daughter came home from work with a craving for KFC, which would put her in hospital if she ate it, so I decided to have a go at making a vegan version. What is it that we all remember about KFC? For me (and my daughter) it is the crispy, oily outer coating, so that is where I will start.

I found two videos on YouTube to guide my thinking; the seitan recipe and the coating recipe. Of course online recipes are just a jumping off point for me (we all know I can’t follow instructions), so this is what I actually did;

The seitan chicken

Wet Mixture (Should make about 1 ½ cups)

1 tsp Soy Sauce (or miso paste)

1/2 Cup Chickpeas

1 Tbsp Bullion

3 Garlic Cloves

2 Tbsp Onion powder

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

several pieces of sundried tomato

1 Cup Water

fresh oregano, thyme, mugwort (about 2 tablespoons)

Dry Ingredients

1 Cup of Vital Wheat Gluten

¼ Cup of tapioca and coconut flour

2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast

Dried rosemary, nutmeg and black pepper

1 tsp Sea Salt

Method

Mix the wet ingredients in a blender or food processor and the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then gradually combine the wet with the dry in a bowl. Knead the dough until it is firm, but can be pulled apart and re-kneaded. This part takes practice, it is easy to under or over knead and either have a too soft or too firm result). When the dough is firm enough for your liking, tear off pieces and squash the dough into vaguely chicken piece shapes, make the pieces flat as the dough swells up to about double when boiled. Mine made seven pieces.

Dry ingredients.
Wet ingredients.
Making chicken pieces.
They smell lovely.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add 2 stock cubes (or equivalent) and a bay leaf. When the water is simmering, just below a rolling boil, put the chicken pieces in one by one and simmer the pot for about 20 minutes.

The pieces will sink to the bottom, and won’t rise until they begin to cook.
After 20 minutes the pieces are all floating on the surface of the water.

Once the pieces are cooked, they can be taken out and drained on a paper towel until you are ready to coat and fry them (I put mine in the fridge).

Ready to go in the fridge. I am trialing the ‘If You Care’ brand of kitchen sponge (washable) for food draining, I will let you know if it works.
A closer view of the texture. It is juicy and tender if looks are anything to go by.

Now it is time to make the coating…

Wet bowl

1 cup soy milk

11/2 tablespoons vinegar (I used my home made mead vinegar)

Dry bowl

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

1 tablespoon rosemary and nutmeg

1/2 tablespoon paprika 

1/2 tablespoon mustard powder

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon black pepper 

Method

Mix the dry ingredients in the dry bowl and the wet ingredients in the wet bowl. Don’t be surprised if the wet bowl goes all lumpy and curdled, it is supposed to, just mix it back in.

Dip the pieces of chicken in the wet bowl then put it in the dry bowl and cover it with the flour mix. You may have to repeat this a few times to get a good cover.

Then fry the chicken pieces in a frying pan or a deep fryer until they are golden brown and crispy.

We ate these with chips and they were satisfyingly crispy and oily.

Accidentally making the lettuce last longer in the fridge

Some of the lovely greens in the trailer bed

The trailer bed is bursting with greens, it is so easy to stroll out and pick a salad base. Of course, I prefer to pick every few days and keep the leaves in the fridge. I’m lazy that way. The problem with keeping the leaves in the fridge is that they go slimy and bad by the second day, and then I need to pick more. That is a problem I may have accidentally found a solution for.

Let me explain… The lettuce and other greens are watered using washing water (the used water from the washing machine) and the remnants of the duck and chicken water pots when we refresh them. This means that the greens have a lot of unsavory bacteria on them (and silt), so the leaves need to be washed well and disinfected somehow.

The day’s haul of fresh lettuce leaves

I wash the leaves in a tub of water (which is then poured back onto the garden) to remove any dirt and silt. Then I soak them in a water and vinegar solution (1/2 cup vinegar to 5 litres of water). I use my home made vinegar for this, and it seems to work.

Soaking in vinegar solution

I use vinegar for all my cleaning; in a spray for kitchen surfaces, in the washing, as a floor spot cleaner, as an emergency bath addative (when I’m really smelly), as a medicinal additive in the animal waters, you name it. Using it to clean bacteria off food is a logical step.

Draining out the excess water

Then I discovered that the vinegar rinse keeps the lettuce fresh in the fridge for a week. You have to be sure to dry as much water off the leaves as possible and line the bag or container with a paper towel though (I keep trying to think of a washable version of paper towels for this).

Chopped lettuce ready for the fridge

I am so happy with this little discovery that I wanted to pass on the tip. A vinegar soak not only makes sure the lettuce is safe to eat, it also makes it last much longer in the fridge, and it is another use for my home made vinegar.

Lots more to pick

Raw, vegan cheesecakes… yum

This weekend, I decided to make some cheesecake to go with our usual Friday night indulgence of pizza, bought from the local cafe. I love pizza night; I don’t have to cook (not that I do very often anyway), and we have a really yummy meal of gourmet pizza. So this Friday afternoon, I whipped up some individual desserts for us all to share after our pizza.

I used the Blueberry cheesecake and avocado chocolate tart recipes I found here to give myself an idea to start from.

First I blended all the ingredients for the base together;

Base ingredients

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 cup dates pitted

1/4 cup coconut oil melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch sea salt

Then I greased up a muffin pan, put strips of grease proof paper across the cups and squished a desert spoon of the base into each pan. Next time I think I will make sure the coconut oil is fully melted and drop the dates into the blender one at a time because the resulting base is a bit chunky for my partner’s liking.

Then, while the bases set in the freezer, I blended up the avocado and chocolate filling.

Ingredients

medium avocados

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon (scant) salt

I blended all this together into a thick sauce kind of consistency and plopped it into the muffin pan. There was enough to half fill nine of the 12 cups. Then I whipped up the cashew cheesecake mix…

Ingredients

1 cup soaked cashews

1 cup soy milk

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons frozen lemon juice

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I blended this mixture for a long time, then used it to top up some of the muffin cups. Then I dumped a half cup of blueberries into the mix and blended them in until the mixture was a lovely purple. This purple goop was spooned into the muffin cups that were left, then the whole tray was dumped (carefully) into the freezer for 3 hours to set while my partner went to fetch the pizza.

plain avocado chocolate
avocado chocolate and cashew cheesecake
Plain blueberry
avocado chocolate and blueberry

In the end, I had eight left over cheesecakes to freeze for a later dessert.

Give these easy vegan desserts a go. They are so easy and so yummy (not to mention the slightly healthier nutrients).