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Wild Broths for Wintry Days
It’s hard to believe the clocks will be changing soon as autumnal October crosses the threshold of Samhain into wintry November. Now is the time to use fungi and berries in warming nutritional broths.
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The season of soups is starting as the first frosty mornings herald the transition of autumn to winter. Samhain is around the corner.
Whether you celebrate Halloween or All Souls, around you the leaves are falling and the plant world dying down again - creating bare, wet, cold landscapes. The colour is draining away. Outside the wind carries a cold bite.
In Chinese medicine, many illnesses are thought to be the consequence of Pathogenic Wind, especially colds and flu. The wind blows leaves, grasses, dust and insects here and there at its will, and the concept of Wind in our bodies is symptoms that come and go, that grumble on, when our immune systems are low and susceptible to infections. Whether infection comes from the outside - blown in by the chilling Wind - or is generated inside, looking after your immune system now will help to prevent serious illness.
Traditionally, across many cultures, hot soups are the perfect way to do this. Nourish yourself with stocks, potage, broths, consommés, bouillon, bortsch, chowder and gumbo. Steep winter roots and the last of the herbs and fungi with warming spices, and serve with love ❤️ .
Mushrooms have immune strengthening properties - from the humblest button mushroom to the exotic reishi, also known as the Emporer’s Mushroom of Immortality! They add umami flavour that’s rich, deep and earthy. The simplest broth can be made with a handful of dried mushrooms, a few sticks of dried oarweed seaweed, and some dried herbs. Just add hot water and simmer until tender and fragrant.
Wood blewits just coming into season
Roots are an important ingredient to give flavour and body to stocks and soups. Recipes often call for the addition of a carrot or parsnip to a stock, but don’t forget the edible roots with medicinal uses. Dandelion root is great for the liver. Burdock root is also a liver herb but will also help to clear the skin and ease the joints. I like to buy some of the Chinese root herbs too. Creamy astragalus root for its immune boosting benefits. Condonopsis to help fight fatigue and tiredness. Liquorice, turmeric, ginger are all healthy root spices too.
In the U.K. we don’t make as much use of our native wild roots as we should. This is partly because foragers are not allowed to dig up the roots of any plant without the landowners permission, so this has discouraged a lot of experimentation. Roots of all thistles, common hogweed, sweet cicely, wild carrot are also edible but need to be gathered from young plants or they are woody and tough. Tubers of pignut, silver weed and marsh woundwort can be added towards the end of cooking. Bulbs of wild garlic, wild leeks, day lilies also provide winter calories.
Many people also think of berries as something to keep for cordials and jams. However, adding berries to soups - remembering they need less cooking time than roots - helps to balance the more bitter flavours and introduces a wide range of antioxidants like vitamin C. Hawthorn berries (haws) lend flavour and help with digestion. Bilberries are delicious too with so many medicinal properties, but as the season is over you need to rely on those you have dried or substitute with shop-bought organic blueberries. Rosehips add vitamins but the seeds should be carefully scraped out and the hulls washed to remove any irritating hairs before cooking them. I often add a few tablespoons of elderberry pontack (a homemade elderberry ‘brown sauce’) to develop a rich flavour. In Chinese medicine goji berries, red, black and honey dates are added.
Soup wouldn’t be soup without some seaweed added too. We’re entering seaweed spring again and you can still harvest seaweeds now on a daytime low tide. Seaweed is not only a key flavour ingredient but keeps our thyroid gland healthy - especially as our T3/T4 hormone conversion slows down in the winter months expecting us to be slowing down and semi-hibernating! Any seaweed that you like the taste of can go into the pot. My current favourite is applewood smoked dulse.
Here's an example of how to make a delicious wild broth with the last of the fungi as it starts to yield to the frost. I also like to add a few Hungarian-style noodles to add a bit of bite to a clear soup and help to fill the stomach. Every culture has their own: spätzle, gnocchi, dumplings, but these are light and not stodgy.
Cauliflower fungus broth with nettle seed nokedli
Any mushrooms will do (as long as they’re edible ones) but cauliflower fungus is a particular favourite.
1 kg of mixed fresh fungi*
1 large onion
1 large leek
4 cloves of garlic
2 large carrots/parsnips**
1 handful herbs***
1 long length of dried oarweed kelp
1 tbsp dried porcini powder
20g unsalted butter
20g coconut oil
Salt, pepper, etcetera
*The last lot of fungi I used were chanterelles, false saffron milkcaps, winter chanterelles and deceivers.
**You can add wild roots like dandelion or burdock
***Last time I used bay leaves, bog myrtle, mugwort, thyme and hogweed leaf.
For the nokedli
75g organic flour
25g nettle seed
2 tsp salt
Fry the onion, leek, garlic in half of the butter and coconut oil. When softened transfer to a large stock pan. Repeat and fry the roughly chopped fungi until slightly caramelised and add to the pan.
Pour on 3 litres of water and add all the other ingredients except the salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour or two if you have the time.
Strain through a very fine sieve lined with a muslin cloth. Draw the edges of the cloth together to make a bag and keep in place with a rubber band. Suspend the bag until all the liquid has come out.
Refrigerate until the fat sets on the top and then lift it out.
To use this mushroom stock as a soup, heat it through and season it. While it is heating fry a few special finds like hen of the woods or cauliflower fungus (or any shop mushrooms) in large, interesting shapes and set to one side, keeping warm.
Now make the nokedli. Mix the flour and nettle seeds in a bowl. Break the eggs into the bowl and mix all vigorously together until you have a smooth lump of pliable dough.
As the stock starts to simmer, place a nokedli grater (or large holed colander) over the pan. Put the dough on top. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, push the dough through the holes and into the stock. Stir the pan to prevent any clumping together on the bottom.
Simmer for 3 minutes. Now season the broth with salt and pepper. (This is done at the end so that salt from the kelp and nokedli don't make you oversalt the soup.)
Ladle into warm bowls and add a spoonful of the dried mushrooms. Enjoy.
Keep warm when you’re out looking for late season fungi, roots and berries and don’t forget that the clocks go back on Sunday!!
And if you make the soup, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram - would love to see what you get up to, or leave a comment below.
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