Feature

Cooking with weeds

G Magazine

Rather than hurling weeds on the compost heap, here's how to put some of them to use in tasty country-style recipes.

fennel-story

Wild fennel fritters.

Credit: Photos by Mark Roper

pie-story

Wild weeds pie.

Credit: Photos by Mark Roper

Rosa's-Farm

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Wild fennel fritters

Serves 6

2 bunches wild fennel
150 g (1 cup) self raising flour
100 g (¾ cup) grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic in oil
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf
(Italian) parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125 ml (½ cup) olive oil

Wash the fennel in salted water to remove any dirt. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the fennel and cook until the stalks are tender — the cooking time will vary depending on how young and tender the fennel is. Drain well and when cool, finely chop the fennel and place in a large bowl.
Add the flour, cheese, garlic and parsley to the fennel and mix well to combine. Add the eggs, season with salt and pepper and stir well — if the mixture is too dry, add a little water; if it is too wet, add a little flour — it should be the consistency of a thick cake batter.
Heat enough oil to cover the base of a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add spoonfuls of the mixture to the pan, in batches, and cook until golden underneath.
Turn over and flatten slightly with the back of a fork and continue cooking the other side until golden. Repeat with more oil and the remaining fritter mixture until all are cooked. Serve immediately.

NOTE: If you can’t get your hands on any wild fennel, use regular fennel bulbs cut into small dices. You will need to boil them until tender, drain well, and continue to follow the method steps above to make fennel fritters. It is also very nice to use a combination of the two.

Wild weeds pie

Serves 6-8

Dough:
30 g fresh yeast or 1 tbsp dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
700 g (4 2⁄3 cups) unbleached plain (allpurpose) flour or Italian pizza flour
2–3 tsp salt
100 ml olive oil

Wild weed filling:
1 bunch stinging nettles
1 bunch wild chicory
1 bunch Cavolicelli (a form of wild broccoli rabe)
125 ml (½ cup) olive oil, plus extra, for greasing and brushing
1 red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp garlic in oil

To make the dough, put the yeast in a bowl with 185 ml (¾ cup) water and add the sugar. Stir until the yeast dissolves, then cover and leave in a warm place for 10–15 minutes, or until the yeast is frothy. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture, olive oil and another ¾ cup water and mix together until combined.
Roll into a ball and place in a bowl with a clean wet tea towel over the top. Leave in a warm place for 1½ hours, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, prepare the wild weed filling.
Trim and chop the green leaves separately. Cook the weeds, in separate batches, in a saucepan of boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, then squeeze to extract any excess moisture. Place in a bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Lightly grease a large flat oven tray, about 30 x 40 cm or similar. Heat the olive oil
in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it just starts to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the combined greens, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Divide the dough in half. Roll out one half of the dough on a lightly floured work surface to make a rectangle to fit the tray, about one cm (½ inch) thick, using your fingers to spread the dough to the edges of the tray.
Spoon the greens evenly over the dough, leaving a 2.5 cm (one inch) border around the edges. Roll out the remaining dough to make a rectangle large enough to make a ‘lid’ to cover the greens, about one cm thick. Place over the greens and pinch to seal the edges and enclose the filling, making sure there are no holes
for the steam to escape. Brush the top
with a little extra olive oil and bake in the oven for 1–1¼ hours, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving. This dish can be served hot or cold.

NOTE: If you can’t find any wild weeds to use, substitute with one bunch each of broccoli rabe, silverbeet and chicory.

To learn how to forage for a range of edible weeds, click here.

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Recipes and images from Rosa’s Farm by Rosa Mitchell, published by Murdoch Books, $49.99.