Candied Alexander Stems

Candied Alexanders

I love Alexanders – smyrnium olusatrum. They are one of my favourite spring foragables. Driving around the countryside here on the Isle of Wight they suddenly pop up, lining the streets of parts of the Island from early March. We use the thin stems for a sautéed snack or side, the thicker stems for candying, make a syrup for drinks and cocktails, eat the florets steamed like you would broccoli, or pickled in vinegar. Later in the year we collect the seeds to use with pepper too.  I know people use the roots and leaves too, but we haven’t gone that far yet. Continue reading “Candied Alexander Stems”

Dandelion Pops

We love dandelions, and this time of year, they are plentiful. We pick them to make Dandelion Pesto and Dandelion Fritters, and I’m currently brewing my first batch of dandelion wine too. But our favourite thing to do with dandelions is to tempura them, or as my children call it ‘Dandelion Popcorn’ – little balls of fried dandelions.

dandelion popsA few things to note about about picking dandelions:

  1. Pick dandelions in full sun, so that they are wide open. In the morning and evening they will be closed.
  2. Cook them as soon as you can. They begin closing up as soon as they are picked, so getting them in batter quickly is preferred.
  3. There are little black bugs that live in dandelions, so make sure you rinse them and leave them a little while to give the bugs chance to escape.Sweet dandelion pops

Some tips on tempura batter:

  1. Different recipes call for different ingredients, obviously, but the important thing is making sure your water is as cold as possible.
  2. I think it works best with sparkling water, but normal water works well too – so long as it’s cold.
  3. Once you start dipping the dandelion heads work quickly. It’s worth having the batter in two bowls so that you can dip a batch, and have the other bowl in the freezer, then swap the bowls over before you start dipping again. The colder the batter, the less oil the dandelion takes on.  washed dandelions

You will need:

  • 85g of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 200ml icy cold sparkling water

Wash the dandelions and leave set aside to drive so as to keep the fried batter crispy.

Add the flour, salt and sugar to a bowl.

Pour in the sparkling water and mix till just combined. If you over mix you push out all the air bubbles, but you also increase the gluten content, so don’t over mix.

(In the Thermomix®, add all the ingredients and mix 20 seconds speed 4).

Split the batter between two bowls, and leave them in the freezer or fridge.

Heat the oil. Take a bowl from the freezer. Hold the dandelion by the green part, and dip it lightly in the batter, making sure to cover everything. Drop the dandelion into the hot oil and fry for 1 – 2 minutes, till a golden brown.

Remove to a bowl with absorbent towel or draining board and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Alternatively with icing sugar and lemon juice.

Enjoy while still warm and fresh.

Strawberries in Cardamom or Vanilla Syrup

Strawberries in syrupWhile I use frozen fruit, it’s not a favourite as I don’t always like the consistency once it defrosts. A great way to save fruit for the winter months is by freezing it though, so rather than just saving as is, I’ve made strawberries to freeze in a syrup, so that when they are defrosted, you have a ready made desert to have on yoghurt, as is, on a cheesecake or on ice cream if you’re so inclined.

Add a flavouring of your choice to infuse for a whole flavour sensation.

You can use them later in the summer on ice cream, or eat them as is. Or save them for the festive season to fill up a glass of fizz – or to bring a sweet pleasant surprise to lemonade in the summer. I’m sure you’ll find a way to enjoy the strawberries in flavoured syrup.

Strawberries in Cardamom or Vanilla Syrup
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The amount of strawberries depend on the size of your container and the strawberries themselves. I used two 500ml kilner jars, and didn't overfill them although I could probably have put a few more strawberries in each jar. You need to put enough syrup in that the strawberries are covered. I have chosen cardamom pods and vanilla pods for the two jars, but you can use anything you like - orange peel, liquer, whatever takes your fancy.
Recipe type: Desert, Snack
Cuisine: Foraged, Make Ahead, Freezer
Serves: 700ml
  • 700g water
  • 140g sugar
  • Flavouring: cardamom/vanilla etc
  • 1 punnet of strawberries
In the thermomix
  1. Add the water and sugar
  2. Boil Veroma/Speed 1/ 10 mins
  3. Leave to cool completely
  4. Fill containers with fresh strawberries and pour the cool syrup over it and add the flavours.
  5. Place in the freezer, giving it time to naturally defrost when you want to use it.
Regular cooking
  1. Add the water and sugar
  2. Bring to the boil for 10 mins
  3. Leave to cool completely
  4. Fill containers with fresh strawberries and pour the cool syrup over it and add the flavours.
  5. Place in the freezer, giving it time to naturally defrost when you want to use it.


Dandelion Fritters

20130504-184301.jpgI do so love Dandelions. Not only do they bring with them the promise of spring, of sunshine and of warmer weather, but they also provide a wonderful opportunity for getting outdoor with little people. My daughters love picking dandelions and ask if we can as soon as the sun peeks out in spring. We pop some water in the freezer, head out for an hour or so to pick dandelions, then come home and make fritters for dinner.

You can have them savoury with salt and pepper, and sweet, with lemon and sugar. Hold your dandelion by the green bit and eat the yellow, as you would with a strawberry. There’s nothing wrong with the green bit, it’s just a bit bitter.


Dandelions don’t keep very long, so you need to cook them as soon as you get home. Once fried, eat them immediately.

Dandelions are high in loads of vitamins. Just for interest sake, a cup of dandelions contains:

Vitamin A 112%,

Vitamin C 32%,

Vitamin E

Vitamin K 535% of your daily requirements. So they’re pretty healthy, and a great way of getting good vitamins into yourself and children.



Dandelion Fritters
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My children and I love foraging for Dandelions! It's such a fun afternoon's activity, involving them in and leading to dinner. Pop some water in the freezer before you go out, pick just what you'll eat, pick at the flower as you don't need the whole stem, and don't eat much of the green bit (it's bitter). Always soak dandelions in salted water for a while to get the bugs out and use the coldest water you can to make the batter.
Recipe type: Foraged Food, Fried
  • 10 -15 Dandelion flowers per person trimmed so that there’s no bitter stalk, and washed
  • 1 medium egg
  • 225ml ice-cold water
  • 100g plain flour
  • Optional extras:
  • Lemon juice
  • Icing sugar
  • Mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Beat the egg in a bowl and add the iced water. The water must be as cold as possible, as this prevents the batter from absorbing too much oil, keeping it light and crispy.
  2. Lightly mix in the flour with a fork and beat gently. Don’t worry too much about lumps.
  3. Dip the dandelions in the batter, and drop in hot oil. The oil should ideally be at 180C/350F for cooking dandelions; if the dandelions sink to the bottom of the oil, the temperature is too high.
  4. Fry till golden brown, then remove and place on paper towel
  5. For a sweet treat, drizzle lemon juice over, then dip in icing sugar. For a salty treat, dip in mustard, or our favourite, sprinkle over salt and pepper and enjoy!

Reposted from Diary of a First Child