Think Hackney and think 'deprived' borough and grimness. But like Haringey, Hackney has an amazing richness of food shops and an equally amazing range of green spaces.
And it was to one of those that myself and other food foragers adjourned to a couple of Saturdays ago. The Castle on Green Lanes is an old water tower. These days, it is one of Britain's best indoor climbing centres. Behind it, the old reservoir is now a sailing club and there is a nice little country path running around one side of it.
Along this path, one will find all manner of wild goodies. Purple clover is in season right now. Infused in boiling water, it makes a very pleasant tea. We also found horse radish and wild wheat.
"This was has contained a lot of firsts" exclaimed one of the walkers. Madam, I concur. I ran winter survival courses summer edible plant walks for young people for almost 30 years, yet along this path I was finding all manner of new goodies.
One of the very nicest was Jack by The Hedge (above). Also known as Garlic Mustard because it has a garlic flavour with just a hint of mustard type heat, this plant grows in abundanc
e along pathways like this. And as it was so nice, I decided to return a few days later to pick enough to make a meal of. And here it is.
Jack By The Hedge Pasta for 1
1 Cup of Penne Pasta
1/2 Cup of Sweetcorn (Frozen is fine)
About 25 Jack by The Hedge Leaves
A good handful of 'Tom Berries' or small cherry tomatoes.
Tablespoon of grated strong cheddar
Now, just for information, a Tom Berry is something I found in a local supermarket. They are a very small cherry tomato, not much larger than a pea as the picture below shows.
So, anways, boil the pasta and while thats happening, finely chop the Jack by the Hedge and then put it into a bowl or pestle and mortar and give it a good pounding to bring the flavour out. Pour over a bit of oil and leave it to infuse. When the pasta is half way done, throw in the sweetcorn if its frozen. If it is not, then leave it until the pasta is almost done.
When cooked drain, rinse in hot water and pop back in the pan. Add in the Jack by the Hedge, cheese, tomatoes and then season to taste. At this point too, some more oil might be needed.
The end result is a really nice lunch dish with a nice feel from the pasta and cheese with little sweet bursts from the tomatoes and sweetcorn being neatly countered by a delicate flavour from the Jack by The Hedge. Very nice indeed!