Wild Food Lab is a collaboration between Transitional Gastronomy and Urban Outdoor Skills.
We forage what's available seasonally and then both research and test how each ingredient was used in the past, as well as experiment and create new methods and means of utilizing these wild ingredients.
The result is wild cuisine that's interpreted for today's palate with a modern culinary perspective.
From the top: Pooni rice, Urad Dal (lentils) and Methi Seeds (Fenugreek)
Wash and soak 2 cups rice and 1 cup dal for 6 hours until swollen.
The idli are made with soaked and fermented (about 10 hours) rice and lentils - frothy and foamy after fermenting.
I don't have an idli pan, so I am doing a workaround and steaming them this way.
A steamy, soft idli, some HOT watercress and wild spicy mustard leaf chutney and cooling raita.
This is my garam masala mix to which I added cattail pollen in lieu of tumeric.
My Indian pantry.
Toasting or frying the seeds and spices before you grind is a must.
Voila - my garam masala mix. VERY pungeant, so store away from other spices.
The base for this dish: foraged and pantry items.
De-stemmed curly dock and yams for this vegetarian curry.
My curry basics: ginger, onion, garlic and my masala.
Frying the curry base all together.
Next, in goes the curly dock.
Coating the curly dock with the curry base and wilting them.
Cocnut milk to make this curry rich.
Simmered for about 20 min and a final addition of toasted mustard seeds.
I blended the curry in my food processor for silky texture.
Spicy chutney base: foraged chickweed, watercress and spicy mustard leaves. I added corriander and jalepeno.
A quick raita with yogurt, cucumber, ground corriander and cumin and lemon juice.
A South Indian-esque style breakfast of idli and accompaniments.
One-bite-wonder: idli, watercress, chickweed and spicy mustard chutney, curly dock masala and raita.
The naturally, lemony curly dock pairs well with the sweet yams. This was deelish.
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Curly Dock Masala & Wild Watercress, Chickweed and
Spicy Mustard Leaf Chutney
Pascal and I took a trip to India's Sweets & Spices to find a little inspiration for this weekend's project. I have made two wild food curries, so far: Curly Dock Paneer and a Thai-inspired Kari Curry with Cattail Pollen. I really wanted to make a simple, vegetarian, "go-to" curry, as it works so well with curly dock. And since we have it so abundantly around here - double bonus! Thank you, Bou Bou for foraging the curly dock (just rained, didn't want to ruin shoes, LOL).
To me, curly dock has an almost citrus-y, green flavor and can be a little bitter, but in a good way. It also turns a little brown-ish when cooked, so making a curry with it is pretty much one of the best applications I've experimented with yet. I chose to pair some yams with this curry as the yams are a nice, sweet contrast to the slight tartness of the curly dock.
I'm also intrigued with Indian "breads" that don't use wheat or yeast but chickpea, lentil and rice flours. I waffled between making a dosa (crepe) or some idli (more of a cake) and settled on the idli because I love the spongy, puffy, light texture so much. Plus they do an amazing job of soaking up any curry.
As is our usual fashion, Pascal and I love to take something we've never made and reverse engineer it and the more steps and difficulty level, the better! (Food. Geeks.) The idli was by no means easy for someone who's never done it before, but I'm sure the average Indian cook can do this in her sleep. Let's start there - with the idli. You need a few days to do this, be warned. This is SLOW food - not hurry curry.
Here are the components of this dish:
1. Curly Dock Masala
3. Watercress, Chickweed, Spicy Mustard Leaf Chutney
1 cup medium graned rice (I used Sona Pooni), washed and then parboiled or partially cooked
1 cup medium grained rice washed and soaked for about 6 hours
1 cup Urad Dal (traditional for this) washed and soaked for about 6 hours
1-2 teaspoons Methi (fenugreek) seeds, soaked with the dal for 6 hours.
In a food processor (or wet grinder if you are lucky to have one), process the soaked dal and methi seeds with a little of the soaking liquid until it is slightly frothy and has the consistency of a smoothie. About 10 min. Reserve in a bowl.
Next process the partially cooked and the soaked rice with soaking liquid until it has the same consistency as the dal. About 10 min in processor. Add to the bowl. With your hands, mix this very well - should look like pancake batter.
Cover with a clean dish towell and stick this in the oven and turn the light on. The light should give off enough heat (about 80-85F). Leave this in there to ferment for 8-12 hours - until you see the frothy bubbles - there is no yeast, but it does ferment, somehow. Then add salt, combine again and pour into well greased molds for steaming for about 10 minutes. Little puffs of slightly tart (the fermentation, think Indian sourdough bread) goodness.
Curly Dock Masala
Last week, I made a garam masala (spice blend) from scratch, so I wanted to use it here. It contained (more or less):
Mia's Garam Masala
Toast EVERYTHING in a dry pan before you grind this. It's so worth it. Don't be afraid to make this your own and add spices or change proportions.
Finely chop carlic, ginger, onion and if you'd like, a chili and sautee with cooking oil and a few healping tablespoons of your masala mix until evenly covered and transluscent. Make sure to add salt to taste. Then add the washed and de-stemmed curly dock and "wilt" and coat it with the spice and aromatics mixture. You will notice the bright green change to a khaki color.
I then added about a cup about a cup of coconut milk to the curly dock and spices and let this simmer for 20-25 minutes. After it cooled slightly, I blended until smooth and silky. Then add your steamed or boiled yams chunks for pops of chunky sweetness. Use the idli to sop it up! I garnished with watercress, cilantro and...the wild chutney!
Wild spicy mustard, chickweed and watercress chutney
I saved the best for last. This is a really outstanding sauce that I think I'm going to use on everything, like ketchup, only wilder - and freshly foraged.
1 cup watercress leaves (can use stems if tender enough)
1 cup tender chickweed
1 giant spicy mustard leaf (or several medium sized ones if that's what you find)
1/2 cup cilantro
About 1/4 cup raw onion (red would be nice)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar and a little water to thin it out if necessary
I used my food processor again here (my bestie). So vibrant and green and POW! ZING! BAM! Your tongue doesn't know what to do - the wasabi punch from out of no where, then the peppery rush of the watercress and the green sweetness from the chickweed. Wow. Just wow. All together, this vibrant chutney, with the silky curly dock curry with coconut milk and the puffy, fermented pillows of idli. It was another excellent weekend and wild food adventure. I soooo heart food.