Happy New Year, everyone! This year, one of my resolutions is to keep a nature journal to make me even more mindful of the seasons as they are passing, and to record some of my seasonal recipes that don’t make it here. January can seem so bare, but if you look around there is still life: bare branches and bright berries, and of course evergreens that subsist in the darkest days of the year. In terms of foraging there’s very little for eating, but recently I came across a recipe for Douglas Fir chocolate pots in Fiona Bird’s fantastic The Forager’s Kitchen. We searched high and low but weren’t able to find any Douglas Fir wild in Edinburgh (if you know of any, let me know!) but made do with some Scots Pine. If you follow this recipe, make sure you forage somewhere with clean air, not next to busy roads, and have a positive identification of your tree! I wouldn’t use fir from a florist or Christmas tree seller unless you know for sure it’s not been treated with any chemical nasties. Note: the branches pictured in these shots aren’t the ones I used – these were just for prop purposes. I’ve tried pine-infused cocktails and savoury foods before but was keen to give a pudding a go too, and wasn’t disappointed. It gives a subtle, aromatic note to these chocolate pots, while the biscuits, made with pine sugar, have a faintly earthy flavour that goes well with them. To make the chocolate pots, you will need:
300ml double cream
100g good quality chocolate
A small handful of pine needles, cleaned
4 tsps pine sugar (instructions below), made with 75g caster sugar (to make enough for the biscuits too) and a large handful of pine needles (instructions on how to make the pine sugar below).
First, infuse the cream with the pine needles. Heat together in a medium-sized pan until almost boiling, then set aside to cool and infuse for as long as you can, ideally the day before.
Next, prepare the pine sugar – the further ahead you do this, the longer the flavours will have to develop. Trim the brown ends off the needles then blitz in a blender with the caster sugar until the needles have begun to breakdown and release their oils.
You should be left with a fine, green-tinged sugar flecked with little bits. Sieve the sugar to get rid of the tough, fibrous parts of the needles and set aside.
When you’re ready to make the chocolate pots, remove the needles from the pine-infused cream and add the pine sugar.
Whip until you reach soft peak stage.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a pan of gently simmering water. Allow to cool slightly before you add to the cream mixture and fold through until well combined.
Pour into the receptacles you will serve your pudding in and pop in the fridge to set. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. You will need:
1oog butter, softened
50g pine sugar (see above)
150g self-raising flour.
Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C Fan/ Gas 4 and grease and line two baking trays. Measure the butter in a bowl and beat to soften.
Add the sugar then beat until light and fluffy.
Add the flour a little at a time, and beat until the mixture starts to come together as a dough (you could also do this by hand, but it’s really quick in the mixer).
Roll the mixture into small balls and place on the prepared trays. Space well apart and use a fork dipped in a little water to flatten the biscuits.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until pale golden, then cool on a wire rack.
Serve alongside the chocolate pots sprinkled with a little more pine sugar.
What are you making this New Year? Have you cooked with pine needles before?
Chocolate pine pot recipe adapted from Fiona Bird, biscuits adapted from Mary Berry. My new Observer Book and copper glasses both presents from Al, the latter via my fave Art and Vintage.