Hogweed blankets (Or how to candy seville oranges)

Hogweed seeds are (at least in my opinion) our most incredible of native wild spices. Redolent of cardamom and coriander seed with a mandarin kick, they have a unique flavour that is simply sublime. You can harvest the seeds when green and dry them in the dehydrator (in which case they remain green) or pick them already dry in the wild.

 

The difference in flavour between dried from green or picked when matured is not huge, but I prefer the former as I think the flavour is more bright somehow. I have used it to make apple and hogweed seed fruit pastilles, used them to hot smoke pigeon breast, in my wild spiced plum ketchup, and even in shortbreads, biscuits and cakes.

 

There is a very big caveat with hogweed seeds though and that is that you must be 100% sure of your Identification before trying to eat it. This is because it is a member of the apiaceae (formerly umbelliferai) family and a wrong ID, for example confusing common hogweed for giant hogweed or worse yet, hemlock, could lead to your throat swelling shut in the case of the first or death in the case of the second. So get yourself a good ID book, come on a wild food walk or find yourself a friend who knows their stuff! Finding some seeds at this time of the year is difficult but not impossible. It would be easier if you already had some of the seeds sitting around in your pantry from earlier in the year! If you don’t have any, just leave them out.

 

In this blog post, I share with you my recipe for hogweed seed spiced seville oranges in syrup. These are really amazing and your window for finding seville oranges is short so don’t leave it too late! Seville oranges are a bitter food and bitters are amazing for kick-starting your digestive system.

 

I love serving these little candies with pancakes at breakfast, sliced and dolloped up on top of Greek yoghurt or on ice cream sundaes. You could even be uber decadent and dip them in chocolate!

 

Just spread them out on a tray and pop in the dehydrator to dry them up before you do this or it won’t work properly!

Hogweed Seed Spiced Candied Seville Oranges

1kg Seville Oranges

1kg granulated sugar

1tsp powdered, dried hogweed seeds*

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup water

The first thing you need to do after washing the oranges and drying is to get all of the zest off.

 

The fastest way to do this is with a microplane ribbon grater. If you don’t have one of those, use a fine grater instead or, at a pinch, a zester. A zester would take you forever though so be warned! Set the zest aside.

 

Wash the oranges again and using a sharp knife, score into the skins, dividing each orange into 6 segments, trying hard not to cut into the flesh itself. You want to then peel off the peels, leaving the oranges behind. Each orange should yield you 4 to 6 pieces that are about 1.5 inches wide in the middle.

 

Set your orange flesh to one side.

 

Place your peels into a pot, cover with water and simmer for 10 minutes to soften. They will float initially but don’t worry!

 

Drain the water, replace it with fresh, and leave them to sit overnight. They will have sunk and become more orange in colour.

 

Early the next morning, change the water again and then one last time a few hours later. The point of all this is to reduce the bitterness to a palatable level!

Then comes the fun part. Find yourself some strong cotton thread and put it next to your chopping board. Fish out your peels one by one and, holding them in your hand, make a fist and squeeze out as much water as you can. Be firm but gentle or they will break up.

 

Then roll them up as tightly as you can into a cigar shape. Using your cotton, wrap them up twice and tie them in the middle with two knots to stop them from unravelling. It is easiest to tie them one by one on short pieces of thread than it is to do many on long ones. If you’re pressed for time just skip the rolling! They won’t be as pretty but they’ll still taste just as good!

 

Put all of your gorgeously rolled up peels into a snug fitting pot and add your sugar, hogweed seeds and 1 cup of water. Leave it to sit overnight until the sugar has melted.

 

Place your pot onto the stove and cook on a low heat, letting your lovely syrup bubble up around the orange peels. After about 1 hour, the syrup should be thick (to test for this, drop a bit onto a chilled spoon and see how it behaves when cooled).

 

Scoop out your peels and cut off your threads. Pop them back into the syrup, add your lemon juice and boil for a few minutes more. Put them into clean, sterilised jars, pour over your hot syrup then seal your jars. Provided you have sterilised all your equipment properly, the jars should keep indefinitely unopened. Once opened, store in the fridge to be on the safe side. That having been said, I only just emptied the last jar of this that I made and it was sat in my pantry, having been opened 2 years ago and it was fine. There is a LOT of sugar in the syrup!

 

And remember all that zest and orange flesh I told you to keep aside earlier? Well…that was so you could make posset:

 

Seville Orange Posset

(Serves 8)

600ml double cream
200g sugar
2tbsp of grated Seville orange zest**

225ml Seville orange juice**.

8tbsp or so chocolate ganache (1/4 of my recipe here thinned down with a bit more cream)

 

Put your zest and juice into a jug and blend with a stick blender for about 1 minute and set aside. I juiced my oranges by removing all the pips by hand before feeding the flesh through my masticating juicer. Don’t throw your pips and juiced flesh away! Use it to make fruit pastilles and Jaffa cakes! The recipe is in my next post.

Pour about 1tbsp (or more) chocolate ganache into the bottom of 8 little glasses.

Bring the sugar and cream to the boil and boil for 3 minutes. Whisk in your zest and juice and stir for about a minute. Pour your posset into a jug through a sieve to remove the zest and squeeze out the liquid. Using a funnel to reduce the drop, carefully pour the posset into your little glassses. If you don’t use the funnel, you’ll end up with the posset melting the ganache and disrupting your pretty layers. Leave for 5 minutes to partially set before sprinkling your zest on top. Allow to cool completely then chill in the fridge overnight.

To serve, thinly slice your candied orange peel, dip in chocolate and artfully arrange over the top.

 

If you want to be extra decadent, serve with a couple of langues de chat biscuits on the side.

*If your hogweed seeds have not ground up into a reasonably fine powder, you will have to strain your syrup as chewing hard bits of hogweed seeds is no fun. Be sure to have sterilised your fine mesh strainer and all equipment with boiling water beforehand.

**Freeze the rest in portions ready for making more posset! or maybe curd…

Muhaimina Said-Allsopp