I picked a load of chickweed (stellaria media) after I took all the pictures for this post on the 52 Week Salad Challenge.
It’s a very versatile ingredient. When at its peak like this it can be easily eaten raw and is also great cooked. As the plant gets older it can get a bit tougher, so strip off the leaves and steam them or sauté in some butter or oil.
I used my bounty in two ways. First, it was an ingredient for some deliciously moreish and spicy pakora. Second, I used it in a simple carrot salad dressed with hot kalonji seeds in oil. I served these with some fried, spiced mackerel for a simple curry feast.
Do you fancy having a go at this? Read on…
Chickweed Pakora Recipe
I based my approach to this recipe on the River Cottage recipe as explained on the Wild Thyme blog. I wanted to use my own spices rather than a bought curry powder and I thought it needed a bit of lemon juice for flavour.
They are great finger food. You could easily use them dipped in yoghurt or chilli jam for a snack or starter.
It uses gram flour which is made from small ground chickpeas. It’s also known as Besan flour. It’s available in many shops and online from Dove’s Farm.
I used the spices I fancied. You can use bought curry powder or your own preferred mix of spices.
This quantity makes about 10-12 pakora of about 6-8cm. It’s best if you use a good non-stick or well seasoned frying pan.
150g gram flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
100g chickweed, washed and roughly chopped (about 2 handfuls)
1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced (I used a mandolin)
1 lemon juiced
A small amount of water
Sift your flour, spices and baking powder into a bowl and make sure everything is well mixed.
Add the chickweed and onions and mix well. Add the lemon juice and enough water so the batter just coheres.
Heat a little oil in the frying pan over a medium heat.
Use a spoon and spatula to pick up about a tablespoon’s worth of batter and roughly mould it on the spatula into a sort of round. Drop the round gently into the frying pan. Do this until the pan is not quite full.
Fry the pakora until it’s nice a brown on one side (about 2-3 minutes) then turn over and cook the other side. Pop the cooked pakora on some kitchen paper while you make the next batch.
Hot dressed chickweed, carrot and kalonji salad recipe
This salad is simplicity itself. You have the deep green of the chickweed contrasting with the vibrant orange of the carrots and deep black kalonji seeds.
Kalonji is the hindu/urdu word for the seeds of the plant Nigella Sativa plant. It’s not the nigella plant many people have in their gardens and it’s not onion seed either. You’ll find it in shops with a good spice range or you can buy it like I did online.
About 50g chickweed, washed and roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, scrubbed, topped & tailed and coarsely grated
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 tbsp kalonji seeds
1/2 orange, juiced
Sea salt to taste
Mix the chickweed and grated carrot in a salad bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan until just smoking. Add the kalonji seeds and mix through the oil until they pop. This will happen very quickly, don’t overcook or burn them.
Tip the seeds and hot oil over the salad, pour over the orange juice and season to taste with salt. Toss the salad and tuck in. It’s really that simple.
I hope you like the recipes. Please do have a go and appreciate the free bounty of chickweed. Let me know how you get on in the comments.