Thanks to citygardener‘s recent post I‘ve realised that the plants which grow as weeds all over our garden are purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and are edible.
Richard Mabey in Food for Free and Roger Phillips in Wild Food mention sea purslane. The variety which grows in our garden must be related to this, but it doesn‘t need damp conditions. In fact, it grows everywhere, whether on parts of the plot that we water or on dry paths and uncultivated areas.
I made a salad of the leaves, salt and pepper, lime juice, olive oil and some pieces of roquefort. The purslane leaves don‘t have a lot of flavour, but provide a nice crunchy texture with the tangy cheese.
I‘ve always loved dolmas (stuffed vine leaves) ever since I lived in Turkey, and I‘ve made them with packets or jars of vine leaves. Here, where we‘re surrounded by vines, it seems ridiculous to buy the leaves, so I decided to try making dolmas with fresh leaves. I used wild ones which grow near the garden and picked the younger, fresher-looking ones.
(quantities depend on how many leaves you have and how big they are)
salt and pepper
raisins or currants
juniper berries (I used these because I like the flavour, but you can season the dolmas with parsley, dill, cumin, paprika or a mix of these spices and herbs)
Put the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. Some recipes say you should cut the stem off first, but I find that leaving the stem on makes it easier to handle them once they‘re cooked and tend to stick together.
Heat a cupful of rice in olive oil in a pan then cover the rice with water and add salt, bring the water to the boil and let it simmer for a couple of minutes then turn the heat off. The rice shouldn‘t be completely cooked as it will cook in the vine leaves.
In another pan sauté the chopped onion in olive oil, trying not let it brown, then add a tablespoonful of pine kernels and one of raisins and about a dozen chopped juniper berries. Mix these with the rice.
Cut the stems off the leaves, and remove the central vein if it seems tough. Put a spoonful of the rice mixture in the centre of each leaf and roll them up into parcels. Arrange them tightly in a pan, put a saucer or plate over them to keep them in place, and add enough water to cover them. Add some lemon juice and some white wine, too, if you like.
Simmer them gently for about 50 minutes and leave to cool. Remove carefully from the pan, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve as a meze or one of a selection of hors d‘oeuvres.
You can also make them with minced lamb – just add the lamb to the rice mixture. If you have any of the rice mixture left over it can be used to stuff peppers or tomatoes.