The Taste Canada Awards nominated Urban Homesteading Cookbook is an invaluable guide for anyone seeking ethical and sustainable urban food sources. Here are two great recipes from the book, plus some handy strategies for urban gardeners:
A dwarf fig tree makes an excellent patio container food plant, if you’re lucky enough to have enough room and sunlight for one. If not, be like me and make friends with someone with a fig tree. My hilarious friend Sharon Hanna (the “Queen of Kale” and author of The Book of Kale) has a beautiful food garden on her urban lot, complete with several fruit trees. I picked her figs at the height of ripeness and we ate them with fresh goat cheese in the sunshine. Luckily, there were more than enough for me to take some home, so I also made fig clafoutis with some foraged fennel for brunch. Always a big hit when served to guests, you can also use dried figs for this recipe, so pick a bunch in season or purchase some from a local grower to dry for use throughout the year.
FIG & FENNEL CLAFOUTIS
½ cup (120 mL) finely chopped almonds
20 figs, fresh or dried
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon zest
½ cup (120 mL) sugar
¾ cup (180 mL) heavy cream
¾ cup (180 mL) whole milk
¼ tsp (1 mL) almond extract
6 Tbsp (90 mL) flour
Pinch of salt
3 Tbsp (45 mL) butter
¼ cup (60 mL) honey
¼ cup (60 mL) finely chopped fresh fennel leaves
Sour cream for garnish
2–3 fennel flower heads for garnish, if available
- Toast the almonds on a baking tray under the broiler for a couple of minutes—watch to ensure they don’t burn. Preheat the oven to 400F (205C).
- Cut the stems off the figs and quarter them lengthwise. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Set aside.
- In a bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy, then whisk in lemon zest, sugar, cream, milk and almond extract. Add the flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Let rest 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Melt butter with honey and vanilla seeds and pod. Add the figs and fennel leaves. Stir to coat figs and mix in fennel. Cook for a couple of minutes until the figs start to soften. Remove the vanilla pod.
- Pour the batter over the figs and fennel, sprinkle toasted almonds on top, and place the skillet in the oven. Bake about 30 to 40 minutes, until golden and the centre doesn’t jiggle when you move the pan.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream on each piece, sprinkled with fennel flower pollen.
The perfect accompaniment? A refreshing shrub.
What better strategy to deal with two very invasive but delicious weeds—blackberry
and mint—than by drinking them in this delicious way? Any mint can be
used—field mint, spearmint or even lemon balm. When the blackberries are
ripe in high summer, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a cool, refreshing shrub cocktail
in the sunshine. You’ll need raw vinegar because the live culture in it is required
to further ferment the fruits and sugars to make the shrub. If you don’t have
homemade vinegar, purchase raw apple cider vinegar. This shrub will continue
to ferment slowly in a Mason jar on the countertop for several weeks, or will keep
in the fridge for months. To enjoy as a cocktail, mix two ounces (60 mL) shrub
with one ounce (30 mL) spirit and top up your glass with sparkling water. Or skip
the alcohol for a refreshing summer soda.
HIMALAYAN BLACKBERRY, MINT & PEPPER SHRUB
1 cup (250 mL) mint (or lemon balm)
2 cups (475 mL) blackberries
2 cups (475 mL) cane sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) peppercorns
2 cups (475 mL) IPA Beer
Vinegar, recipe on page 230
(or substitute raw apple cider vinegar)
- Muddle the mint in a large Mason jar with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add the blackberries, crush and cover with sugar. Leave the jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours or up to 48.
- Add vinegar and pepper, and mix to dissolve the sugar. Seal the top with a lid, and let sit for a week at room temperature.
- After 1 week, strain out the solid ingredients. At this point, you can start making beverages with your shrub, or let it sit for another week to let the fermentation add more complexity of flavour.
MAKES 2 CUPS (475 ML)