Tuesday 3 September 2013

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Taraxacum officinale are beautiful wild flowers, laden in pollen (I remember a spring in the mountains when everything was covered in yellow "dust" as dandelions all came into flower) and last year, after reading about someone having the largest botanic collection of them, I started noticing the different leaf shapes... I even considered devoting them a special patch on the plot. But for some reason I did not think of picking them for food.

Dandelions are 100% edible: flowers, leaves and roots. According to PFAF:

  • the flowers buds can be used as fritters, or like capers, after preserving in vinegar; the flowers can be eaten either raw or cooked, with a rather bitter taste, or made into tea; with the petals you can make wine.
  • leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked, and are rather nutritious; they can also used to flavour beer and soft drinks, as well as
  • the roots, also used as flavouring, or as a coffee substitute (I remember my auntie using it, either on its own or to bulk up her arabica).
Dandelion at the front, catalogna at the back

The other day I was picking my chicory catalogna, and next to it was a dandelion head, lush as I had never seen one. 

The differences between the two leaves were small (in fact in Italy we call dandelion "false chicory": cicoria matta), they can be used in the same way. And they are for free.

I though it would be silly not to pick them. Blanched them, and they were nice, not even the husband complained. 

So I picked a bag full of dandelion the next time I was on the plot.

And here is where my bread post from last night comes in. I decided to make a pie with the dandelion, using some bread dough I had ready.

Focaccia ripiena with dandelion leaves

The dough was made with 150 g wholemeal rice to 525 g plain white flour: I used 2/3 to make pizza for dinner, and the remaining 1/3 I decided to fill with the dandelion (perfect as packed lunch). 

First of all, I added a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the dough and let it rise a bit longer, while I prepared the greens (inspired by this Italian catalogna recipe).

I blanched the dandelion, then light-fried some onion in extra virgin olive oil, with capers, olives and anchovies (those preserved in olive oil), and threw it in, giving a good stir until the flavours had soaked through.

Two thirds of the dough I used as a base, in a cake tin, greased with some oil. The remaining third of the dough, rolled with a pin, made up the pie top.

180°C, 40 mins in regular oven (20 or so in ventilated) and... VOILA! 

The greens have a slightly bitter aftertaste that complements well the slightly sweet wheat and rice focaccia dough.

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