Friday, 15 September 2017


“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” - A. A. Milne 

It’s Spring in Melbourne and on fine days we love to go walking. Close to home are the Darebin Parklands, a beautiful area through which the Darebin Creek flows. Along with wooded areas, lawns, ponds and rocky hills, there are many areas where wild greens grow. Most people refer to these wild greens as “weeds”, but they are extremely useful and edible greens that are fantastic to use in cooking in a myriad of recipes. For the dish we made and for which I give the recipe below, we collected the following: Young shoots of wild fennel - Foeniculum vulgare; tender young leaves of sorrelRumex acetosa; tender tops of mallowMalva sylvestris; young shoots of onion weed – Allium triquetrum. We also used some dill and spring onions from the garden, as well as some bought spinach.

WARNING: Please note that if you are going to collect wild greens ensure you are absolutely certain you are collecting the right plant! Many weeds do look similar and some are toxic! Also if you know what you are doing and you collect wild greens, do so sustainably and do not damage the plants excessively! Always wash the greens thoroughly and discard any leaves that are damaged or infested. In the last rinse add a cup of vinegar to the water used as it helps to rinse out any little insects lurking around.

Wild Greens Risotto

6 cups vegetable stock
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (for greens)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (for rice)
1/3 cup finely chopped dill
1/3 cup finely chopped spring onion
3 cups chopped spinach (stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise)
3 cups chopped mixed wild greens (see above)
2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Ground mace, to taste
Ground coriander, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Toasted pine nuts garnish (optional)

First prepare the greens: In a large frying pan, heat the oil and when hot, add the drained, chopped greens, herbs, onion and spinach, stirring thoroughly to mix with the oil. Cook until the mixture is tender. Season with salt and pepper and add ground coriander to taste. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a simmer and maintain over low heat. In a large, heavy saucepan, warm the olive oil. Add the rice to the pan and stir until well coated with the oil and translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more. Reserve 1/4 cup stock to add at the end.

When the rice is almost tender to the bite and looks creamy (after about 20 minutes), add the greens mixture to the pan and add a ladleful of stock. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach mixture is heated through and the rice is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter, cheese and the reserved 1/4 cup stock. Season with mace, salt and pepper. Garnish with pine nuts if desired and serve immediately.

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