Spring heralds many things. Fresh goat’s cheeses are one of them and rampaging weeds are another. In my garden, the ground elder has started to stretch its legs.
My garden is so miniscule that I can usually sort it out for the season with about half an hour’s digging and pulling but it still returns again each year. I’d read about eating it on other blogs but always remembered too late in the season when the leaves are large and (apparently) laxative. The plant is thought to have been introduced to Britain as a pot herb by the Romans and thereafter was often planted in monasteries. It was known as gout weed for its curative properties (and no doubt was popular with the monks after all their beer-quaffing and washed-rind-cheese-scoffing).
When foraging to eat the leaves, you are advised to use them as young as possible, preferably when they are still shiny. The smell is quite pungent and reminded me a bit of juniper but the flavour is more mellow, its herby and citrus notes matching well with the goat’s cheese here. The following quantity will serve two people as a starter, salad or light meal.
400g sweet potatoes
1 large handful ground elder leaves
Knob of butter
1 tsp fresh thyme
60g Cerney Goat’s Cheese, chopped or crumbled
Breadcrumbs (one crust of bread should give you enough)
Scrub the potatoes, prick them a few times and bake them on parchment for about 30 minutes at 220/200 fan-assisted/gas mark 7. Let them cool down. Meanwhile, wash the ground elder well, chop it roughly and fry it in the butter until wilted.
Leave to cool and squeeze out the excess moisture. Peel the skins off the baked potatoes.
Put the potatoes into a bowl with the ground elder, thyme and goat’s cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Mash and mix well to combine. Form into ping-pong sized balls, roll well in the breadcrumbs and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200/180 fan-assisted/gas mark 6.
Bake for 30 minutes until heated through and crispy on the outside.