Fat hen (also known as Pigweed and Lambs Quarters) is part of the Chenopodium genus and can be foraged between April and October. The leaves can be used fresh in salads or cooked like spinach, the unopened flower buds are like elongated broccoli and can be used similarly, the seeds are edible but best with the thin outer coating removed if possible, and the edible flowers are sure to improve the look of any salad.
For the pastry
200g Watermill plain flour
100g cold, unsalted butter, cut into a small cubes
1 Low Sizergh Farm egg, separated
50ml raw milk
For the filling
Knob of Winter Tarn unsalted butter
1 onion peeled and finely sliced
30g sorrel, washed
70g Fat Hen, Watercress or stinging nettles, washed
200g Allerdale goats cheese
3 Low Sizergh Farm eggs plus 2 egg yolks
200ml South lakes Organic double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the pastry, put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and then with the motor running, trickle in the milk through the funnel, stopping the moment the dough comes together. tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently to make a smooth ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 28cm loose-bottomed tart tin, allowing the excess pastry to overhang the rim of the tin. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Prick the pastry base with a fork. Line with a sheet of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 10 minutes until the base looks dry and cooked. Lightly beat the egg white and brush all over the pastry to seal, then bake for a further 5 minutes until golden. Trim off the excess pastry from the edge worth a small, sharp knife.
For filling, heat the butter in a frying pan over a low heat, add the onion and fry very gently until soft and pale golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Roughly chop the sorrel and Fat Hen and wilt in a steamer for 2-3 minutes. Scatter the wilted greens and onions evenly in the pastry case, then crumble the goat’s cheese. Whisk tighter the whole eggs, egg yolks and cream with some salt and pepper and carefully pour over the filling.
Bake for 40 minutes until the filling is lightly set and browned.
Serve warm or cold.
Recipe from River Cottage Handbook No.7: Hedgerow, £ 16.99, available in the farm shop shippon: “Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager. In this hugely informative and witty handbook, John Wright reveals how to spot the free and delicious pickings to be found in the British countryside, and how to prepare and cook them.”