The Really WILD Food Guide

BIRCH SAP & CLEAVERS RISOTTO


Birch Sap & Cleavers Risotto

Birch sap has a pale straw colour to it and is collected by tapping the tree trunk during spring.
The sap has a very mild taste which can be concentrated by boiling. Indeed, a more concentrated birch syrup is made by reducing sap to about 1/20th of its volume. It is suggested that to enhance the sap flavour you also concentrate a few pints.

PREPARATION

Only a small amount of onion is recommended as
it will overpower the delicate sap flavour. If using salted butter you might not want to add an additional amount of salt. Strictly speaking arborio rice is normally used for risotto but there's nothing wrong with using whatever white rice is to hand.

The raw leaves of cleavers, also known as goosegrass, are used. Don't bother with the plant stems as they are simply chewy and awful, and don't even improve with a 15 minute boil.

   2½ cups birch sap
1 cup rice
1 small onion - finely chopped
Butter or oil
1 cup cleavers leaves
Salt [optional]
 

 

 

 

 

METHOD

· Finely chop the onion and sweat in some oil until it begins to soften. · Add the rice to the pan and stir, cooking for a couple more minutes. · Then add the sap (there's slightly more liquid in this recipe than you might otherwise use when cooking rice as the risotto should have a slightly wet consistency).

· Heat until the sap boils and cook the rice for a couple of minutes before reducing the heat to a simmer. · Stir from time to time and continue cooking until the rice has a 'bite'. · Remove from the heat then add the cleavers. · Distribute throughout and leave your risotto to rest for a couple of minutes - the residual heat softens the leaves. · Serve.

VARIATIONS & ALTERNATIVES
Any other edible tender spring green could replace the cleavers, and perhaps a spot of garlic too; but then you don't want to overpower the delicate sap flavour.

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