Hogweed Floret Cheese
This simple, tasty gratin is a great alternative to cauliflower cheese – the distinctive flavour of the hogweed works really well with the rich, cheesy sauce. Pick florets when the flowers are just emerging, along with any of the bulbous flower buds that are still unopened as well as any already-emerged flowers that are still green and tender. All of these will have an intense, herbal flavour with a hint of aniseed, and a vivid green colour when cooked.
You may find some buds with a fully developed leaf attached, which should be removed. You’ll find that the base of the leaf’s stem forms a sheath around the bud: just carefully peel this away to reveal the tender greenness of the bud inside.
Serve as a vegetarian main course with some bread and a salad or, more traditionally, as a side dish alongside the Sunday roast.
- About 500g common hogweed florets, buds or green flowers
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 30g butter, plus extra for greasing
- 30g plain flour
- 40g mature cheddar, grated
- 500ml milk
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Gently rinse the hogweed and leave to drain in a colander. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add a scant teaspoon of salt and the hogweed. Lightly blanch the hogweed until just tender when tested with a knife – note that the different parts of the plant will take different amounts of time to cook. The flowers will need just a minute or so, while the florets and buds will take a little longer. Remove the different parts as they are cooked and rinse them under cold water to stop them cooking and preserve their colour.
- When all of the hogweed pieces are cooked, lay them out on a clean tea towel and press them gently to remove excess moisture. Any closed buds should be held upside down and gently squeezed to coax out any water that has found its way inside.
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C, then get on with the sauce. Melt the butter in a small pan set over a low heat. Stir in the flour and cook very gently for a minute, then gradually beat in the milk. Let the sauce simmer gently for about 4 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat again and stir in the cheddar. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the hogweed florets and mix gently.
- Pour the mixture into a buttered ovenproof dish (or use 4 individual baking dishes) and sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot from the dish.
Recipe by Wild Food UK; development and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK