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What’s Up, Dock?

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Dock leaves do a lot more than just ease nettle stings. Here ethnobotany guru
Erin Smith shows you how to turn this wondrous weed into a revitalising risotto…

You probably only associate the familiar dock leaf with childhood nettle stings, but it is delicious in spring dishes (sorrel is its cultivated form). Early leaves of curly/yellow dock (Rumex crispus) have a similar flavour and can be used in all your favourite recipes in place of sorrel (although once these plants get older, they tend to be a bit too fibrous to eat). The green seeds also have a nice slightly tart flavour and can be sprinkled on dishes and, once brown, ground and used to make crackers and added to bread recipes. The root, which has a slight yellow colour, is a gentle liver tonic and mild laxative. Bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius) is, as the name implies, more bitter in flavour (similar to dandelion) but can also be eaten. This form of dock was traditionally used to wrap butter and cheese. Leaves of dock should be eaten cooked – and what more comforting way to serve them than with a warming risotto… Scroll down for the recipe.

BOULDER, CO - MAY 21: Self proclaimed weed nerds and wild food experts Wendy Petty, left and Erin Smith, right, pick mallow leaves out of the garden in Boulder, CO on May 21, 2013.  Smith is an Herbalist and Ethnobotanist who is the founder and director of the Center for Integrative Botanical Studies.  Wendy is a wild food expert and teacher.  The two demonstrate how anyone can forage in their own backyard and find delicious plants to eat and cook with.  (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

BOULDER, CO – MAY 21: Self proclaimed weed nerds and wild food experts Wendy Petty, left and Erin Smith, right, pick mallow leaves out of the garden in Boulder, CO on May 21, 2013. Smith is an Herbalist and Ethnobotanist who is the founder and director of the Center for Integrative Botanical Studies. Wendy is a wild food expert and teacher. The two demonstrate how anyone can forage in their own backyard and find delicious plants to eat and cook with. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Erin (above right) and her colleague Wendy collecting beneficial garden weeds

Dock-leaf risotto

This recipe works best with young or new-growth curly dock leaves, as they have a nice lemony flavour. Feel free to combine with sorrel as well, substituting half the amount of dock leaves for fresh sorrel leaves. Serves 4.

YOU WILL NEED
* 6–8 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
* 2 tbsp butter
* 1 large onion, finely chopped
* 2 cups risotto rice
* half a cup vermouth or other dry white wine
* chèvre or preferred soft goat’s cheese
* 1 cup of young dock leaves, rinsed and chopped
* 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
* nutmeg
* half a fresh lemon
* 1 cup of parmesan cheese
* salt and pepper

METHOD
1 Place your stock in a pot, bring to a simmer and keep warm. In another large pot, melt 1 tbsp butter on medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté until translucent and soft. Add the risotto rice, stirring until well coated in butter and onion. After about 2 minutes, add the vermouth, stirring until absorbed by the rice.
2 Keeping the heat at medium or medium-low (stock should not boil but be at a slight simmer while cooking rice), add a ladleful of warm stock, stirring until the rice has absorbed the stock. Repeat this process, one ladleful at a time, until the rice is slightly soft but still al dente and creamy.
3 In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter and add the dock leaves, garlic, and a pinch (or good grate) of nutmeg. Cook for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
4 Add the dock and the parmesan to the rice and stir until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with goat’s cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Recipe by Erin Smith, founder and director of the Center for Integrative Botanical Studies based in Boulder, Colorado. 

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