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Posts Tagged ‘foraging’

Dear Wild Cooks,

In my eyes, the opportunity to cook for a group of like-minded, fun-loving foragers is one not to be missed. So when I was invited to cook for The International Wine and Food Society’s Leeds branch I accepted without hesitation! The group are definately up for some fun and eager to learn about food and wine that complement foraged ingredients.

The evening seemed made for my foraging friends Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild who lead the foraging walk around the stunning Hillbark Gardens in Bardsey.

Chris offering his expert foraging advice to the group

Chris offering his expert foraging advice to the group


The owners, Tim Gittins and Malcolm Simm, were on hand to look after everyone which was a good job as there was a total of 33 members on the evening.Chris and Rose discussed their foraging finds with the group. The gardens are truly amazing and Tim and Malcolm often have charity open days so keeep a look out on their website www.hillbark.co.uk  . The foraged finds on the evening included sweet cicely, mugwort, pineapple weed, corn mint and bitter cress. They are amazing ingredients folks and I, along with the help of my commis Tim Norton and his partner Becky, cooked up the following menu for the group:

Introducing the dishes

Introducing the dishes


Canapes

Goats Cheese En Croute with Sweet Cicely Seeds
Vegetarian Foragers’ Parcels using Rosebay Willow Herb

Mains

Smoked Trout Marinaded in Elderflower, Chick Weed, Bitter Cress, Wood Sorrel
BBQ Smoked Cherry Wood Mackerel with ‘Jack by the Hedge’ Root 
Pigeon with Nettle Spelt
Rabbit and Mugwort Dahl

Puddings

Forager’s Infusion Chocolate Marquise
Corn Mint and Cumin Granite
Meadow Sweet Biscuit
Ground Ivy Jelly
Wood Sorrel Mojito

Coffee and Lemon Balm Tea

Supper Club!

Supper Club!

Please click on the links above to follow the fun and easy recipes. As we ate the dishes, Chris and Rose passed on more helpful advice. Here is a great extract from their note:

Be aware that there might be a backlash at some point from people who are worried about the countryside being plundered. However, foraging is about understanding and respecting the natural environment and provising that pickers follow a basic code of conduct it can only improve our knowledge and husbandry of the countryside”.

I hope you enjoy the dishes as much as the guests did on the evening. The event was declared a great success and Tim even said it was their best supper club to date which was great to hear. My thanks go to Chris and Rose Bax who made the foraging side so interesting for the guests adn my commis Tim and his partner Becky for their help. Huge thanks must also go to Tim and Malcolm who of course made this evening possible and kindly invited me to take part.

Steph the Forager on tour – supper club style!!

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Dear Wild Cooks,

As we all know “life is full of surprises”. Indeed, when I arrived at a secret foragers’ location for an evening with The Cooking Fairy and her newly-formed group of like minded foragers, I was certainly surprised by what I saw. Standing proud in the pond in front of me was the humble bulrush…

I am not speaking a load of ‘old rushing bull’ (!) – I can tell you this rush is exciting, filling and actually quite tasty!!

Steph kneels by the pond to collect some bulrush

Steph kneels by the pond to collect some bulrush

So how do you know you are ‘pulling’ a bulrush?! This is not as crazy as it sounds, infact what you are looking for is not dissimilar to a leek. The leaves are flat at the top of the stalks and then begin to bend and wrap around the stem as you go lower down.

No leeks here - these fine beauties are bulrush

No leeks here – these fine beauties are bulrush

According to my great book of knowledge, ‘The Forager Handbook’ by Miles Irving, the bulrush must not be mistaken for the ‘yellow iris’ which is poisonous. Miles says bulrush is found in large clumps in slow moving rivers or ponds (in our case it was a pond).

Bulrush is also known as ‘reedmace’, and the chocolate-brown, cigar-shaped seed heads we all see used in flower arrangements are the flower heads in their postcoital stage, so forager Irving says.

As a keen forager, I do believe that in order to learn the tricks of the trade there is nothing more useful than a good book and ‘The Forager Handbook’ is my favourite and is highly recommended. I managed to tip half a pint of wild garlic pesto over it the other day so it has its own special aroma now!

Cooked bulrush ready for dinner

Cooked bulrush ready for dinner

Back to the bulrush, please do not eat it raw (not that you’d have a strong desire to) and be careful where you ‘go pulling’! My experience of pulling bulrush is to kneel and pull the stem at the base and give it a good tug, twisting the stem at the same time.

Once out of the water disguard the outer leaves and the tops as they are woody. The stem itself should be packed with goodness and be firm but giving to the touch.

You also have to be careful when foraging in or near ponds, not only because you can fall in but farmers will often use pesticides on nearby crops which may also filter into the water. 

Once you have sourced your bulrush, read my instructions on how best to prepare them.

“How to prepare bulrush”

Rushing off…!

Steph x

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Dear Wild Cooks,

There will be many of you who are wild about mushrooms but you really must take care when foraging for them. I have been cooking with mushrooms for many years now and even I always forage with someone who knows the score – these things can make you seriously ill.

Going wild for mushrooms!

Going wild for mushrooms!

That’s where ‘Fungi David’ comes in as he was kind enough to accompany me to pick a blewit or two. I must admit I have always steered clear of foraging for mushrooms as they scare the heck out of me but with David at the controls I felt in safe hands.

David certainly knows a thing or two about mushrooms

David certainly knows a thing or two about mushrooms

There are two types of blewit, the woodland variety and the field variety. Both can give you indigestion or in some cases make you ill if you do not cook them properly so it is important for you to carry a few references with you whilst picking as well as good cooking manuals. Sorry, I don’t mean to be negative about the dear mushroom family, but they can be nasty fellas if you’re not clued up on them!

David showed me how to identify the blewit mushrooms and how they live in the lush areas of the field as opposed to the shorter patches of grass.

The blewits can be found in the lush grasses

We headed for the longer grasses in search for blewits

David crouched down at the side of the mushroom and produced a pocket knife to slice the base of the mushroom and present a blewit for me to see.

David confirms that this is definately a blewit!!

David confirms that this is definately a blewit!!

Back at David’s house I found out that he has foraged the countryside for all sorts of ingredients from a young age. His wife Sandy is also an excellent cook and has jams and pickles from all manor of foraged ingredients.

Blewits are not as popular as chanterelles  but they have a great place in the wild mushroom mixes of today or even well cooked in various dishes. I
decided I was going to make sausage and mushroom rolls.

Our collection of foraged blewits

Our collection of foraged blewits

So, out came a pan and my freshly foraged mushrooms and I was hoping not to ‘blewit’ in front of David and his wife! What was apparent was that they are quite wet when you fry them so I would suggest not overloading the pan. It is also essential that when you pick them check there are no insect larvae on the surface of the mushrooms.

A blewit must be cooked, I am sure I have already said this and you can gauge by now that working with these foraged fungi finds does freak me out a little! I am nervous that people don’t know what they are looking for, even some blewits look like another purple mushroom that can have you in bed for weeks if you eat it…..ok calm down Steph lets get on with it!

We never cook with blewits at Rudding Park as we are far happier with wild garlic, wood sorrel and nettles! At least you know where you are with them and when cooking for the general public and valued customers one must always be super careful.

Why not try this great sausage roll recipe with your blewits. The family loved them, it’s a good job they trusted me and more to the point that they trusted David!

Always remember if in any doubt do not pick the mushrooms.

Steph x

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Dear Wild Cooks,

Spring is a here and the nature we all love is budding into life again after a relatively mild winter. Wild garlic shoots are peeping out, but today is all about wood sorrel and as Rene Redzepi (Chef owner of the world’s finest restaurant, Noma) recently said, “wood sorrel is the glue that holds my kitchen team together”! Another local character here in Yorkshire and a foraging buddy of mine, Chris Bax, calls it the “Haribo of the forest”!

In order to source wood sorrel whilst out foraging, here’s a few tips on what to look out for…

1. A nice woods with no dogs nearby!

2. A thin stem about the size of a piece of salad cress but usually a little thinner with a burgundy tinge towards the base of the stem. This greeny burgundy leaf has delicate heart shaped petals (three in a clover like form) and is a lovely garnish for any salad.

See recipe here, Whitby Seafish Mackerel, Forager’s Salad, Pickled Baby Vegetables

Whitby Seafish Mackerel, Forager's Salad, Pickled Baby Vegetables

Whitby Seafish Mackerel, Forager's Salad, Pickled Baby Vegetables

Happy Cooking!

Steph x

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Has the world gone mad? I cannot believe that this autumn kids are not allowed to play conkers in school because of health and safety! That’s according to a local farm shop who was inform of the new rule when they had conkers and string on display for the kids to make their own fun…

Conkers has to be one of a Forager’s favourite games and I was not going to give it up easily! I therefore took my niece and nephew out and about to forage for some different items we could use!

Our foraging finds!

Our foraging finds!

Bullis, rosehips , sloes, hawthorne and a few conkers (!!) to be exact, which they enjoyed apart from the rosehips…danger money was not provided by their Aunty Steph! (rosehips are VERY prickly!)

We also selected further foraged ingredients for for the Food Festival at The Devonshire Arms in Bolton Abbey this week. I am really excited about this one Wild Cooks, it’s a real honour to be asked by Steve Smith (Head Chef at the Burlington) to be a part of this festival and to cook along side fellow Harrogate Chef , Tom Van Zellar.

Amazing autumnal colours

Amazing autumnal colours

As my Niece and Nephew were brilliant foragers, I thought it best to cook them up a tasty pot of homely food to warm them up. This great stew is one you can leave on the slow cooker all day or in the Aga and it will be ready for your return.

Oxtail Casserole Recipe

Watch out for my next blog regarding the Devonshire Food Festival and I will let you know how I get on!

Steph  (the evil Aunty!!! No really – they loved it!)

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Dear wild cooks,

It is not often you get an invite for dinner with a friend, sit next to a national food critic, and (as a Chef) live to tell the tale afterwards!

Jay Rayner is a great ambassador for local food and he was visiting Ampleforth Orchards for ‘The One Show’ the following day. I spent the evening with Jay Rayner and his buddy Tim Wilson from the Ginger Pig, which was an eye opener into the lives of a food critic and a pig farmer and what they do on a daily basis! It has to be said that the food at The White Swan was expertly cooked by Darren and his team (please see our Ampleforth blog to read more about Darren’s food, when I cooked alongside Darren and Andrew Pern).

During the evening, Jay spoke to us about his dining hell experiences, and described some of the meals he has had to sample, some of which made our skin crawl and others made us laugh and cry!

What a great guy Jay is. You watch him on the television and he is the exactly the same person in real life. His knowledge of food is incredible and we even discussed the thickening quality of agar agar against gelatine- “Chefy” stuff folks!

I also asked him his opinion of wild food and the most appropriate place for it in the dining rooms of Great Britain. He said he thought that Noma and the revolution caused by Rene Redzepi will give way to many Chefs jumping on the “forager bandwagon”, perhaps with varying results….

Let’s hope that wild food proves to be a great thing, as Rudding Park is about to begin its third year foraging! In my opinion, as long as Chefs know what they are looking for, and take care and time to learn the produce available, it is surely a good thing? What is your opinion Wild Cooks?

Sorry I did not take any photos, I was trying to look cool!

Steph x

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Dear Wild Cooks,

It is not often that you are asked to cook a lunch in such a beautiful setting, surrounded by amazing produce and for such a worthy supplier. So when Ampleforth asked if I would be interested, I agreed straight away! 

It was amazing to see the Ampleforth orchards laden down with so much fruit. The stores of apples are distributed all over Yorkshire and most importantly to Father Rainer’s cider and brandy making cellars. Let me tell you, the new Amber Liqueur is fantastic! 

The day started nice and early with a torch lit foraging session in the grounds at Rudding Park. Thankfully, however, I knew where to forage for my starter ingredients! It was then a case of hot footing it back to the Clocktower kitchens to make my nominated courses, the forager bread, the starter and the cheese course.

When I arrived at Ampleforth, Darren from the White Swan at Pickering had just arrived and Andrew Pern from The Star arrived soon after. They were both there to prepare the lunch for many foodies in the area and journalists from further a field such as London.

The banter in the kitchen was great and the cooking standards were very high. Many thanks to Carol for the constant topping up of the tea pot! Great to work with you.

Steph x

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