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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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“Steph it is that time of year Love?” said Mrs N, an old family friend. “Mr N and I are going on a cruise next week. You will have to come and get the quince yourself dear – you know where the trees are, don’t you?” said Mrs N in her usual bubbly voice “All we want is a jar of quince jelly for us!”

Following on from our conversation, I set off to Settle to pick some quince. They are found on prickly little bushes and Mrs N needn’t worry about me locating the trees, I know exactly where they are…oh yes! I love autumn and quince picking time is fine by me.

Steph foraging in Mrs N's garden!

Steph foraging in Mrs N's garden!

My batch last year was not as good as the year before. However, I must admit I was so eager to show these quince some love, and nurture a great jelly, I had no reservations to set off straight away to pick them again this year.

What is a quince …..? These are little sour punchy apple like fruit and are full of flavour. My dear wild cooks, the quince is a difficult fellow to know, not very hospitable to pick as the thorns may get you, but like all ingredients that are a touch more difficult to prepare, wow – what great jelly these unfriendly fruits can produce! The flavours bounce around your mouth like a ping pong ball.

Peter, one of our other wild cooks and Managing Director of the luxury hotel, golf and spa Rudding Park, is the preserve king so I hope this jelly can live up to his Rowan Berry Jelly, challenge on!

What would nicely accompany this quince jelly folks? How about a mean addition to a cold meat platter or served alongside some roast pork, or why not with a ham sandwich for a quick lunch?

Quince Jelly

Quince Jelly

This free food is worth that extra effort…

Quince jelly recipe.

Steph x

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These berries can be picked and gathered from Rowan Trees (also known as Mountain Ash) in early September. Many recipes for this jelly use ½ apples and ½ rowan berries. However, the further north you go the tendency is to use a greater percentage of rowan.

If you are lucky the apples can be gathered from the roadside where they are free!  Please take care when foraging on a roadside as pesticides may have been applied to crops and fields that are within your foraging range. Do not peel or core them, but chop them roughly and put them in a pan with the rowan berries. The more rowan you use the deeper the colour and the tarter the taste is.

rowan berries and apples in the pan

Rowan berries and apples in a pan

Cover the fruit with water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 2 hours or until soft.

Strain through a jelly bag or an old pillow case and allow to drip overnight but do not squeeze as this will make the jelly cloudy. We hung our fruit from a stool in the kitchen, oh and make sure the bowl underneath the sack is large enough to catch all the juice!

straining the cooked berries

Straining the cooked berries in a sack

Measure the volume of the resulting juice, re heat it in a pan, and then add 1 pound of sugar for every pint of juice. Continue to heat gently until all the sugar dissolves, and then bring to a fierce boil for approximately 30 minutes.

Bringing the liquid back to the boil

Bringing the liquid back to the boil

To test for setting, add a small amount of the liquid to a saucer and allow to cool. The less ripe the apples were the higher the pectin content and the more likely the jelly is to set well.

the jelly setting test

The jelly setting test!

If your liquid does not set, bring it back to the boil for a little longer and try the setting test again.

Once you are happy with your liquid, pour it into small jars which have been warmed (but not roasted) in the oven. Leave on the side in the jars and hopefully you can enjoy this delicious jelly the following day!

Jelly in the warmed jars

Jelly in the warmed jars

Wild Cook Peter

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fresh-and-ripe-elderberryAs the leaves start to turn that rusty colour and autumn takes hold of the hedgerow, the food to be found on the hedge (so to speak) is pretty bountiful. And as nature is busy preparing itself for winter, so should we.

find out more

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