Posts Tagged ‘foraging’

From alexander in winter to wild strawberries in summer or burdock in spring and hazel in autumn, Edible Wild Plants and Herbs, indentification guide and cookbook combined, is an excellent compendium of all things foraged.

First published 25 years ago, this book has recently been brought up to date by the original author. The idea is not that we will all be able to live off the land self-sufficiently but that we can re-learn what our ancestors knew and used to pass on through the generations, a dying skill which, along with keeping chickens or pigs, cultivating your own fruit and vegetables, making pickles and preserves or even cooking with children, a growing number of people are trying to revive.

The calendar on the inside cover provides a quick reference of which plants (and which parts of the plant) to look for and when. Inside we learn more about each of those plants; it’s common and scientific name, where it grows, what it looks like, how it was discovered, the origins of the name and how it has been and is now used. Each description is accompanied by a selection of recipes for using the plant in food, drinks, lotions and potions and a beautiful painting or illustration from the botanical artist at Kew Gardens brings each plant to life.

If you don’t feel confident enough to get out and pick your own, a fair number of the plants and herbs described in the book can be successfully grown in your garden; lemon balm, mint, primrose and chamomile for instance. Alternatively, samphire can be found on our shores but is also ready available at most fishmongers, and chestnuts, if not picked from the tree, can be sourced from the market in the autumn.

But there’s no reason why each and every one of us, whether city or country bound cannot have a go at foraging for at least a few of the plants and enjoy our own bounty.

Try a range of recipes with wild garlic in early spring and nettles a little later in the season or elderflowers for cordial, fritters and jams in early summer and the berries for wine, sorbets and chutneys in the autumn.

There are few greater pleasures than eating or drinking a homemade product from free ingredients. I’ve got just one more week to wait before popping the cork and sharing my elderflower fizz with friends and we’ve already supped the cordial. There’s still time for you to make the most of elderflower too. What are you waiting for?


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32 dishes and 7 weeks later, I’ve reached the end of my challenge!

The season is almost over here in Bristol and my husband, family and friends now groan at the sight or mere mention of wild garlic so it’s time to call it a day.

There are recipes, like wild garlic pasta, a rabbit and cider pie topped with wild garlic pastry and confit salmon with wild garlic puree, that I didn’t get chance to test before the garlic was past its best but I’ll save those for next season!

As we munched our way through handful after handful of the tasty leaves, it didn’t take long to deduce that not only can wild garlic be used in just about any dish (although I drew the line at desserts!) but also that, above all, wild garlic has an affinity with eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, cheese and peas. They were the ingredients which really suited the flavour of the wild garlic and let it shine.

There were several highlights throughout the challenge (wild garlic and cheese twice baked soufflé, mushroom and parmesan stuffed chicken breast wrapped in wild garlic and prosciutto, wild garlic mash, wild garlic and chive scones, beetroot, feta and wild garlic sandwich and wild garlic paneer to name a few) but without doubt the best dish was so embarrassingly simple; scrambled eggs with wild garlic on seeded wholemeal toast.

But what of this week’s challenge?

Wild garlic, pea, courgette and stilton frittata. I couldn’t finish the challenge without making a frittata and as I’d already established that eggs, cheese and peas are the best matches for wild garlic, my frittata had to combine these in some way. This week of the challenge coincided with National Stilton Week so my frittata combined the sharp cheese with the sweetness of peas and courgette and the mellow flavour of the cooked wild garlic.

New potato salad with a wild garlic, parsley and cider vinegar dressing. This potato salad (I used Cornish new potatoes but you could use Jersey Royals which have just come into season, or any other new potato) went well with a salmon burger and green beans. A simple and satisfying tea.

Onion, pea and wild garlic bhajis. There is rarely a week go by that I don’t make a curry for dinner. This week I made some tasty bhajis, incorporating wild garlic, to go with alongside a sag gohst.

Roast turkey with wild garlic and tarragon butter and wild garlic dauphinoise. Spot on for Sunday dinner and a wonderful end to the challenge. I slow roasted a turkey thigh as an alternative to a joint – more than enough to feed two of us – basting it in the wild garlic and tarragon butter. Served with the creamy and mildly garlicky dauphinoise and vegetables.

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I’ve got just a couple of dishes to share with you from week six of my wild garlic challenge but I’m looking forward to trying out several new recipes in the week ahead. My mind was working overtime the other day so I’m itching to get in the kitchen!

Wild garlic and chilli meatballs. With my father-in-law staying with us at the moment I bravely took on what I consider to be his signature dish, spaghetti and meatballs. These meatballs, made with just some green chilli, chopped wild garlic, a few breadcrumbs and seasoning, really packed a flavour punch. I was honoured to have him tell me he thought they were better than his own – and I’d drive miles for his meatballs!

Wild garlic mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is such an obvious way to use wild garlic that I wanted to discover other ideas before making it. The time was ripe this week. You could serve it with countless dishes (I’m dreaming of a hot roast chicken sandwich with wild garlic mayo right now!) but we enjoyed it with smoked salmon fishcakes and salad.

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What a difference a week makes. As I reached my foraging site earlier this week I was stunned by how much the wild garlic had grown since my last visit. Much of what is there is now so large it’s past its best but there are still fresh young leaves to be found amongst the larger leaves.

I was met with mixed emotions on seeing the flowers starting to open. Joy at their beauty and the thought of how they could be used but sadness because their appearance means my challenge will shortly be drawing to a close.

I had better make the most of the time I have left and get my thinking cap on for ways in which I can preserve the leaves for a little while after the season has ended. In the meantime, this is what I’ve been making this week:

Crispy shredded wild garlic leaves. I deep fried the shredded leaves, crispy seaweed style and used them to sprinkle on top of a Thai style pork mince, vegetable and noodle dish. The crisp texture was perfect to finish this dish and the intense flavour really complimented the spicy, sweet, salty, sour combination.

Wild garlic paneer. Paneer (Indian cheese) is a ridiculously easy way to start making your own cheese. All you need is whole milk and lemon juice. I haven’t yet graduated beyond my own paneer but there’s still time! I flavoured mine with chopped wild garlic leaves before forming and pressing and turned it into an Indian stirfry with coriander and mustard seeds, curry leaves, spinach and coriander. We ate the paneer as part of a thali with ginger and cumin okra, tarka dhal, kachumba and chapattis.

Wild garlic stuffing. I sweated some finely chopped onion in oil, mixed with breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and finely chopped wild garlic leaves and used it to stuff a pork roasting join. A salty crushed fennel seed and black pepper rub for the crackling worked well with both the pork and the stuffing.

Wild garlic crostini. I used the remainder of the wild garlic oil I made to go with the pea soup in week two to drizzle onto thinly sliced bread which I then toasted. I served the crostini with my chorizo and butterbean stew.

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We moved house at the weekend so with much of the kitchen packed in boxes and plenty of other priorities, the wild garlic challenge had to take a back seat.

The challenge wasn’t a complete write off though – this week was all about quality not quantity! I highly recommend you give these dishes a try.

Wild garlic carbonara. Spaghetti, bacon, wild garlic, eggs, parmesan and black pepper transform into a quick, simple and satisfying dish. Use good quality smoked bacon or pancetta for this dish.

Wild garlic and cheese twice baked soufflé. OK, so a soufflé can be scary but the beauty of the twice baked version is that if it doesn’t rise as you’d hoped it doesn’t matter. Once it’s cooled, you turn it out of the ramekin, cover it in cheese and bake until golden. It might also seem like a bit much work for a week night meal but the soufflé can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge, or even frozen, before the second baking.


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I’ve struggled this week – not because supplies are running out, far from it, I’ve got wild garlic coming out my ears; not because I’m running short of ideas, they’re still coming thick and fast; but because I sadly haven’t had enough time in the kitchen.

I fear the same may be true next week, the week before we move house and much of the kitchen is in boxes. I will soldier on and do my best to at least make a few wild garlic dishes. A girl has got to eat after all!

This is what we’ve been dining on this week:

Beetroot, feta and wild garlic sandwich. I really like the combination of salty feta and sweet beetroot with a grinding of black pepper, but a couple of wild garlic leaves is what had apparently been missing all this time.

Creamy wild garlic mushrooms on toast. Fried mushrooms, a few shredded wild garlic leaves, black pepper and crème fraiche. Simple. I had mine on toast for lunch but it would work equally well with pasta. Throw some chicken, bacon or ham in too if you want to make it meaty.

Wild garlic parathas with keema. The star of the week. Making parathas, if a little time-consuming, is quite therapeutic and most definitely worth the effort. I mixed shredded wild garlic leaves into the dough and next time would also try infusing the ghee with wild garlic for added flavour.

Wild garlic bread. Like garlic bread only better and slightly addictive! All the garlic flavour but none of the harshness you sometimes get with garlic bread.

Wild garlic guacamole and wild garlic salsa. Fresh accompaniments to our chilli con carne.

Chicken goujons in wild garlic crumbs with wild garlic coleslaw. Finger food for children and adults alike. You couldn’t particularly taste the garlic but it just added a little something very satisfying to the overall flavour of the dish. The wild garlic bread crumbs would work equally well for coating homemade fish fingers.

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Week two of my wild garlic challenge is behind me. It’s all going well, I’m still bursting with ideas and enthusiasm.

To answer those who’ve asked, I’m not bored of wild garlic yet and don’t worry that I will be. Once the season is over, I’ve got until next March to recover! I’m making the most of it whilst it’s here.

I’ve also enjoyed the talk on twitter this week about wild garlic, with people sharing their hunting grounds and recipes. There’s much interest and excitement out there and some wonderful suggestions too. Follow or join in with #wildgarlic.

In week two, we’ve been tucking into:

Lemon and ginger salmon with broccoli and wild garlic stir-fry. I used wild garlic leaves in the stir fry in a similar way to any Chinese leaf or spinach, gently wilting it in the heat and soy at the last minute.

Indian carrot salad with wild garlic. We had this salad with a spicy coconut and lamb curry, lemon and cashew nut rice, and tarka dhal. It was based on an Anjum Anand recipe from I Love Curry. The grated carrot is combined with crushed peanuts, lemon juice, coriander, mustard seeds and, in our case, wild garlic.

Mushroom and parmesan stuffed chicken breast wrapped in wild garlic and prosciutto. We had the stuffed and wrapped chicken with mash, spinach and mushroom sauce. This would make a simple yet stunning dinner party or special occasion dish.

Wild garlic mash. Wild garlic works incredibly well with mashed potato. Just like the eggs last week, potato and wild garlic have a real affinity with each other. I infused chopped wild garlic leaves in warm milk before adding to the mashed potato. It went really well with our casserole.

Linguine with wild garlic, hazelnut and rapeseed oil ‘pesto’. Wow! Delicious and yet powerful. This was the pungent dish of the week. I liked the idea of making a British ‘pesto’ by using a British produced oil instead of olive oil as well as hazelnuts rather than pine nuts, whilst the seasonal wild garlic replaced the basil.

Smoked trout pate with wild garlic. This pate is great as a starter, lunch or light supper. I added a hint of horseradish, chives and wild garlic to lift the flavour.

Pea soup with wild garlic jelly, crispy prosciutto, oven dried wild garlic leaf and wild garlic oil. My experimental, Heston Blumenthal-inspired, dish of the week. I got my hands on some agar-agar, a regular in his kitchen, and made a wild garlic jelly. It worked well but needs some refining to improve the flavour. Once perfected I think it could be used with roast chicken, with fish or perhaps even in a terrine. The wild garlic oil was a cracker though and needs no enhancement. Oven drying the wild garlic leaves intensified their flavour and added another texture along with the prosciutto. (Thanks to througheye for the photograph.)

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