Wild spring salad
with venison in whortleberry jus
There is nothing better than picking your own fresh and easy salad to compliment your lunch or evening dinner. I deliberately go out each day to see the progress of the wild garlic springing up! Here's how t spruce up a wild spring salad without having to walk far...
I usually start in a cool, damp woodland, near a river ideally, sometimes near field edges and walk slightly off the beaten track along the Public Right of Way. You want to be looking for a selection of the following:
- wood sorrel
- wild garlic leaves (or flower buds)
- three cornered leek leaves (buds too)
- garlic mustard (leaves)
- sheep sorrel (leaves)
- hairy bitter-cress (by trickling streams)
- water mint leaves (riverside)
- penny wort / naval wort
(near a mossy rock wall)
- primrose (uncultivated)
- wild strawberry
Once you have cut with a sharp knife and washed thoroughly when you get home, you can prepare your salad...
You get the tangy apple flavours from the 'sorrels', strong garlic flavours from wild garlic (or ramsons) and three cornered leek, but a lighter garlic taste from the garlic mustard. Remember the egg and cress sandwiches at school? this is where hairy bitter-cress comes in, nostalgic! Penny wort is like a juicy, succulent round disc with a cucumber flavour and primrose adds a 'beer taste' alongside its creamy yellow 'Easter' colour. Water mint speaks for itself, though chop finely and add 1-2 leaves. In late spring, you might just find tiny wild strawberries in an older (ancient) woodland.
The finishing touches: Add Extra Virgin olive oil and a high quality sweet Modena balsamic vinegar.
Serve with nasturtiums and tomatoes
Local Exmoor venison is a must try if you're looking for a super lean, well-managed tasty meat. Serve this with my whortleberry jus recipe
with wild garden edibles
A good way to impress your family and friends is this fresh and highly nutritious homebaked pizza using wild garden goodies...
So what are these goodies? If you read The Garden Pantry article you will find that some common garden 'weeds' are tasty such as nutty chickweed, spinach-like Fat hen or tangy sheep sorrel. I prefer to call them 'wild edibles'
Ingredients (pizza for two):
350g Organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried active yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
177ml water ( or 3/4 cup)
pinch salt and pepper
400g chopped tomatoes (tin)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon feresh mixed herbs: thyme, rosemary basil
1 garlic cove crushed
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce (optional)
100g grated cheddar cheese (liberal)
handful pitted olives
handful chopped chestnut mushrooms
(or Parasol mushrooms in autumn)
1 chunky chopped red pepper
drizzle Extra Virgin olive oil
Fat Hen/ Lamb's quarters (leaves)
Sheep sorrel (leaves)
Pre-heat oven to 190oC. Line a baking tray (rectangle is good a 'sharer shape' with brown parchment/baking paper. Drizzle olive oil onto the paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine together the flour, yeast and salt with a wooden spoon
Make a well (like a volcano) and add in the olive oil and mix using your hand, scraping the flour from the sides and combining in.
Knead the dough into a soft even textured ball or until all flour is incorporated. If too wet, sprinkle half a handful of flour, or if too dry, add a tablespoon of water. Continue to knead.
Place the dough onto the prepared baking tray and stretch the dough.
In a blender or food processor, combine all the tomato sauce ingredients and blend for less 1 minute (leaving some chunks). Spread evenly over the stretched dough
Top the pizza with all topping ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil. Place on the middle shelf for 20-22 minutes, until the edges brown lightly.
Serve on a wooden chopping board, top with fresh rocket and a spring salad!
Only flowering for a short time in May, this cordial recipe is perfect as a refreshing spritzer, added to prosecco or with water, ice and a slice!
Like the spring greens, I glance on my daily walks to check the progression of the buds blooming fully into its distinct white flowers. Its worth the wait!
WARNING: correctly identifying your elderflower will ensure you do not get poisoned by similar looking white flowers in the spring (eg Hemlock)
Identification: Large woody shrub (looks like a short tree along country lanes) with large white circles of tiny, fragrant white flowers and very pungent, smelly leaves!
(DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES)
How to pick: Using a sharp knife (Opinel), cut just under the umbrella-like junction holding the floret. Take off the bugs and wash thoroughly.
15 elderflower heads (washed)
500g caster / brown sugar
1 lemon (unwaxed)
2 tbsp raw unfiltered honey (optional)
1l fresh spring water
De-bug and wash your elderflower heads
Dissolve the sugar and honey in 1l fresh spring water on a medium heat on the hob
Once the sugar has dissolved, grate the zest of 1 lemon into pan.
Turn the flower heads upside into the pan and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan.
Leave at room temperature for 24hrs with the pan lid on.
After 24hrs, using sterilised muslin strain the overnight mixture through colander into a large bowl
Pour the strained liquid into a sterilised 1l bottle.
Once you've made the cordial, you can use it straight away (yes!), refrigerate for 3-4 weeks (without citric acid) or 3-4 months in the freezer for an end of summer refreshment or pudding!
A recipe which has not changed since 1943 by the Ministry of Food...
The directions given by the Ministry of Food during the war for 2 pounds (900gm) of hips.
Boil 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water.
Mince hips in a course mincer (food processor) and put immediately into the boiling water.
Bring to boil and then place aside for 15 minutes.
Pour into a flannel or linen crash jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through.
Return the residue to the saucepan, add 11/2 pints (852ml) of boiling water, stir and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip.
To make sure all the sharp hairs are removed put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again.
Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures about 11/2 pints (852ml), then add 11/4 (560gm) of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes.
Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once.
If corks are used these should have been boiled for hour just previously and after insertion coated with melted paraffin wax.
It is advisable to use small bottles as the syrup will not keep for more than a week or two once the bottle is opened.
Store in a dark cupboard.
Source: The Hedgerow Harvest, MoF, 1943
Wild garlic mussels
in a creamy white wine sauce
Sounds tasty right? This was a favourite dish I foraged and whipped up during a kayaking trip in North West Scotland and was also exclusively showcased at the Hunter's Inn, Exmoor on one of my courses.
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Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) or 'Ramsons' is smelt before it is seen as carpets of 'floppy-bunny-ear-shaped' green leaves as early as late February. Distinctly clumped together, Ramsons is found in damp woodlands and sometimes hogging a trickling stream or beside rivers flowing through undisturbed semi-natural or ancient woodlands. In April-ish, the woodlands are carpeted with pom-poms of white 5-petal flower clusters.
Ingredients (for two):
Using my wild garlic pesto recipe
1 tbsp wild garlic pesto
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
salt water mussels (200g)
150ml white wine (organic)
200ml fresh double cream (raw)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt and pepper
Thoroughly wash your mussels and check if alive - tap on the side of the pan, if they close (alive) and if remain open (dead). If freshly foraged. pull out the beard (hairy brown husk). Use fresh water.
Finely chop the garlic. In a shallow pan, on a medium heat, saute the chopped garlic and 1 tsbp of wild garlic to bring out flavours
Add the wine and water and reduce down to 2/3 and add the cream. Simmer for less than a minute. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper.
Add the washed mussels and cook for 5 minutes. (If getting dry, add 1 tsbp fresh water at a time)
Serve with a ramsons flower bud and a warm slice of your homemade bread with butter
Hedgerow Fruit Leather
Leather? That sounds chewy! This is nothing of the kind...
If you ever had 'fruit winders' in your lunchbox at school, then this is the natural and healthiest equivalent! If you didn't, you are about to embark on a tasty, soft and fruity sensation in the form of a high energy, healthy not-too-sweet snack
What is a leather?
A slowly and organically dehydrated fruit snack which is allowed to set into a soft jelly from the natural high content of pectin in some hedgerow fruits. The water naturally found in the fruits evaporate, well, naturally!
Time of year to harvest:
late summer - end of Sept
ripe blackberries - ice cream tub full
ripe hawthorn berries - ice cream tub full
fresh spring water (1/2 cup water for every 4 cups fruit)
1. Day 1: In the blackberry tub, suspend the blackberries in fresh spring water to remove all the insects living in all the gaps (overnight in fridge)
2. Next day: Wash the hawthorn berries to also remove insects and any dirt
3. With a fine mesh (Kilner straining mesh) pour in the hawthorn berries.
4. Place the mesh and berries into a strong, tall clean jar or container, big enough to fit your fist
5. Fill with water which just covers the berries. Clench your fist and push down onto the berries, squeezing out the fleshy, cream-coloured fruit so you break away the red-pink skins.
6. Once you have just red skins and stones left, discard (leave outside for the birds)
7. Do the same for the blackberries without any added water.
8. Mix together both the blackberry and hawthorn strained liquid juices and pour into a tray (brownie tray) and leave to slowly and naturally dehydrate under a grill / oven / warm area and covered.
9. Leave for a week to dehydrate or by using the excess heat flowing from the regularly-used oven.
10 Final product: a tray of fleshy dried fruit that doesn't fall apart when lifted using a fish spatula. Cut into strips, curl into baking parchment, put in your bag!
Where to go for the ingredients:
Hedgerows down country lanes
When I was introduced to "hedgerow leathers", the world suddenly became a sweeter place! The countryside and towns are home to more than just a hedgerow blackberry on an autumn afternoon! Most berries are best eaten raw, straight from the shrub or tree - why would you want to destroy all the antioxidants and flavour with extreme heat? Remember, birds and other wildlife require berries as a high energy source during harsh winter months or fat storage for migration, so be considerate..