Wild Garlic and Wild Pesto Recipe

So Spring is well and truly here and for those of you who haven’t noticed, wild garlic is currently in abundance amongst woodlands and forests. You need to be quick though – its only around for about 6 weeks and its already been out for about 3, shooting up with its waxy green leaves and distinctive aroma.

Its a real shame that such a tasty and easily collected wild food is only here for such a short period of time, so for us we feel its best to make as many uses of it as possible whilst it is still here.

One other brilliant feature of the wild garlic that we weren’t already aware of is that it seems to keep very well in the fridge, in a sealed food-bag. We’ve collected quite a large handful and it kept fine in the fridge for at least 10 days (although I did manage to find a few snails that had also enjoyed their free holiday and all-you-can-eat buffet).

Wild garlic leaves

The first day the garlic was picked (which is an easy process – just tear off the leaves, which hopefully will grow back), and these leaves were then shredded and dressed simply with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. This was served alongside some couscous and a burger.

Wild garlic has the same distinctive flavour as that of normal garlic, but the leaves are a lot milder and less pungent. You don’t actually use the bulb of wild garlic, and in any-case this is a lot smaller than the shop brought, cultivated variety.

The health benefits of garlic are already pretty well known – in medieval times it was considered to be an ailment for just about anything, from the plague to the common cold. Nowadays, thanks to some more scientific research, its believed that garlic can help reduce high levels of cholesterol and prevent heart disease. It can also help with reducing blood pressure and is an antioxidant and is anti-bacterial. The wild garlic leaves are less effective than the larger bulbs of the cultivated variety, but of course still contain plenty of nutritional benefits (whilst being very delicious too!).

One of our favourite recipes to make use of the wild garlic leaves, and which also serves as a preservative meaning the garlic can be used and then stored in the fridge for several months, is of a very simple garlic pesto.

Finding garlic in the wild

Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe

The wild garlic pesto recipe is really just the same as your typical basil pesto recipe, replacing the basil for garlic leaves and also adding a few spinach leaves to balance the flavours a little.

Ingredients:
2 cups wild garlic leaves, washed
1/2 cup spinach leaves, washed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
lemon zest

All your usual suspects are involved – pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and lemon zest. Simply place a handful of pine nuts and the Parmesan cheese in a food blender then add a little lemon zest. Add a large handful of garlic leaves followed by a much smaller bunch of spinach leaves. Blend up before trickling in the of olive oil. Follow this up by seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.

If you’re not going to be using all of the pesto within a few days, or maybe you want to make up a big batch that will make use of the abundant wild garlic and preserve it at the same time, then when finishing pouring the pesto into a jar you should top with a thin layer of olive oil. Keep this in the fridge, and keep topping up to ensure there is a thin level of olive oil upon the surface. This will prevent oxidisation of the wild garlic pesto, enabling you to enjoy it for many more months.

Making Soda Bread

Soda bread has to be one of my favourite types of bread to bake, due to the flavour and lack of time taken to make it from scratch. Sometimes if you’ve had a long day (presumably out foraging) and want to knock up a nice loaf of bread, without having to wait hours and hours for it to rise and proove, then soda bread is a really simple and effective way to make a bread that can accompany most meals.

The reason it is so quick to bake is due to the use of baking soda, and not yeast. You also don’t really need to knead the bread, simply mix the ingredients together in a bowl, add the liquid, shape into rounds and get into the oven.

Another nice thing about making soda bread is that you can use either milk, yoghurt, buttermilk or water, or a mixture of the 4. Its interesting to try it with different liquids and see how the end results change. It can be quite a healthy bread to make too, if you try it with a wholemeal flour instead of plain. Again its good to experiment here and see what works best for you, or using whatever you’ve got left in your cupboards (unfortunately there’s little here that you can forage for, but we’ll add more wild food recipes when we can!)

Soda bread recipe

Soda Bread Recipe

250g white or wholemeal flour (plus extra for coating)
4g salt
2tsp baking powder
150ml water, buttermilk, thin yoghurt or milk (or a mixture of all)

It doesn’t really get much easier than this to bake your own bread. Simply pre-heat the oven to the highest setting, and mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the liquid and mix to form a dough, then place on a worktop and knead very briefly to combine all. Shape into a round, and flatten to about 4cm high. Sprinkle flour over the bread, then add to an oiled baking tray or baking stone.
Cut an X into the loaf – take a big knife and cut nearly through to the bottom of the dough. This will help the bread to bake and rise, and makes it easy to share later too!
Stab the bread all over gently using the tip of a knife.
Put the bread into the oven and bake for around 20 minutes. When its ready, the bread should sound hollow when you tap it on the underside.

Be careful to let the bread cool down before slicing, or if you prefer you can tear it whilst its warm and serve with butter or olive oil. As mentioned, it makes a great accompaniment to most meals, but I love it with a homemade vegetable soup, or a wild mushroom soup (foraged for, of course). It’s also great just served with cheese and an onion chutney.

Fishing for Whiting

A fish which a few years ago would have been sniffed at by most, for being unfashionable and bland, with apparently watery tasteless white flesh but which is now quite a prized asset is that of whiting.

Being closely related to the cod fish, which has been severely over-fished in the past, whiting is a very tasty and under-used fish. Recently it has become quite fashionable to eat, unfortunately being targeted as a direct replacement for cod.

If you’re not going to be out foraging (or fishing, to be more accurate) for your own whiting, then you must ensure that you buy sustainably caught specimens only. These should be clearly labelled at your fishmongers, if not then just ask. Avoid those that have been trawled for. Remember that a fresh whiting shouldn’t smell “fishy” but of the sea. It should have bright eyes, with no fading or blemishes around the eye. The gills should be bright and fresh too.

Seasonal Whiting fish

If you’re lucky enough to be fishing for your own whiting then nows a great time for it. Whiting are out in abundance, but as the waters start to warm up they’ll head back out to cooler waters. They’re quite common around the UK coastline, and have no real preferred habitats – you can catch them from stony beaches, sandy beaches, rocky beaches and so on. Personally we’ve had most luck when fishing for them on a sandy seabed. You’ll only really catch them from the shore in the evenings, and they love worm or fish baits.

Whiting usually hang around in big shoals, so when you find one you’ll usually find lots more. They’ve been described as one of the easiest fish to catch, and as long as you’re fishing from the bottom of the seabed you’ll usually strike lucky. Using baited mackerel feathers works particularly well – whiting aren’t really too fussy. On the south coast, where we’re lucky to be located, they seem to stay until the end of February. This is when the biggest catches are available – the larger ones having scared away the shoal, which may have already moved off, and which is hunting by its own (often called channel whiting). These can grow up to 2 pounds – and are very good eating too.

If you’re lucky enough to catch one you should bleed and gut it as soon as possible. The longer you leave the guts in the faster the fish will deteriorate, and whiting have quite delicate flesh. You don’t want to be left with a soggy, soft whiting after a hard night of cold fishing on a February evening.

Whiting recipe

Now onto the best part – cooking the whiting. One of our favourite recipes, from Nick Fisher’s excellent sea fishing book, is grilled fillets of whiting with chorizo sprinkled over the top.
As you can imagine, its very simple to prepare. Take the head from the whiting if its still attached (save for use in a fish stock if you like) and then cut fillets from the fish. To do this, lay the fish flat and with its tail pointing away from you and head end closest. Run a sharp knife parallel to your work bench, cutting away from you. Try and make long, clean knife cuts – not cutting as if it was a saw.
Do this for the top side of the fish first, then flip over and repeat (can be a bit fiddly with the bone, if easier you can remove it for the second fillet).

Rinse your fillets and pat dry before seasoning on both sides, but not too much salt (the chorizo or bacon is very salty already). Use either strips of bacon, bacon lardons, or sliced chunks of chorizo, and sprinkle these on top of the fillets. Place under a hot, overhead style grill, and cook for a few minutes. The idea is that the chorizo or bacon will slowly melt, releasing its fat and flavours into the flesh of the whiting, giving it a lovely flavour. The chorizo/bacon should also crisp up after a few minutes. If you prefer you can grill the back side of the fillet first for a few minutes before turning and then adding the bacon/chorizo, to ensure its cooked thoroughly. If the fish is very fresh then you don’t want to over-cook the whiting, which can be easily done. It should be ready to eat when the flesh has turned from changed to a bright white.

Delicious served on a bed of salad with olive oil and sliced tomatoes. Or to make a larger meal of it you can serve with a handful of home-made chips or roast potatoes.

How to Preserve Lemons

Okay so this isn’t going to involve much foraging (perhaps maybe for a bay leaf from someone’s garden) but to tell the truth there isn’t too much to be collecting at this time of year. Lemons are plentiful in the shops and this is a great way to preserve them, giving you a delicious ingredient to add to lots of your dishes.

Preserving lemons is common in Indian, North African and Moroccan cuisine and the end results are fantastic – you get a really versatile and tasty ingredient for not a lot of effort really. They should be a store-cupboard ingredient ready for most occasions, and if you make a batch in bulk then you will have a long lasting supply of fresh, spicy lemons that’ll improve salads, couscous dishes and much more.

Once the lemons have preserved for at least 1 month all you need to do is remove them from the jar before rinsing them with water, removing any excess salt. The soft inside flesh can be scooped out and used in salad dressings or sauces, or simply mixed in through rice or couscous. The flesh can be chopped up and eaten too, and is also great to add with couscous or other grains.

We’ve made a video to accompany this recipe, which is embedded below. Otherwise just scroll down for the recipe and step-by-step instructions on how to preserve lemons. This particular recipe was taken from the River Cottage Preserves handbook. Enjoy!

Preserved Lemons – Ingredients

1 kg lemons (small, waxy ones are ideal)
150g good quality sea salt (with no anti-caking agents)
1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds
3 or 4 bay leaves
2 x 450g jam jars (sterilised – see note below)

Preserved lemons ingredients

  1. Sterilise the jam jars – I did this by placing them in a pan of cold water which I then bought to the boil.
  2. Wash the lemons then pat dry on a tea towel.
  3. Take roughly 6 lemons and make cuts to quarter them – but don’t cut all the way through, keep the lemons intact.
  4. Rub about 1 tsp of sea salt on each lemon, onto the cut sides.
  5. Half the remaining lemons and squeeze the juice out.
  6. Pack the quartered lemons tightly into the jam jar, then add the peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, and lemon juice.
  7. The lemons should be covered with liquid, if not add more lemon juice or water.
  8. Add the lids securely before shaking well.
  9. Leave for at least 1 month to allow the lemon rind to soften.
  10. To serve – take a piece of lemon from the jar and rinse before scooping out the flesh and chopping up the rind – this is edible too (if you like). Make sure you keep the jar of lemons in the fridge after opening. They should be okay for up to 1 year.

Preserved lemon recipe

Hope you’ve enjoyed the recipe, please leave a comment below to let us know how you get on if you give this one a try. If you’ve got your own recipe or prefer to do things a little differently then please let us know.

Update – Wild Foods is now Foraged Foods

Just a heads up notice if you wondered why there have been no posts recently – we’ve changed location to a non blogspot site, we’re now running on wordpress and can be found at Foraged Foods. The blog aims to be the same as before – but just more up to date! We want to teach you about foraging for food, whats in season, where to look for wild food, and of course some great foraged food recipes. Over the next few days we will try and set up some kind of redirect so any visits to this page will take you to the new site, but we’d love it if you could come and join us over at our new blog!

A Brilliant Year for Mushrooms – So Far

So far this has been a great year for mushrooms with a very wet and cool summer providing perfect conditions for a huge variety of species to start appearing. Autumn seems to be with us already after yet another disappointing summer here in the UK, yet already we’ve seen a massive amount of mushrooms in our forests and woodlands.

wild mushrooms

I’ve only been on a few forest walks in the recent weeks yet I’ve managed to see a great number of different varieties of mushrooms. I’ve seen Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) mushrooms , Ceps (Boletus edulis), Chanterelles, Parasol mushrooms, Giant puffballs, Amethyst deceivers and of course field mushrooms. The best places to find these species are in Oak forests, Beech forests, and other old grassland areas. Parasol mushrooms love to grow in fields and amongst bracken, as do giant puffballs which also love to grow amongst stinging nettles. Chanterelles like to grow in moist ditches on the edges of forests, usually appearing in the same spot every year.

We’re only a few weeks into Autumn and so this is a very good sign for mushroom lovers here in England, and as winter comes theres bound to be loads of Oyster mushrooms to be found, along with many other species. Make the most of the abundance of mushrooms out in our forests now, but remember not to pick above the allowed 1.5kg limit per person(which, in our eyes, is too much anyway), and remember its illegal to collect for commercial reasons. In our part of England we’re having a real problem with people collecting way above the limit and doing so for commercial reasons – either selling the mushrooms on to restaurants or shops.

If you find yourself having picked too many mushrooms then possible to consume, then you should consider the options of freezing or drying, depending on the species. Hedgehog mushrooms freeze quite well but can hold a lot of moisture – so when it comes to cooking them they release a lot of water. Another option is drying them – just slice the mushrooms thinly and lay them out on a wire rack and place in a warm cupboard, such as a boiler cupboard or airing cupboard. The mushrooms can then be re-constituted with water when ready for using. This method of preserving mushrooms works particularly well with species of Bolettes.

I’ll try and add some mushroom recipes to our wild food blog over the course of the next few weeks.

Crab Apple Wine Recipe

This year has been excellent for crab apples with many trees loaded with the small, sharp fruit, most likely due to the amount of rain that we’ve been getting over the past few weeks. Summer seems to have been and gone in a flash, and the cold, blowy Autumn nights seem to be upon us already, so what better way to cheer yourself up by having a go at making a batch of crab apple wine to enjoy another year.

Its worth noting that it can take over a year, preferably 2, for the crab apple wine to ferment and become ready to consume, so its not really something that can be enjoyed quickly. The actual process of going out and searching for and collecting crab apples, as well as preparing the wine, are actually really good fun harmless fun in it self, so it could be a great way to spend a dull, rainy Sunday. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll put a lot of effort into collecting the crab apples and preparing the wine, only to leave it fermenting in your garage and completely forget about it until 3 or 4 years later… in which time it inevitably ends up tasting like a sherry…

Anyway if you haven’t been put off yet then you should give this recipe a go. A good crab apple wine can actually be a very potent drink, a little like a very strong cider, so go wary when you’re finally ready to consume it as it can pack a surprisingly strong punch. Refreshing, yet very potent. Its definitely well worth giving the recipe a go, head down to any nearby forests and you should find an abundance of crab apples already fallen to the floor – these ones should be fine to use, you’ll only be crushing them yourself anyway so it doesn’t matter if you use fallers plus by leaving plenty in the trees you’ll be providing food for any wild animals to enjoy – horses and pigs love to feast on them even if humans don’t (they leave a very bitter taste – coming from a first hand experience).

crab apple wine recipe


Crab Apple Wine Ingredients

4 kilograms / 8.5 lb’s of Crab Apples
1 Campden tablet
Teaspoon of Pectozyme
1 kilogram / 2.5 lb’s of sugar
300 grams / 8.5 lb’s of raisins
Teaspoon of yeast nutrient
Sachet of Champagne yeast

Crab Apple Wine Recipe

Gather up around 4kg of crab apples and then give them a wash and de-stalk them with a knife. You then need to crush them – this is the fun part. An apple crusher or press is ideal, but obviously not everyone is this fortunate… everyone else can use a strong plastic bag, perhaps 2 black (unused!) binbags would be suffice – place the apples inside and then use a mallet or plank of wood. If using a mallet be careful as you don’t want to puncture the bag and spill apple juice everywhere…

Get 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of cold water and drop in your Campden tablet. A Campden tablet is a sulfur based product which is used to kill bacteria which grow during the fermentation process, preventing many other wild yeasts from growing which would affect the flavour of your crab apple wine. The tablet should dissolve in the water, allowing you to add the contents of your bag – the crushed crab apples. Next, you need to add a teaspoon of Pectozyme. This is a pectic enzyme, which helps to break down the pectin found in the apples – pectin is found in the cell walls of plants. By breaking the pectin down it helps to speed up the extraction of the juice present in the apples.

Place the concoction in a cool, dry place and cover it with some kind of lid. You will need to stir it every day for 4 days. Don’t worry what it looks or smells like at this stage, its early days yet. You will next need to strain out the mixture into another suitable container. Then you can add the 1kg of sugar followed by the 300g of raisins. Give it a quick mix and follow this up by adding the final ingredients – a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and a sachet of champagne yeast. The sugar helps with the fermentation process and also helps sweeten the wine, and the raisins also help to impart a deep, fruity flavour. The yeasts are obviously required to help with the fermentation of the wine.

This mixture will need to ferment for a week in similar conditions before straining for a final time, pressing the raisins in the process to extract their juices into the wine mix. And here it is, ready (well, not quite)… you’ll need to avoid temptation and leave the wine to ferment for around 18 months, ideally longer. But remember, the longer you leave it the stronger it will get, so we recommend that you consume it between 18 and 24 months. When the mixture has fermented for long enough you can start to bottle it up. Remember to follow the routine of sterilising the wine bottles and equipment used in order to prevent your hard work going to waste.

I’d love to hear your own crab apple wine recipe suggestions, and would equally love to find out if you gave this recipe a go!

How to make Elderflower Champagne

With Summer now well under way it is the perfect time to go foraging for some Elderflower heads to use in a very special Elderflower champagne recipe.

By following this recipe you will be able to produce a clear, sparkling drink which is not too strong yet which is still alcoholic.

From start to finish you should have your Elderflower champagne ready to drink within about 14 days, not bad going considering some alcoholic drinks will take several months before they are ready.

The white flowers of the Elder tree should be very distinctive and will have a very recognisable smell (hopefully you have tasted Elderflower before, as some sort of drink).

elderflower champagne


Elderflower Champagne Recipe

This recipe will produce around 6 litres of Elderflower Champagne

Ingredients:

16 Elderflower heads (roughly)
4 litres of hot water
650g sugar
Juice and zest of 4 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
A pinch of dried yeast (not essential)

Instructions For Making Elderflower Champagne:

1. Pour the hot water into a clean bucket and add in the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add 2 litres of cold water to the mixture.

2. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juize and zest, and then add the Elderflower heads. Stir the mix gently to combine the ingredients.

3. Place a section of muslin over the bucket and move to a cool and airy place to allow it to ferment for a couple of days. Check the bucket to see if fermentation has taken place (the liquid will become foamy and a little frothy). If no fermentation has begun to take place then add a pinch of dry yeast to the mixture.

4. Check the mixture again in 4 days when it should have fermented as much as possible. It should now be ready to bottle. To do this, strain the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin and into a sterilised container. It is best to use something strong as the build up of Carbon Dioxide can cause the bottles to explode. It is also recommended that you use champagne stoppers, or sterilised screw-top plastic bottles, to keep the container sealed throughout the extra fermentation period.

5. Make sure the bottles are properly sealed and leave them for at least 7days before drinking. Elderflower champagne is best served chilled after this length of time, and should be kept in a cool and dry place. It should keep in the bottles for about 5 months. Enjoy!

elderflower champagne recipe

How to make Acorn Coffee

Heres another really simple recipe for you to bear in mind for Autumn time when acorns are out in their numbers. Although a recipe for acorn coffee this drink doesn’t really resemble a taste anything like coffee, but it is still a very warming and nutritious, comforting drink to have on a cold winters evening.

If eaten raw acorns have a really bitter taste and will leave a funny astringent feeling in the mouth, some people presumed that they were poisonous to eat but they just don’t taste that good – and so its best to process them before making use of them.

acorn coffee

Acorns are a plentiful food usually, especially after a wet year, and there is rarely an acorn shortage in the UK. For this acorn coffee recipe you won’t need a set amount of acorns, but a couple of handfuls should provide you with several servings of this drink.

Boil the acorns, shell included, for about 20 minutes. After this time you should let the acorns cool before trying to peel them from their hard outer shell. By boiling them you make peeling them easier and reduce their bitterness slightly. After removing the shell, peel off their outer skin.

Next you need to split the acorns, which you can do with a knife or pestle and morter type implement. Put the split acorns in a warm area to dry for about 24 hours. An airing cupboard or warm kitchen worktop is an ideal place to remove moisture from the acorns.

Finally you need to grind the split acorns up, if you can use a coffee grinder then use one, if not then just try to grind them as finely as possible. Place the grounded acorns onto a baking sheet and either place under a grill or in an oven to roast them until dark brown. You need to pay close attention to stop them from burning.

Place around 3 tablespoons of the ground acorns in a cup of boiling water, like you would usually do with coffee beans. Add some milk and a small amount of sugar, and the acorn coffee is ready to drink.