Breath in the spring..then eat it

Have you ever noticed the ‘smell of spring’? It usually happens on a dewy morning when the sun is warming up the ground and plants are growing so fast you can almost see them shoot upwards. This recipe captures some of the plants that contribute to this wonderful sweet smell; a wild take on a classic salsa verde – easy to gather, easy to make and very very easy to eat. And would you believe it, it’s delicious with bangers, on bread and probably goes very well with a glass of beer. It also happens to be senstational with spring lamb, pork, fish or cheese.

These are all rough quanities, it’s up to you how much you pick or add. When you are collecting your ingredients have a bite so you get to know the leaves distinct flavours – you’ll have a pleasant suprise! Incase you can’t find them all, I’ve included a ‘non wild’ alternative to the wild ingredients. Adapt this recipe for your own taste buds or what you can gather – the core ‘herby’ ingredients are garlic and ground elder (or parsley) play around with the other ingredients – this kind of recipe is all about having a bit of a play! Think grown up mud pies that happen to taste delicious…go on, get playing
a large handful of wild garlic (or 2 bulbs of garlic)
a large handful of ground elder (or flat leaved / curly leaved parsley)
a few dandelion leaves before the plant has flowered
a handful of ox eyed daisy leaves or daisy leaves from your lawn
a dozen or so pennywort leaves (or a small cucumber with the seeds removed)
a dozen or so sorrel leaves (or a squeeze of lemon juice)
a small handful of mint leaves
a handful of young hawthorn or lime leaves

2 tablespoons of pickled nasturtium seeds, samphire or elderflower buds (or capers)
Virgin Rape seed oil or olive oil
Cider Vinegar

Soak all of the leaves in fresh water with a cup of vinegar added – (this cleans them).
Dry the leaves in a salad spinner (or, if you are like me give and without one, give them a good shake!)
Roll handfuls of leaves into cigars and chopped them as finely as your arms will allow. You can put them in the food processor and blitz them, but the best texture comes from hand chopping (sorry!)
Add the leaves to a bowl, finely chop the nasturium seeds and add these.
Pour in enough vinegar to make the leaves ‘wet’ but not drowned – about 250ml (if you have leaves floating in a pool of vinegar, you’d probably added too much)
Add a few glugs of oil – stir the mixture together
Start adding sugar, tasting along the way –  you want to get to a sweet and sour balance that you like; and finlally season the mixture with salt if you feel it needs it.
Put the salsa verde into a covered jar, pop in the fridge and use within a couple of days

Probably one of the least prescribed recipes you’ll ever read but sometimes you have to use your taste buds rather than a book…

Primrose Curd – A taste of spring to come

The dirty palette of winter landscapes has suddenly been injected with splashes of vibrant tones, fields are greening with neon new shoots and verges are speckled with yellows of all hues; primroses. gorse flowers, celandine and daffodils, signalling that spring really is coming.

Up here is the hills we’re still in the throws of winter but even here we’ve spotted a few buttery primroses celebrating the very welcome, very delicious flavours of early spring. So whether you’re in sunny parts where spring is springing, or in a colder pocket where you need a glimpse into spring, this is for you…..  What better way to celebrate the coming of spring than with a sweet treat full of spring sunshine flavours, and if you have primroses in your garden you can turn a handful of flowers into a desert to delight even the saddest Jack Frost.

My friend Rebecca lives in a little cottage which has a beautiful shady garden which is covered in primroses in the spring, it is so carpeted in fact that the cottage is called Primrose Cottage and her 2 sons Tim and Rob gather the primroses I use in my curd. Rather than collecting from verges, gather your primroses from clumps in your own gardens. You can pluck and propagate at the same time as primrose seeds can be sown green – pop open the fruit capsule & push the tiny seeds just under the earth – you’ll have your own Primrose Cottage in no time.

Primrose Curd  – with Primrose Meringues

Makes 8


4 large egg whites

240g granulated or caster sugar

8-10 primrose flowers, chopped

Primrose curd (see below) or lemon curd

300ml double cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/Gas 2. Put the egg whites and about a quarter of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Still whisking, gradually sprinkle in all but about 3 tbsp of the sugar, beating until it is holding soft peaks again. Finally, fold in the last of the sugar and the chopped flowers.

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and spoon the mixture in eight well-spaced mounds (they’ll need a good 3cm between each).

Bake for 45 minutes, or until palest gold and dry and firm to the touch. Leave to cool on the paper.

Very carefully peel the meringues off the paper — they will be fragile. Turn upside down and spoon cream and primrose curd on the base. Decorate with more flowers, crystallised if you like.

Primrose curd


A generous handful of unsprayed washed primrose petals

450g sugar

450g Bramley apples

125g unsalted butter

4-5 large eggs

The zest and juice of 2 lemons

Day one: finely chop the primrose petals, place them with the sugar in a container and stir through the primrose flowers. Cover and leave for at least 24 hours (this will allow the flavours from the petals to be released into the sugar).

Day 2: peel and chop 450g of apples, put them into a pan with 100ml of water and the lemon zest. On the hob, gently cook the apple until it is yieldingly soft, then mash it into a purée.

One-third fill a pan with water and place a snug-fitting heat‑proof bowl on top of the pan. Add the apple, butter, lemon juice and primrose sugar mixture to the bowl. Heat the pan and stir the mixture until the butter has completely melted.

Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the mixture through a sieve. Stir the eggs in thoroughly with a balloon whisk.

Put the pan back on a gentle heat and stir the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it thickens. (It will thicken further as it cools.) Pour the curd into sterilised jars, seal immediately and store in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a month.

If you want to use the curd straight away, transfer the mixture to a wide bowl (ideally a stainless steel one) and sit in a larger bowl of iced water. Stir occasionally until cold.

Filming in the flowers

Last June  film makers from the BBC came and spent the day on our hill making an insert for a James Martins Home Comforts . It was well timed, the midsummer sun cast its warm glow on the billowing flowering stitchwort; earthy speedwell, honeyed clover and perfumed honeysuckle. The footpath by our house is an old drovers road and for hundreds of years people have beaten a path over the hill, breathing in the same perfumes, plucking berries from the same brambles and nibbling nuts from the same trees we now gather our finds.

After the days gathering and filming we headed to the local village hall for a wild supper to celebrate the flavours of early summer. Walterstone village hall used to be the local school, children that learnt there would’ve chewed on grass, suckled the nectar from honeysuckle and breathed in meadowsweet’s perfume while filling their stained mouths with wild strawberries plucked from the shady embankments that are etched  into the landscape around here. The flavours we use at Forage are inspired by the same tastes and smells the drovers and children from these hills experienced and loved. We are proud that our products are known for being delicious, but we are equally pleased to know that they celebrate the flavours of our very green and perfumed  lands.

We hope you enjoy this little film about Forage (It’s worth watching the whole progamme, but if you just want to see our bit, it’s 33 minutes into the programme)

It’s wild in these hills…

At Forage we think there isn’t much better in life than eating food cooked with love, with good company and great music. So we thought we’d start ever so often putting on Wild Feasts. They’re not quite the average night out….Tables get moved, people help clear plates, service is slow BUT the food is fresh, the atmosphere is magic, and our guests feel like our friends. We’re not professional caterers but we do have lots and lots of squirrelled away treats we make through the year – the types of things that make menus a bit special & could make NOMA jealous..mulberry & sumac jam, rosehip & cardamom vinegar, pickled unripe gooseberries, wild cherry pit liqueur, dried meadowsweet & sorrel jelly,,,

The dust from our last wild night is just settling – it was quite a night and from a tiny village hall kitchen we fed 130 hungry people & then danced the starry night away to the incredible MABON. A very kind man called Richard Waite came along with his camera & snapped the night, and as pictures can say 1000 words, here are some of the highlights of a very wild night in the mountains…

Oh, by the way here is what we ate:


Trout soused in unripe gooseberry vinegar

Salmon poached in rosehip, chilli & apple juice

Rose petal preserve on ragstone cheese

Damson & chocolate sauce on wild boar salami

pickled wild garlic buds with haford cheese

wild hazelnut & rose el hanout dukkah


Roast haunch of vension & spiced venison meatballs with mulberry & sumac sauce

pumpkin, blackberry, elderberry, walnut & chestnut tart

wild bubble & squeak with nasturtium leaves, cleavers, bittercress & chickweed

kale wilted in cobnut oil with pickled unripe blackberries, pine & blackberry vinaigrette & wild hazelnuts


Wild black forest gateaux with meadowsweet, wild cherries, and wild cherry liqueur

Damson & Chocolate cream mess with toasted oats and meringue

elderflower champagne & gooseberry jelly

walnut, sloe gin & pine strudel with Shepherds sloe gin & damson ice cream

Cheese board with Wye Valley Ewes cheese, Neals Yard Ragstone, Stilton & Haford cheese (provided by Marches Deli in Abergavenny)

We drank some LOVELY wine, beer and cider from the wonderful Hay Deli,  and the feasters quaffed lots of Englands newest red, Sixteen Ridges Pinot Noir – the wine child of Simon Day, cider master at Once Upon a Tree, who is now taking the English wine scene by storm.

Thank you everyone who came, everyone who waited patiently for their food, everyone who moved tables, everyone who smiled, cleared their plates & danced. You were lovely, please come again!

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Cleavers, the apple of my January eye…


The fields are brown, our boots are muddy, trees are bare and the sky is grey.  It’s the time of year when hibernation is a clever idea, but if you are made of sturdy stuff & able to pick with numb fingers, there are treasures to be found right now. Low growing shoots & winter greens that’ll add well earned flavours to winter stodge…Right now the weedy apple of my eye is a truly delicious herb that I’m sure you all know, it’s just you probably don’t love it in the way I do..yet. Let me introduce you to the very clever Cleaver…
You might know this herb (it’s not a weed I promise) as sticky weed or goosegrass, gardeners amongst you will probably of battled with it’s leggy stems in the middle of the summer, jumpers covered in its sticky burrs as a long lasting memory of your encounter.. You might not have a very positive view of this plant, but bear with me, it’s one you should get to know right about now…. Cleavers have been used for centuries in herbal medicine, they make an incredible tonic, are thought to help push toxins out of the body &  and are proven to support our lymphatic system – the glands which are all over our body & are key to healthy immune systems. Just as importantly maybe, they are natures very own brand of botox…try rinsing your face for a couple of weeks with Cleaver infused water & you’ll never buy an anti aging cream again….Cleavers have a unique taste, I describe them as being like new growth in spring – if you’ve ever stood outside on a spring morning & breathed in the smell in the air you’ll know the taste – it’s earthy, herby & full of life. And at this time of year we all could do with Cleavers in our diet, in the depths of the ‘run down’ fluey, broke after Christmas season the little weeds growing in our back gardens are natures free super food, and super they really are.
When you gather cleavers at this time of year, the stems are tender enough to eat – they are about 10cm long right now, easily identified with their slightly hairy appearance and whorls of sets of  narrow leaves that grow up the stems. If you were pulling up metres of Cleavers last year from your garden, go to where they were growing & you’ll probably find the young shoots waiting to be gathered..
This recipe is for a simple, delicious and nourishing salad & bound to win your heart…
Wilted carrot, Cleaver & Ras el Hanout Salad
cleaver carrott rose el hanout
You’ll need:
Gather a fat posy of cleavers, wash and dry them well.
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
tbsp ras el Hanout  (I make Rose el Hanout which you can buy online but any good Ras will be fine)
Light olive oil or hazelnut oil
Lemon juice or a good apple cider vinegar
heat a glug of oil in a wide pan, add the carrots and cleavers with a splash of water and the Ras el Hanout  and stir the vegetables for a few minutes until the cleavers start to wilt slightly and carrots sweeten.
Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of cider vinegar to give a subtle zing, season with a sprinkle of salt and leave to cool to room temperate.
Serve with flat breads, and curd cheese or chicken thighs with apricots & almonds – loverly.

new years honours list (well if the queen can have one..)

How did that happen?? it’s 2015. Time to lurch thick headed in to the year ahead. But before you forget all about the shenanigans of 2014 I think it’s time we all say thanks to those people who made 2014 what it was. You see, I think the queen is onto something with her new years honours, but as a good old republican I also think we should have a bit of the action.

So here goes, I’m going in. My ever so regal inaugural line up for honours is to a group of people who did something  remarkable in 2014, thrown in the corporate towel, painted signs, stocked shelves, employed people, supported little producers and become the finest shop keepers imaginable. In these days of ghost town high streets,  pubs turning into des-reses and supermarkets trying to convince us that blandest is Finest, there is a small army of noteworthy people who are hungry for a place to buy great food on their high street. Rather than moan about the metros & expresses springing up all over the shop(s) they have taken life changing leaps into opening new food shops, reopening closed ones, and taking over the curtilage of existing fine establishments. I know these people as they are kind enough to stock Forage produce  – they are running the type of food store that seeks out small producers who don’t necessarily sell via wholesalers – and believe me that adds an awful lots of work to the already relentless list of things they have to do, but that’s what makes them the kind of people that makes you smile when you go into their shop.

So, this little producer & indy shopper wants to say thank you to Derek from the Hay Deli, Tom from Marches in Abergavenny, Volker from Volker & Quinn in Balham, and Henry from Harp Lane Deli in Ludlow. 2014 changed their lives just a bit, they probably don’t have many waking moments not thinking about their shops, but we really, really do appreciate you & you all do it very well indeed. Consider yourselves Knighted. Tom th





Coedcanlas – sweet as honey

It’s lovely when people wax lyrical about my products, sometimes people tell me the reason they’ve come to a food festival is to stock up on Forage goodies – it makes a small producer like me feel that the long nights standing in front of a bubbling pan is worth while, so please keep the nice feedback coming. I, as it happens have a producer who I sing romantic ballards about & I find myself evangelising about this little food business as much as my own….the apples of my eye are very special artisan producers Nick & Annette Tonkin. If I tell you a little bit about them. I think you’ll see why my heart is in Coedcanlas…

Nick & Annette are bee keepers, queen bee breeders, marmalade makers, food importers and quite frankly they would appear high on my list as fantasy dinner party guests – as long as they bought a few jars with them. For years they’ve been keeping bees and supplying queen bees to hives all over the place, including to other bee keepers who sometimes happen to make exceptional food in their home countries…Nick & Annette have started importing small amounts of these delicious finds & making these one off, beautiful products available to us lucky people. Sicilian grassy herby olive oil, lemon blossom honey and toasted almonds, Canadian maple syrup reduced over oak fires, and of course their own very special honey. They proudly run their business to complement their lives, and their love for what they do oozes from every jar & I’d love you to have one of those jars in your cupboard.

Frugality at Christmas? Very fishy.

We’ve had a very welcome visitor this Christmas, sat in our fridge in an unassuming brown paper bag is a side of freshly smoked salmon. It’s going fast there’s only a bit left & I keep thinking about it. My goodness me, it’s a magical thing & I think it’s only fair to tell you about it…

You need to understand that I don’t usually  do things like buy a whole side of smoked salmon. I am the kind of shopper who picks up the things I like, cradles them on a slow journey around the isles of a shop & then puts them back on their shelves before I buy my sensible bag of oats, leaving behind the indulgences I really wanted but my puritanical sensibilities prevents me from enjoying. A side of salmon? Such frippery.
But then I had a stall at the Dewsall Court Christmas Food Fair. To be fair, Dewsall Court is the kind of place that would lossen up Cromwell & it was dressed up in its winter finery. I was already at a loss.

I was stopped in my tracks by a table laid out with 2 glowing pieces of fish. Oh my goodness me. I have never ever had smoked salmon like it. I tried a piece, lost any frugal values and snapped up the last side. And I have been please with myself ever since. We’ve had it with chicory and crème fraiche, little gems and cucumbers, rye crackers and pickled gooseberries, with slithers of rosehips & horseradish, seeped it in soy & sesame,  and wrapped it around pickled wild garlic buds BUT best of all I have been eating mouthfuls of it with nothing on it – in its smokey birthday suit.
Why was it so good? Well I don’t know. I know it wasn’t oily & tasted of proper wood smoke and of seaweed – and of course of very fresh, delicious salmon, the kind of fish that would make the grizzliest of bears give thanks for. It just was amazing and I was going to recommend that you go,  find yourself the smoker himself, shake his hand and buy some of his fish. But then I found out that the man that smokes the fish also runs a very special hotel in Newport in Pembrokeshire, so here we go – my Christmas gift is in my fridge, but my Christmas gift to you is to give you this name. Llys Meddyg. Burn it into your memory, go eat with them, stay with them, buy from them, if their hotel is like their fish, it’ll be smoking…