‘it seems to me that we look at nature too much and live with her too little’

FORRAGING_048‘It seems to me that we look at nature too much and live too little with her’ I’ve just heard this Oscar Wilde quote on radio 4. His words set my hairs on edge. Was Oscar a forager? I’m not sure and to be honest I’m such an uncultured type I don’t even know what it connection to the wilds was (apart from lying on grass with a cigarette in his beautiful mouth) but he put his refined finger right on the button in this statement & in a way that’s utterly apt 130 years later. Lots of people in our country have nature disconnect – that’s a fact. Lots of us try and reconnect with nature by looking at her – we go for woodland walks, climb mountains, gaze at the stars but not many of us live with her. Our culture has become so distant from the notion that we belong to nature: in fact, since even before the days when  Oscar lay on grassy fields, we believed that nature belonged to us. We look on at nature with a distance gaze –  we have a relationship with nature by treating it as the ultimate commodity, controlling & often destroying it – even people who want to preserve nature often feel humans have such a negative impact on nature that we should leave her well alone & look on at the natural world as a precious place apart from human intervention.

Obviously preserving nature is far more preferable to destroying & poisoning it, but it can miss the point that Oscar made so beautifully. We should live with her – but we should really take that statement further – we are nature; we’re a part of her. To live life as part of nature we need to go further than going on a walk, building reserves, putting up fences, being fearful of ‘touching’. Ever since I gathered honeysuckle in the company of fellow foragers; bees and moths, eating the food that grows freely, of its own volition , my life in nature began. Gathering and eating the wild feels like drinking from a watering pool with other animals. We’re no more entitled to this food than the bee who is suckling nectar from honeysuckle, than the hedge dwelling birds nibbling on birch buds; or than the squirrels racing us for hazelnuts, but equally we’re no less entitled to it either. Wild, gathered food nourishes us in an incomparable way & it feed our bodies with nutrient dense food, and it feeds our souls in a way that no shopping trip can. We, the human species animal needs to be reintroduced to our native environment – we need to be rewilded. Foraging is a remarkably delicious way of connecting us back to the world we live in; changes our very view of the world we see around us; when you no longer see unkempt weedy verges, but lush larders your world view shifts in a powerfully liberating way.

What would happen if we all started to forage for our suppers? How could the world cope? I sit here writing on my hill that  flanked on the left by a plain of Herefordshire farmland – I can see on a clear day miles & miles of fields growing a handful of crops – potato’s, oil seed rape, wheat, apples and hops – huge fields of monoculture; dependant on a strict cycle of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides to ensure their crops yield well, and contracts can be met so we can be fed. To my right there are hills – too rough and undulating to grow crops on; in place of oil seed rape are thick hedgerows, pasture & woodland – full of crops; natures crops – herbs (weeds) fruit & nuts enough to feast on – nature thrives here and repays her inhabitants – insect, birds and mammals with food to feed us all – the 2 views from my hill make a statement as eloquent as Oscar could make that nature really can provide when she is allowed to flourish; and we will flourish if we live in her.

 

 

Sweet woodruff crème caramels

marcuspud

This is the season of deep flavoured edible flowers – their herby flavours verge on savoury, but they  are the ultimate flavour adornment for a silky sweet woodruff crème caramel drizzled with birch or maple syrup. If Willow really was a whisp, this is what she would be dipping her silky fingers into.

3 springs of sweet woodruff, dried to release its vanilla flavour

300ml full fat milk

300ml single cream

4 large eggs

25g  sugar or birch sugar (Xylitol – available in most good food shops)

2 butter biscuits crushed with a few finely chopped rosemary leaves.

Birch sap or amber (dark) maple syrup

Warm the milk & cream in a pan, adding the sprigs of Sweet Woodruff & let its flavour infuse in the warm liquid for at least ½ hour. Whilst the Sweet woodruff is infusing, whisk together the eggs & sugar.

Whisk the milk into the egg & sugar mixture & pour into single ramekins or a shallow dish. Place the dish(es) into a larger oven proof container & fill the outside container with water. Place both in to an oven preheated to 150C & cook for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the custard has set.

Serve quenelles of the crème caramel with rosemary, violet, honeysuckle or white dead nettle flowers, sprinkle with the crushed rosemary biscuits & drizzle over the sap syrup. The version in the photo was made by our very good friend the lovely chef Marcus Bean, he added a crushed matcha honeycomb – it was bitter & heavenly.

 

(*Sweet Woodruff contains coumarin, which when dried releases a vanilla / tonka bean flavour. Coumain is best avoided by people on blood thinning medication or pregnant women)

(Birch sap syrup is extremely delicious, and easy to make. If you have a birch tree, you can tap its rising sap in the spring & reduce the trees nectar into a deep molasses like syrup – if you can’t get hold of birch sap syrup, it’s cousin Maple will work just as well- and you can forage for it in the warmth of your local shop)

 

 

(Pukka) Polenta & Primrose Cake.

I have a thing with polenta. Not a good thing I may add.  The moment I discovered it & I also learnt I had an issue with it. It was Jamie Olivers fault. He was young, he was probably in Italy and he had a wooden scrubbed table in front of him. Now as you can imagine I’m no prude when it comes to tableware – I’ve eaten of far worse things than scrubbed tables – it wasn’t the table that made my stomach turn just a bit, it was the runny grobbles that  Jamie slopped onto the table, with a well in the middle to be filled with an extremely tasty I’m sure stew of some sort. The table eating didn’t bother me, the stew looked saucy..it could’ve been a winner, if it wasn’t for the bright yellow guck. Polenta & me spent 15 years having a wide birth from each other, with occasional stomach churning recollections of the scrubbed table.

But the other day I tried making a cake with some leftover Primrose Curd. It’s an apple, egg, butter,lemon & primrose mix & I had high hopes for my cake. My first attempt with wheat flour looked like a WI prize winner. but within moments deflated into a wet batter. I mourned the loss of my cake & my kids ate it with a distaste I haven’t seen since Polentagate.  However, behind the stodge was a gorgeous flavour. Fortunatly perhaps because Primrose & Polenta both start with the same letter (seriously it doesn’t get much more sophisticated than that in my head) I thought once more about Polenta & wondered if it was time to put aside my fear of the corny grain – perhaps this grain might be less slop, more substance in my cake?

Well, knock me over with a feather. A trip to the shop & a bake later and I am utterly in love with Polenta. gloopy it is not. It is my best friend of the week, it makes the loveliest gluten free cake (yes a lovely gluten free cake) and it turns out to like being scattered with primrose flowers – which is lucky because look all around you, they are everywhere at the moment. So here you have it.  It’s been the star of my market stall for the last couple of weeks. Men & women have been going weak kneed over it & polenta is out of stock in the fair counties of Herefordshire & Monmouthshire. Polenta really is nice, in cake; in utterly gorgeous cake – good enough to adorn Jamie Olivers scrubbed table.

Primrose & Polenta Cake

Peel & chop 3 cooking apples (you’ll want 450g of apple), squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon slowly cook them until they are soft & pulpy, melt in 125 g butter &  dissolve in 200g sugar- take off the heat & allow to cool enough to mix in 4 beaten eggs. Stir the mixture together until it is smooth. Stir into the mixture 1 tsp of baking powder (look for Rice Flour on the ingredients if you’re wanting to make a properly gluten free cake – baking powder often has wheat flour in it) & then stir in 500g polenta & 2 tablespoons of yoghurt.  Now leave it for 1 hour to let the polenta grains absorb the liquid (you’ll thank me for this bit) If it’s very stiff once the grains have absorbed the liquid add glug of milk to loosen the batter. Then place the mix in a cake tin, wet the top of the cake and pat it down with your fingers (don’t ask me why this is important, but it is) put your cake into your oven preheated to 180 or whatever temperature you make your best cakes in. (oven temperature, not the temperature of your kitchen, although if that helps don’t let me stop you.) cook your cake until you can stick a knife in & it comes out clean.

Once cooled, drizzle your cake with icing sugar glaze (I use lemon juice in mine for sharpness) & scatter the top of your cake with Primose flowers. I freeze petals & crumble them over the cake – but it would look just as nice with whole petals – the only thing that doesn’t work is an earwig stuck in the icing. (a downside to using freshly picked flowers is how many earwigs you get to know)

Pukka. Primrose. Polenta. Innit.

 

 

 

My buddy, Birch.

Outside our kitchen are a dozen birch trees. Before I became a forager I thought that they were utterly worthless and should be replaced by useful trees; apples, plums…you know the kind. I used to think that there was no point in planting a tree that didn’t produce things. What a complete wally I was. Quite when I realised how amazing Birch trees are is a bit of a mystery, but all I know is that they are quite magical & that I’m still finding out why they should be grown in every garden – and for that matter, on every street.. OK, so they are bit straggly and unmanicured looking, but bear with me – this is the tree for you, I promise you.
Birches are known as pioneer trees; remember the images of trees growing through the abandoned streets of Chernobyl? They were Birch trees. Look down the side of a dual carriage way, on the sidings of railway lines – chances are you’ll be whizzing past Birch. They creep into neglected spaces in the blink of an eye, there they are. Its ability to grow in hostile places isn’t fluke – it’s because Birch trees have a canny knack of seeking out nutrients others don’t notice. If Birch were a type of person they’d be the wiry but strong type, who eats like a bird yet has the energy of a Amazonian; they’d be the kind of person who takes very little but gives a lot – an awful lot; this to be precise is what they give.
Here is the caveat bit. What follows are a list of attributes *some* people believe to be true – lots of amazing research is going on into proving the value of Birch, but for the moment, read what I’m writing, but I can’t say it’s gospel as lots of it isn’t proven by clinical trials (you might just have to be a synthetic medicine made by big fat Pharma to do that..)

Birch trees are one of those clever trees that produce a drink – in the early spring, before the buds start opening birch trees will suck up huge amounts of magical water from the ground (ok not magical but nearly) this water is crammed full of goodies – you can buy birch water all over the place now (it’s the new, old coconut water you know) it contains a special sugar – Xylitol, which actually helps prevent cavities (how brilliant is that?), saponins (which lower cholesterol) compounds that detoxify your liver, and kidneys, it’s got salicylate in it (natures original & best aspirin), anti-inflammatories and anti bacterial properties. A sip of birch water will restore all of your hair / turn greys into shimmering golden locks. (OK I fibbed about that one, just a bit)..it’s bonkers and brilliant – and don’t even get me started on its buds, its leaves, its bark, and even the fungi that grows on it…Birch it’s your buddy.
So how do you tap into this elixir? Well it’s as easy as pie – when sap is rising you can tap birch trees just like those good folks in Canada do with Maple – a spile & a bucket or, you can do what I do, with less pretty looking kit, but just as effective.
You’ll need – a collection of empty freezer proof bottles all fitting the same lid, a drill, a length of brewing tube & if you’re on a windy hill, some bungie cords. Oh, and as much space in your freezer as you can get away with without causing marital ructions
The sap tapping season is short – it’s a bit like waiting for an avocado to ripen; as soon as you get a sniff of spring in the air, start checking for sap rising – you’ll know sap is rising by breaking the end of a twig every few days..if a bead of sap forms at the end of the twig you’ve stuck lucky. The tapping window is only a few weeks & if it gets cold, the sap might stop for a while.

So the bead of sap has appeared, you’re ready to go – this is my way of tapping & storing sap – give it a go & let me know how your hair loss reversal is going..

– drill a hole a tiny bit smaller than the diameter of the tube into the lid of your bottle, and next to that a little hole for air to escape.
-insert the tube into the whole on the lid, secure onto your bottle.
– drill the same sized hole at a slight upward angle about 7 cms into the tree (you are about to fall in love with it) – swoon with delight as when you as you put out your drill bit, sap gushes out of the tree – you have turned on your tap of wonders.
push the tubing into the hole in your tree (give her a hug, you know you want to)
Watch as sap drips into the bottle. Amazing. Now you might have a slow drip (water torture style) or a leaky tap (the washer is going) they all give a different flow – you can try to get better flow but I stick with my first drill unless it’s not producing anything.
– Now prepare for feeling like you’ve got a new born – every few hours your bottle could fill up, so go out with an empty & a spare lid when you check on the bottle. When it’s nearly full, replace it with an empty container & secure the lid on your full bottle.
Now at this point you can guzzle your water, but I have other plans…
If you want to keep your water, I’d recommend freezing it until you want a birchy beverage.
Keep collecting your sap until just as soon as it started, the sap stops running. Remove your tube & say thanks to your tree.
What you do next is up for debate – people traditionally plug the hole in the tree with a piece of hard, but I have a friend who is a tree surgeon and he told me not to – the sap is full of coagulants and anti fungals (of course – did I not mention those?) so I leave my holes, they go a bit gunky (like a scab) and heal themselves without the risk of bacterias being introduced via the plug. Do as you wish – I’m just a leaf licker, not a tree surgeon.

Now, here is the fun bit. If you want to make Birch Syrup and YOU SHOULD, thaw the first third of the bottles of water – taste it, it is SO sweet – sugar thaws at a lower temperature than water, so you’ve already concentrated the amount of sugar by 3 x – you can do this again at least once, and then put the water back in the freezer to drink later.
Put your sweet nectar into a wide pan, place on a low heat and reduce the liquid until it turns caramel (keep an eye on it towards the end – a reduce syrup is amazing, a burnt pan is not.) Your house will smell like a toffee factory, your taste buds will not of ever tasted anything like it – bitter, sweet, malty, deep – just amazing.
Drizzle it on a crème caramel, crumble on cocoa nibs, add a violet and crushed butter biscuit & that pointless Birch tree suddenly becomes just a bit useful & ever so delicious.

A wild canapé you say? I should coco.

We’re just over a week before Christmas & this is definitely the time for feasting on the good stuff. This is the time of year when our pots become very useful if you’re planning on conjouring up a few canapes to delight your guests with (or to hide away from your in laws & eat in a locked room) So if you have one of our little bottles or pots in your cupboard, dust it down, and dress it up..it’s time for Forage to party.

Jam & Cheese – We have a thing for Carmarthenshire made Mouldy Mabel cheese; it’s probably the closest thing you can get to Roquefort, just Welsh (which has to be a good thing) We stock up on Mabel on a regular basis from our brilliant Abergvenny Cheesemonger Marches Deli and thanks to them we eat her all year, but at Christmas she comes into her own in a filo pastry cup, or on a buttermilk biscuit & joined with our Sloe & Crab apple jelly (which has generous flavouring of vanilla & star anise) Mabel is transformed into the fairy at the top of the tree..(of course you can use any other jelly – when we’re not eating our own, love straight up crab apple jelly)

Sprout canapes. Yes sprout canapes.

Sprouts are a bit marmite – I think too many of us have had to endure over cooked balls of death as children. But low, they can bring joy & magic at Christmastide. Sprouts are part of that wonderful cabbage / mustard family & the little raw leaves taste peppery and horseradishy – making them ideal cups for smoked fish, earthy beetroot and goats cheese. I am lucky enough to have a local smoker Black Mountains Smokery who does amazing things to trout & I simply break up little pieces of oak smoked trout & pop them into the little leaves, and then drizzle them with our Rosehip & Horseradish dipping sauce ( you could use a chilli jam from someone like The Preservation Society  instead). I promise you’ll love forget all your bad sprout moments in a mouthful.

Chorizo & chocolate

Our Damson & Chocolate sauce is rather essential in our house at Christmas. A couple of spoonfuls stirred into cream with toasted oats & a drizzle of whisky makes a pudding so indulgent it should be harder to make. Dolloped onto chorizo it makes an incredibly delicious mouthful – if you can get hold of Trealy Farms spreadable chorizo so much the better..spread the chorizo on sourdough, and adorn with the wild sauce. Ding Dong, your Christmases have all come at once. (If you don’t have our sauce you can use honey – just as delicious, just less chocolaty)

Stilton & Syrup

Christmas wouldn’t be right without Stilton. In fact it probably wouldn’t be worth having without it. We love the blue veined good stuff. Once upon a time I ate a mincepie loaded with stilton & I was forever ruined. Now I can’t get through a December day without a mouthful of stilton drizzled in our Spiced Rosehip Syrup. Laden with winter flavours, this is Christmas in a mouthful – medicine never tasted so good. (If you don’t have our syrup, and you should make an orangey syrup & infuse with a bag of mulling spices – it’ll turn you into a cocktail guru in one bottle as well)

DSC_1721

 

DSC_1621DSC_1624

Wild Harvest Feast 2105

The air in early September is heavy with the scent of ripe fruit, late summer flowers and ripening nuts, and this year we are going to feast on the mellow fruitfulness of this most magical season.

On 5th September we’re heading to the utterly beautiful Llanvihangel Court in Monmouthshire for our first wild harvest feast, it’s a house that wraps its arms around you and surrounded by orchards of heaving fruit we couldn’t think of a more magical location to welcome the early mist filled days of autumn. No harvest feast would be complete without music and we’ve managed to lure the supremely talented Barrule Trio to play their intoxicating brand of folk after the meal.

We’ll be eating food from rambling gardens, heaving orchards, abundant hedgerows.. from fields, mountain and woodland – come and join us for very delicious end to the summer.

Tickets are £35 per person, and include a wild cocktail on arrival, wild canapés and a 3 course meal. To reserve your tickets send us a message via the contact us page and we’ll get back in touch with payment information

                                      starters

      wood pigeon, fresh hazelnut, whimberry & chickweed salad with damson verjus

                                                           or

           sorrel, sumac & feta fried butterbean salad with rosehip & chili vinaigrette

                                     main course

         vension with pears and dauphinoise potatoes with wild thyme infused cream.

                                                           or

        roasted grapes & stuffed vine leaves, with hazelnut & puy lentils with grape verjus

                                         deserts

          evening primrose posset with mulberry compote

                                                        or

           damson vodka & honeysuckle jelly and ice cream

You say Bilberry, I say Whimberry…

The mountains that surround our hill top kitchen are gluttonous places, and in mid July they become home to one of my favourite finds of the year… Just as the nights turn darker in so dark inky berries start to punctuate the hillsides and foragers hands no longer smell of nectar laden flowers but of sugar filled inky berries.

From now until the end of November there will be a distinctive shade of purple about my gatherings; from almost black elderberries and blackberries to sloes and damsons dusted with a white bloom. But for now, it is time to gather the earliest and most elusive of the purple berries; wild blueberries. You might know these little berries as Whimberries or Bilberries according to which side of Offas Dyke you live, but where ever you reside you’ll find these delicious little berries on the same type of ground; high up on mountain sides. Children around the Black Mountains are agile mountain goats and head of to the hills with margarine tubs that they spend hours filling in return for the guarantee of a large slice of blueberry pie as their reward.

If you spend an afternoon gathering these inky berries, you’ll realise how precious your haul is – you’ll be covered in staining juice, with tired legs and a small pot of fruit for your efforts. This is a forage that needs to be treated like you’d treat rare jewels; make the most of their flavours in special treats you can enjoy through the year…place your first handful in a bottle of vodka with a sprig of heather flowers to make a sweet delicious liqueur, your second in a bottle of cider vinegar with a few myrtle leaves, and put your third handful in a pan of apple pectin to make a delicious whimberry conserve.

Through out the rest of the year you’ll be able to sup on your afternoons pickings – adding a splash of dark purple to sparkling wine, a drizzle of fruity sweetness to a winter salad and a silky coating to buttery toast.

But leave a handful for you to eat now, sprinkled on a thick creamy yoghurt, or in a pastry worth climbing mountains for – even for a small slice

This is my version of the classic & longed for Whimberry pie, a delicious combination of whimberry and bay – flavours that call out to be put together. This little desert looks like something you’d find in a bakers window, a baker who happened to be perched on the mountain side.

Wild Blueberry and Bay pastries.

 

Wild blueberries pair really well with bay leaves. I use fresh leaves from my rambling bay shrub in the garden, but dried bay is just as good. Bay leaf is delicious in any cream based dish

 

First roll out a sheet of shop bought puff pastry on a sheet of greaseproof paper (you can make your own but I’d rather be outside picking than inside pastry making), place the pastry on the paper on a baking tray, score the pastry to make 5 cm by 10 cm rectangles, place the pastry in an oven preheated to 200 degrees, and cook until golden and puffed up.

 

Next, make the Bay infused crème patisserie. Gently heat 350ml of milk and add to the milk 3 bay leaves – leave the bay to infuse for 15 minutes. Meanwhile mix 2 egg yolks with 20g flour and 15g cornflour, 25g sugar and 50ml milk – mix until smooth, and then blend in the wamr milk. Return the mixture to the pan and stir until the mixture is thick. If you wish you can whip and fold in the 2 egg whites. Leave the crème to cool.

 

break the pastry into rectangles, and slice across each piece, dollop a spoonful of crème on the bottom layer, and sprinkle with wild blueberries. Top with the other half of the pastry, dust with icing sugar and serve with inky fingers..

Blossoms, jelly, gin and rain.

The British summer is nearly upon us, for a few weeks palest apple blossoms, mauve lilac flowers and early roses have punctuated the green landscape with their splashes of painterly colour..but the north wind doth blow, scattering blossom confetti at the feet of newly swelling fruit trees. And we shall have rain, and soon the rain leaches colour from these late spring blooms. But before you say goodbye to the smells and sights of spring florals, turn a few into a treat fit for a flower fairy, and her boozier elf friends….

These recipes are a mix of wondrous spring flowers, sour early fruit, herby surprises and weedy treats – they are worth both making together and eating / drinking in one sitting. You’ll be full of the joys of late spring if you do.

 

Firstly you’ll need to make a bottle of nettle syrup – don’t be put off, it’s heady stuff & you can eat the nettles for puritanical goodness..pick young nettle tips, add them to a pan with 250ml water, wilt and squeeze out the liquid – add your nettles to wild garlic pesto or blitz with a spoon of cream, scrape of nutmeg and twist of pepper & stir into pasta.

Add 250g sugar to the nettle liquid, warm and dissolve & take the liquid to the boil, making a syrup – add a squeeze of lemon and allow this to cool (e voila – you’ve gotten nettle syrup)

Gather a handful of apple blossoms, a mauve head of a lilac flower, an early rose, a few honeysuckle flowers and a handful of blackcurrant leaves..chop into slivers, and add to them the thinnest slices of rhubarb, pine tips, and angelica stems.

If you want to feed fairies, dissolve gelatine into the nettle syrup, stir in the blossoms and top up with soda water (or processo if your fairies are over 18) pour the mixture into a suitable container & place in a refrigerator until set.

Feasting with an Elf? They’re partial to a sun downer you know – gently pound the flowers, herbs and rhubarb in a pestle & mortar with a spoon of sugar & squirt of lemon. Pour into a tall glass for you and a thimble for the Elf, add a shot of gin or vodka, a chunk of ice and top up with soda.

Eat, drink and get a spring in your step..

 

 

 

 

Eat spring? It would be rude not to…

We love spring here at Forage. Tender new growth is full of vitality & tonic like flavour, Inside unassuming buds and tiny flowers hide powerhouses of magical flavour – this really is the time to feast. From the moment the sap started rising we’ve been preparing a wild utterly delicious feast that will celebrate everything delicious about a wild spring. On the 2nd May we are going to be serving our finds at our Wild Spring Feast.

On the menu this year we’ll be eating:  beech leaves, wood sorrel, wild boar, pine tips, rhubarb, cherry blossom , primrose flowers, ladysmock, jack by the hedge, wild garlic, hawthorn, pennywort, horseradish, bittercress, dandelion, nettle, violet flowers, primrose leaves, blackcurrant leaves, ground elder, cleavers, hogweed shoots, wild leeks and tulip petals..

wild canapés and cocktails on arrival

Trout served with rhubarb, apple, flowering currant flowers, angelica, mint and pine

Wild gazpacho served in freshly picked tulip petals

Wild boar (or griddled fresh halloumi) served with wild garlic pesto, hogweed shoots, asparagus, and charred wild leeks

blackcurrant leaf sorbet

Birch sap syrup crème caramel, primrose curd & violet cream pavlova

Tickets to the Wild Spring Feast are on sale now. £35 per person including canapés, cocktails and 3 courses. If you would like to book tickets for the event please contact us on 01873 860347 or via our contact us page.

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
Sugar
Salt

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…