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…

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:

Canapes

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

Mains

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

Puddings

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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hocus pocus, it’s hawberry ketchup

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Look in any rural cookery compendium & you’ll doubtlessly come across a recipe for Hawberry Jelly, or if you’re lucky Hawberry Brandy. You might even have the same battered about book that we found our first Hawberry Ketchup recipe in. It was good, it had potential and when we added lots of fresh ginger and twist after twist of pepper, it became something else. We drizzle it on cheese on toast, burgers, sausages, scrambled eggs, ham and cheese; it makes the simplest of food capable of turning tastebuds into party animals.

Hawberrys are wild little red jewels that poke out from lichen clad ancient Hawthorn trees from late August onwards. Hawthorn trees grow everywhere, in the deepest countryside to city gardens. Legends say they are magical trees, they certainly are packed full of health benefits & just as importantly, delicious flavour. Hawberry Ketchup is so fruity that it makes the bottom of your jaw tingle. Not many foods can do that can they? But then, it is a bit magical..