For me, one of the greatest pleasures of eating wild food is that you never quite know what you are going to come home with and which new flavour combinations may present themselves. As a result, using wild ingredients requires a fair amount of pragmatism and the courage to try something new. Through my #DailyWilds project I have discovered (sometimes through bitter mistakes) some pleasing new combinations of ingredients and have rarely eaten the same recipe twice. But just because they work for me, doesn’t mean to say it will work for others. I believe that not only taste, but the actual way we detect flavour can vary greatly between individuals. So, while I have provided here some recipes and descriptions that work well for me, I urge you to tread the untrodden path and find what suits you.
And to wholly contradict that last paragraph, I should also say that some combinations are tried and tested winners – gooseberries and elderflower, chanterelles and eggs, cep and parmesan – spring to mind! Quite a few are country classics (sloe gin, elderflower champagne etc) I have adapted from classics like Food For Free by Richard Mabey or Wild Food by Roger Phillips, running forward with a few new twists.
My general advice to any aspiring wild food cook is to keep things simple until you really get to know a new ingredient. Unfussy steaming, sautéing, pickling or just eating raw with a sympathetic dressing is often the best way to get intimate with the pure flavours and striking textures of wild plants and fungi before finding ways to combine them with other flavours.
Many of the dishes described below don’t have an accompanying recipe. This is often because I can’t actually remember what I did, and partly because I would rather suggest ideas than prescribe recipes. The exception is my wild mushroom risotto, which is perfect! ;).
Where there is a recipe, please treat weights and measures as indications of proportions rather than strict forlmulae – cooking is an art, not a science. I would be delighted to hear of any improvements or new ideas in the comments box below.
I post most of my writing on drinks uses of wild plants on The Botanist website – see here.
Foraged cocktail – Wild Whisky Sour With sea buckthorn and birch syrup
Herring pickled 3 ways with pink purslane, beetroot, pumpernickel, smoked egg, creamed roe, preserved chanterelles, hedgehog fungi & jelly ear, sweet elderberry vinegar and gorse flowers.
served on seared puffball steaks with summer foliage (ground elder, wood sorrel, hogweed buds, self heal, bush vetch)
Amanitas, decievers, girolle with meu and self heal.
Seared scallops with spring foliage: wilted ramsons, nettle tops, reedmace, sweet cicely puree, wood sorrel, saxifrage
Spoots stir-fried with sea radish pods, wild garlic and sorrel
Steamed marsh samphire with poached egg and langoustine
Japanese knotweed, elderflower and sweet ciceley puree – for fool, sorbet or with yogurt
Japanese knotweed savoury sauce for game
Sea bass stuffed with sweet ciceley and sorrel
Stargazy Pie – langoustine, rabbit, and chicken of the woods
Meadowsweet ice cream
Sloe and meadowsweet gin
Watercress and nettle soup
Samphire, reedmace and pignut stirfry
Mussels with ground elder and ramson
Salt marsh lamb with samphire salt, anchovies, rosemary, garlic and steamed marsh samphire
Sweet pickled marsh samphire