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Foraging diary by Matt “Ray Mears” Thompson

Cooking foraging wild food

Coghlans cookery schools heads of into the wilderness for the second time foraging with expert Miles Irving. With the onset of spring we where hopeful of a great forage with greens in abundance and many wild plants beginning to flower we set off with hopes of a full three course dinner upon our return to the cookery school.

The destination for our forage was Ridgeway just on the outskirts of Sheffield, with its meadows, stream, ponds and hedgerow it has every kind of habitat for a good forage.

As soon as we exited the cars Miles was pointing out the dandelions and daises which would go great in a salad . We hardly had to walk two feet and we where upon a Cherry blossom tree in full flourish. We gathered the colorful pink blossom which was later to form part of our dessert. The blossom had a kind of nutty almond taste which we all agreed was quite present.

With dessert in the bag we pushed on only a few more yard before we were confronted with a huge bed a wild garlic growing on the river bank, this was a tasty find and we all got stuck in tasting the leaves and harvesting the crop. The taste of the leaves was milder than garlic and almost spring onion like. The is a very versatile plant and can be used for stews, soups, sauces and pretty much as on onion and garlic substitute. We decided a wild garlic soup would be a good idea. This left us with only the main course and vegetable substitute accompaniments to find .

Moving into a more meadow type landscape Miles thought it looked like the kind of place we might find some wild sorrel, eyes where peeled and it didn’t take long, we where soon on our hand and knees tasting the sorrel and harvesting it for our lunch. The sorrel has a citrus taste almost like a mild lemon yet unlike anything I had ever tried. The idea with the sorrel we to stuff some chicken with it on our return to the cookery school. We moved towards hedgerows’ and it was difficult to take in everything Miles was showings us as there seemed to be far more things in the wild that we could eat than we couldn’t eat. Every step we where stopped in our tracks by an interesting and tasty plant. The flavours’ where incredible and some of the wild mustards tasted so much better than anything you could buy in the supermarket.

We carried on looking for the accompaniments to our main course and came across some wild chervil , the leaves can be used as a herb but we also learned you can use with stalks as a kind of asparagus substitute . We where soon upon a new plant to me which Miles referred to as dog pudding, I think this was the old local Yorkshire name for this. It had an earthy spinach taste which we decided we would spice up with some relish when we got back to the cookery school.

The components of our lunch had been gathered and the menu was as follows :

Wild garlic soup
Chicken stuffed with sorrel , with chervil stalks and dog pudding
Cherry blossom panacotta

The foraged produce was washed and transformed into an amazing meal, full of flavors’ many of which were new to me. It was a great day, informative, interesting and with a great meal at the end, what more could you ask for? This course really wet my appetite for foraging and I will certainly keep my eye out for tasty treats every time a step out doors.

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