20 August 2020 by Dave Hamilton
Follow walk magazine’s Masterclass to foraging and then create a delicious snack or meal with these top wild food recipes.
Photos by Dave Hamilton
For me, nothing turns a good walk into a great walk more than finding a good haul of wild food. I've including some of my favourite, most indulgent recipes here using common and easy to identify and easy to find wild foods. That isn't to say some caution shouldn't be exercised and if you are not 100% certain of what you are eating it is best not to serve it up.
Most of the recipes are purposely very loose recipe in terms of weights and measures as foraging can be highly variable; with all the will in the world you may only return with 400g of a specific ingredient rather than the 500g the recipe asks for and that would be no reason not to go ahead and cook with it.
Mushroom soft-centred chocolates
Jelly Ear or Wood Ear is a common mushroom mostly occurring on Elder trees. It is brown gelatinous, ear-like and easy to identify. This recipe for mushroom soft-centred chocolates is inspired by an entry in Geoff Dann's excellent book, Edible Mushrooms (Green Books).
The texture and flavour are very similar to the orange part of Jaffa cakes and any food experimentalists out there may want to cook small sponge cupcakes and topped with Grand Marnier soaked jelly ear coated in chocolate.
- Dehydrate your jelly ear fungus, this can be done on a radiator grill, in a dehydrator or simply leave the mushroom on a windowsill for 2-3 days until it is shrivelled and dry.
- Rehydrate the mushroom in a cordial or liquor of your choice, elder cordial works well if making for children or use Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Curaçao if you want a boozy chocolate.
- Melt enough chocolate to coat the mushroom, you can do this for a couple of minutes in the microwave, checking it doesn't boil or in a bowl submerged in a pan of boiling water, stirring frequently. Dark chocolate works very well.
- Coat the mushrooms in chocolate, place on greaseproof paper and refrigerate until set.
Hedgehog mushrooms with butter and chives on toast
With spines rather than pores or gills, hedgehog mushrooms are one of the most distinctive autumn fungi you can find. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best way to serve naturally delicious food. I've cooked hedgehog mushrooms in all kinds of different ways but serving them on toast is still my go-to way of eating this tasty autumn mushroom.
- Handful of cleaned hedgehog mushrooms
- Brush off any dirt or plant matter from the mushrooms.
- Cut them into strips and shred the chives into ½ cm pieces.
- On a moderate heat, melt a generous knob of butter and add the mushrooms.
- Stir until the mushrooms have softened and sprinkle on the chives.
- Cook for another minute and serve on hot buttered toast with a generous twist of black pepper.
Hazelnut milk is arguably the best homemade plant milk. The nuts are often found underfoot on the road during the autumn and, in a good year, it can be possible to pick up a bagful during a long walk.
- Medjool dates or dried apricots
- Pinch of salt or cocoa powder
- Shell the hazelnuts and place in a breakfast bowl
- Soak the nuts for 8 hours or overnight
- Discard the water, put the soaked hazelnuts in a blender and cover with twice their volume of water (i.e. two bowls full).
- You will need to sweeten the hazelnut milk, either add a tablespoon of sugar, around 4 pitted Medjool dates or dried apricots.
- Mix for 1 minute on high power in a blender until smooth.
- Drain the mixture through a jelly bag, piece of muslin cloth or fine sieve.
- Season with a pinch of salt if necessary or for a delicious chocolate milk add cocoa powder.
I like it best as a latte, warmed and half and half with coffee and hot water. You'll be left with the husks of the nuts, although quite grainy they can be reused. I found these best with a little vegetable oil, sugar and chocolate powder to make a chocolate spread.
Haws are versatile fruits once cooked lending themselves to all kinds of recipes. One of my favourites is hawthorn ketchup and most years I will make at least one bottle from the fruits of the overgrown hawthorn in my front garden.
- Brown sugar
- Coriander powder
- Chilli powder
- Cumin water
- Weigh your haws (or haw berries) and place in a pan.
- For every 100g of haws top with 60ml of water and 60mls of vinegar (I would suggest at least 500g-1kg of haws to make it worth the effort).
- Simmer until the berries are softened and start to come away from the seeds easily when pressed with a wooden spoon.
- Allow to cool a little and push the berries through a sieve into another pan, along with the water and vinegar. The berry pulp will stick to the bottom of the sieve and you'll need to scrape it off with a butter knife and add to the pan, it's sticky work but worth it in the end.
- Add 30g of dark brown sugar for every 100g of haws along with about a good pinch of coriander, chilli, and cumin powder.
- Simmer until it starts to thicken and the sugar is dissolved.
- Store in sterilised bottles.
Follow our experts’ guides to sourcing a range of edible delicacies found growing wild among the hedgerows, woodlands, countryside and coast.
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