Wild Recipes to try at home!
Updated: Mar 17
I went on a wild cooking adventure down the farm this weekend. I feel very fortunate to live where I live during this time of isolation and with that I want to show you how you can add a few wild and seasonal ingredients to your recipes at home and how to get the tastiest flavours when cooking over open fire. Even with the smallest of outdoor spaces, these methods can be achieved and recreated at home on a barbecue or over a fire pit.
See how I do it by watching my video COOKING IN THE WILD
Cooking in the wild
We as a species have always been forages. Foraging is far more than simply gathering ingredients. Many of us have enjoyed plucking blackberries from a bramble and eating it straight away. But have you ever thought about what else there is lying in the hedgerows? Foraging wild ingredients has become an addictive pastime for me and its something I get huge joy out of especially when returning home from a walk with basket full of wild, fresh, seasonal ingredients. I would like to encourage you to eat more wild food! We all have access to it, no matter where we live. There are so many delightful flavours in the wild to discover and appreciate.
When we think about bushcraft, especially when we introduce a survival mentality into the equation, we often think of living completely off the land and meeting all our food intake needs from the resources around us within the landscape. However, we spend much more time in nature on a recreational basis than in a true survival situation. When on an expedition I always take a few staple ingredients with me to make my life on the trail slightly more comfortable, however they are usually limited to the weight of my pack. Our wild ingredients all have to be tied in with what we a more used to. Oils, vegetables, herbs, vinegars and spices are all part of my wild kitchen!
There is a certain romance in living as close to nature as possible. Roasting a nice piece of fresh game meat over a fire on a stick, whilst a campfire cinnamon role is cooking within the coals, and a nice cup of hot coffee is poured from the kettle sets the tone for an evening of true woodsmanship under the stars. We should take advantage of this at every opportunity, but we should also be prepared to use what we can pack to supplement the food if things don't work out as we hoped!
"There is no technique, there is just the way to do it. Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?''
- FRANCES MAYES, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN
When I am cooking outdoors, or on a sailing yacht in the middle of the ocean for that matter, I don't necessarily pull out a recipe book in order to make some tasty rabbit stew. I just use what I have on hand. Don't feel as though you have to follow these recipes exactly. Get imaginative! Recipes are interchangeable - don't like cooking red meat? Then try it with something else! Even whole roasting a marinated cauliflower over the fire would be delicious!!
Cooking Over Open Fire
Fire is the heart to any successful outdoor adventure and has this wonderful ability to bring us all together to share, celebrate and enjoy food that is cooked over it ! The first priority to cooking outdoors is learning to make a proper fire.
There are numerous ways of building grills, barbecues and hot smokers...but more about those another day! For now, lets stick to ground level, where most of us first cooked on open fire. This weekend, I set up a fire pit in the woods - the simplicity of being sat on the grass over a grill with a couple of wooden skewers dug into the ground and suspended of the coals appeals to me more!
I am a true believer in that if you are going to cook over fire, you should know how to make it from scratch...see my article on 'how to make a bow drill' here and my 'friction fire technique' here. Understanding the fundamentals behind fire lighting and how fire burns will make you a better cook and will help you get to grips with managing it over a sustained period. It is also far more satisfying - I promise! Having the ability to make a fire from scratch gives you the ability to cook virtually anywhere! It gives you the freedom to be able to look at the landscape around you and recognise the fuel and natural materials available.
The main consideration to building a fire and cooking over it is fuel! Seasoned wood is perfect and will burn well. Choosing the right wood to collect depends on the kind of fire you are making. Softwoods (such as birch) are for starting fires. Hardwoods (such as oak) are for sustaining fires and cooking fires. Resinous woods (such as pine and spruce) make great campfires and signal fires but I wouldn't recommend cooking with them...they can impart bad flavours to anything the smoke comes in contact with.
A good, sharp axe is a very necessary piece of equipment. Split your logs down with the axe so you have small pieces of kindling - I like to feather a couple of my split sticks so that they catch more easily when using my fire striker, I tend not to rely on using matches in the woods as they get damp easily and are unreliable. Once your fire is going gradually add more fuel and work up to where you can add whole logs which will eventually burn down coals. You can skip this step if you have charcoal readily available to you.
The woods don't just provide the fuel for a fire, but they are quiet a useful workshop to! To build my rotisserie for my leg of lamb I selected two 'Y' shaped branches that I cut to the same length. I dug two holes either side of my fire pit and secured them in place. For the rostiserie stick itself, I used a piece of hazel which I stripped the bark from.
ROTISSERIE LEG OF LAMB RECIPE
From building the fire, whittling the rotisserie and mounting the meat onto the spit to basting and turning the meat...this is the ultimate spring roast!
Boneless leg of Lamb (tied in butchers twine) - I bought locally from Strawberry Fields Farm
6 cloves garlic, minced
extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon - juiced
Herb brush - 5 sprigs of rosemary, 5 sprigs of thyme.
In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Place the lamb in a large resealable plastic bag and pour 3/4 of the marinade over the lamb. Massage the marinade into the meat and leave for 1 hour, or more if desired.
For the rotisserie, slide the spit through the boneless leg. If the bone is still intact then I suggest using a piece of wire to secure the bone to the spit and minimise movement when turned.
Put the spit on the 'Y' shaped supports. Baste the leg with the remaining marinade using the herb brush. Rotate every five minutes or so, to make sure the meat cooks evenly. A layer takes 5-10 minutes to cook. If you have time you can allow the meat to cook for a few hours or allow everyone to simply slice of pieces to add to their plate as it cooks and keep cooking until the next layer is ready!
My own education of wild plants has been through many books, a lot of time identifying and experimenting and learning from wilderness experts. Just make sure to always follow the most important rule of all; never eat anything unless you are one hundred percent sure of what it is.
As the saying goes....'Everything is edible once'
A few of the ingredients I found in my local fields, along the hedgerows and roadsides.
Its peppery foliage and bitter leaves and flowers bring an aromatic flavour to salads. The leaves can be used in almost any dish as a vegetable, added to soups and sauces, or simply boiled and simmered in butter as a side dish.
The leaves of wild garlic harvested before flowering have a delicious, sweet and pungent taste. Excellent raw in salads and as pesto.
This humble little plant that often pops up unexpectedly in a corner of the garden after a long winter is a gentle herbal soother to the skin and makes a pretty addition to salads.
The leaves of the plant are considered to be very nutritious and can be eaten as a salad or fresh vegetable.
The young shoots are a great alternative to asparagus and the flower provides a great garnish and syrup for cocktails.
Leaves are an excellent addition to salads - best used raw. The flower buds can be pickled like capes or lactose-fermented.
JACK-BY-THE-HEDGE (GARLIC MUSTARD)
The release of a garlic smell and taste when the leaves are crushed led to the use of garlic mustard as an alternative to true garlic. Thus it can be said to have the same uses as garlic in food preparation and cooking. The wild herb also makes an excellent savoury salad green, sauce and potherb. Seeds used as a pepper substitute. The root has wasabi notes, and the flavour ranges from ‘very hot’ to ‘sweet with mild heat’ depending on location and region.
WILD SALAD RECIPE
Spring is the best time of year to toss together a wild salad. The hedgerows and fields are bursting with fresh foliage and flowers which have a variety of flavour and will add character to your salad. Experiment with the new flavours and find what combinations work best for you.
Keep the salad dressing simple so that you don't destroy the elegant flavours of your wild ingredients. I suggest combining your favourite olive oil, some apple cider vinegar, salt and honey to drizzle over the top!
Here are a few of the WILD SALAD PLANTS I found near me:
Jack By The Hedge
STINGER NETTLE PESTO CAKES RECIPE
Nettles are always underused yet so readily available! The best way to harvest them is to use gloves but if you are feeling brave, boldly pinch the stalk just beneath the tops at a downward angle. If you do get stung, consider it payment for such a delicious, high in protein, free green!!!
2 large bunches nettle tops
1 handful of hazelnuts and/or 1 handful of pine nuts
1 bunch wild garlic leaves (or 1 head of garlic cloves) - finely chopped
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs (add more if needed)
1 handful of parmesan
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil for frying.
Heat a skillet over the coals. Toast your hazelnuts in a dry pan until a light golden colour. Roughly chop.
Bring some water to boil in a pot over the fire, add the nettles and simmer until soft. Drain and rinse in cold water. Squeeze out any excess liquid and remove any large stalks. Chop up the nettles and 'fluff' with your fingers.
Combine the nettles, garlic, parmesan, breadcrumbs, lemon, eggs and salt in a bowl. Mix together well and add more breadcrumbs if mixture is too wet or, add olive oil or an egg if its too dry. I sometimes like to add a chopped chilli!
Shape the mixture into small balls or larger burger patties.
Heat a skillet over the fire and add the oil. Fry the cakes until golden brown on each size.
Serve alongside a Smokey Wild Garlic Mayonnaise or Garden Pea and Mint Dip
*Inspired by Hunter Gather Cook's recipe*
GARDEN PEA, WILD GARLIC AND MINT DIP RECIPE
200g Frozen or fresh garden peas
2 sprigs of fresh mint leaves
Juice of a lemon
1 bunch of wild garlic
two glugs of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of tahini
Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Mix and mash with the end of a stick until you reach your desired consitency. I like mine a bit lumpy and rustic looking.
SMOKEY WILD GARLIC MAYONNAISE RECIPE
1 Head of Garlic
1 handful of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon.
Place the whole head of garlic on the indirect side of the fire or barbecue. Check it every so often. Leave until it feels soft when you squeeze it. It usually takes 2-3 hours, so its something I get going first.
Peal the cooked garlic. Using the side of your knife and pound until you form a paste.
Combine the wild garlic, mayonnaise, garlic paste, lemon juice and salt in a jar or bowl.
Keep in the fridge for 3 weeks.
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