This article was first published in Flavour magazine in January 2009. I wasn’t getting paid for so I really went to town with trying to plug my book and forging courses. I’d suggest to any budding writers out there that working for free is only really worthwhile when it works as an advert for yourself or your work. Flavour let me run a small ad at the end of each article and it helped raise my profile in Bristol.
This is not the sort of time of year you want to get out of the house and look for food. The winds are blustery, the ground is frozen solid and you can be hit in the face by ice cold rain. It’s no surprise then that plants feel the same and keep their heads below ground.
There are plants around and you are still able to have a bit of feed from the wild. Turn to page 229 of my book, The Selfsufficietish Bible and you will see a chart that covers the whole year – in fact, it is worth noting that the forager’s calendar spreads throughout the year and not just in the autumn months as many assume.
So look out for mushrooms such as ceps, wood blewits and wood ear over the next two months. Indeed, it was during a very cold snap a few years ago that I came across my biggest haul of mushrooms. I found around 3 or 4 kilos of oyster mushrooms. Of course, that is far too much to eat and I had to dry them.
To dry mushrooms I tend to suspend a cooling rack above one of my radiators and just leave them there until totally dry. They can also be put in the oven on a low heat. If I am using this method I tend to put them on a clean baking tray and throw them in after I have just used the oven. Otherwise, you are just throwing money away!
Cold months can be more than just mushrooming; yarrow grows all year round and can be used as a very refreshing tea that will also help fend off a cold. For those living near the sea, the delights of sea beat can be found. As with normal spinach, the young leaves can be used in a salad and the older leaves are best cooked.
A very easy beet spinach recipe
This really is a lazy meal recipe and is very tasty, but then fried food with garlic and cheese tends to be!
Ingredients – for the batter
500 ml milk/beer/or Sour milk
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
For the filling
500g Sea beet
One large onion
2 cloves of garlic
100g of a good hard cheese
Method – Pancake
Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the egg, milk (or beer) and seasoning. Mix until there are no lumps in the batter. Leave to stand for half and hour or so in the fridge. Fry both sides and add the filling (see below)
Method – Filling
Finely chop the onions and lightly fry, adding the garlic as they onions begin to soften. Wash and chop the sea beet and add to the onions. When the sea beet has reduced, grate the cheese and add to the pancakes.
If you would rather sit with a nice cup of yarrow tea and read about wild food over these colder months you could ask Father Christmas for a copy of the Selfsufficientish Bible, priced at £20 and available from all good bookshops.