Tag Archives: foraging

Shaggy Ink Cap soup – recipe

Shaggy Ink Cap soup

I think the best way to deal with fungi, generally, is quick and simple. This particularly applies to shaggy ink caps. There are two reasons why – correct me if I’m wrong – you’ll never find fresh shaggys on a restaurant/bistro menu. They deliquesce (dissolve to inky black liquid) very quickly after picking and there is a widely held belief that alcohol should be avoided for several days each side of eating. I haven’t checked the alcohol theory myself, but I’ll let you know if I spew after my wine tomorrow evening [I didn’t]. The soup’s already eaten, and delicious it was, too. A delicate, silvery grey liquid with equally delicate flavour.

Shaggy Ink Caps - Coprinus comatus

Shaggys can be found in woodland, on path and roadside verges and are commonly seen, despite their apparent fragility, forcing their way up through roads and pavements The most fruitful patch I ever found was on a bank on the edge of a Tesco car park.

Shaggy Ink Caps
Salt & pepper

First, age and condition. If you come across a growth of shaggys with firm, closed caps as above, pick and get them to the kitchen as quick as you can. Don’t make the mistake I once did and think, “Ooh, I’ll come back for those tomorrow,” as tomorrow they’ll look like the three rear bodies below, which are past their best.

Remove and discard the stems, check for creatures and flick off any earth then chop to desired size. They’ll shrink a little on cooking. Put in a small pan and pour in milk to about ½ or ¾ way up the fungi pieces. Add crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste with half your chopped parsley. Carefully bring to the boil then barely simmer for 5 minutes. Now you have a choice. Some recommend removing the poached fungi and discarding the poaching liquid. I favour serving and eating the lot as soup. Sprinkle with the rest of your parsley.

If you’re lucky, the spot where you picked this crop will yield another in a week or ten days.

Mature Shaggy Ink Caps


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Hedgerow Jelly – recipe

Hedgerow Fruits

Rowanberries 319 grms
Sloes 106 grms
Elderberries 529 grms
Blackberries 903 grms
Crab apples x 4

Above is the needlessly precise list of fruits I picked on Monday morning to make my hedgerow jelly. There are plenty of elderberries and blackberries around, the rowans are just beginning to ripen in places but it looks like a poor year for sloes.

After destalking – the above are all prepared weights – I tipped rowanberries, sloes and chopped whole crab apples into a pan, barely covered with water and simmered for about 15 minutes, crushing the fruit against the side of the pan occasionally with a wooden spoon. Then I poured in the blackberries and elderberries, returned to the boil and reduced to simmer for another 15 to 20 mins, stirring to prevent catching on the bottom, but that’s unlikely.

I poured the lot into a boiled pillowcase suspended over a saucepan, left it to drip overnight then measured the juice. The traditional ratio is one pound of sugar to one of juice, so as the above yielded 1¼ pints I added 20 ounces of sugar as it heated in the pan. Once the sugar had dissolved I boiled the mixture, watching to ensure it didn’t boil over, then checked for set after about 10 minutes. It was ready. The final quantity nicely filled a 1 litre Kilner jar.

I do like blackberry jam, but don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so the tartness of this hedgerow jelly is a welcome change. I’ll definitely be making more.

Hedgerow Jelly

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Taste The Wild on Blue Peter – autumn foraging for sweets

Click Here To Play.

Chris Bax, creator of the Taste The Wild site, takes a Blue Peter presenter foraging and produces dandelion and burdock cordial (or beer if you prefer), hawthorn fruit leather and rosehip ‘mice’.

Chris Bax’s Recipes

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Nettle and Tomato Pizza

Nettle & Tomato Pizza

It’s Sunday and I’m skint – benefit day tomorrow – but I fancied something….y’know….different. Frustrating, as I only had the good old standbys in the house.

I set a batch of wholemeal bread dough to rise, went for a walk through my favourite, secluded (ok, “private”) woodland and picked a load of nettle tops that were still young and bright in the shade, thinking maybe nettle soup, or spicy gram flour fritters with nettles as a spinach substitute.

Back home, watching an old episode of “No Reservations”, the thought sprang unbidden – ‘Nettles? Spinach? Nettle pizza?!’

How could I resist?

I opened a can of chopped tomatoes, added 3 cloves of garlic (2 mashed, 1 sliced thin), a small chopped green chilli, a dash of balsamic vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and a glug of oil, brought it to the boil then left the pan on as low a heat as possible for about an hour, stirring once or twice.

The oven was whacked up to full – somewhere in the mid-200s – with a baking tray on the top shelf and left to get up to heat while I knocked back the bread dough, sliced off a tennis ball sized lump then left the bread for it’s second rise and the pizza dough ball on the worktop for 10 to 15 minutes.

The nettles I’d tipped into a colander over a pan, poured boiling water over and steamed for a few minutes, thus keeping their bright colour.

Then it was simply a matter of shaping the pizza base, laying a couple of curls of greenery around it and pouring over about half the tomato sauce, followed by a few shavings of parmesan and a final trickle of oil.

It only needed 10 minutes in the oven, if that, and it was good. Very good indeed.

The cost of the electricity probably outweighed the cost of the ingredients.

Which led me to another thought. A few months back I worked out that it costs .30p in electricity for me to bake bread. This is a fixed cost, of course, whether I bake one loaf or four. In fact, I reckon I could bake eight at a time. But I’m not about to bake lovely fresh bread then freeze it. What a waste.

So how would I go about selling it? Doubtless I’d be contravening countless tax and food hygiene regulations if I sold it out the back door, but I’m not concerned about that.

The problem is, I don’t know anyone locally, let alone know them well enough to ask, “Hey, want to buy some bread?”

So, what to do?

I’ll give it some thought.

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Mint and Rosemary Cordial – recipe

Mint and Rosemary Cordial

This time of year I start getting impatient for elderflowers. But if the weather stays as it has been, the chances are they’ll be late, low yielding and, even worse, the best days to pick – dry and sunny – will be few and far between.

So I began to look for alternatives and the first reference I found was for lavender cordial It may be very pleasant, but my few experiences with lavender in food and drink have been unsatisfactory. I found the lavender overpowering, although the strength varies according to variety.

Rosemary came to mind. Rosemary beer I’d heard of, but rosemary cordial? Sounds interesting but … too strong a flavour? Too oily?

I decided it was worth a try. Outside Derby’s Quad Gallery there are two places of interest – the bus stop that gets me home once a week and a public herb garden, which I regularly raid for marjoram, thyme and tarragon to chuck in a quick tomato sauce when I get home.

And there’s lots of rosemary.

I hunted around a little and found a recipe for mint and rosemary cordial on The Herbarium, who, in turn, had adapted the recipe from Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Preserves Handbook

The recipe calls for 50grms mint leaves (that’s a lot) and 20grms rosemary leaves and flowers, but remembering John Seymour’s advice on cordials that I relayed in January’s elderflower post I used 20grms of each and it’s really tasty.

Next week I’ll try again, increasing to 30 or 40grms of mint. At a cost of around .50p per litre, which dilutes to 5 or 6 litres, it’s well worth experimenting.

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Nettle Beer


I took this recipe – and the photo – from the excellent Colour It Green website, lots of useful information on home livestock and crafts as well as an ever growing collection of recipes.

3 litres nettle tips – about half a carrier bag
2 litres water
8oz sugar
1 lemon

Pick only the top 4-6 nettle leaves. I didn’t bother stripping leaves from stalks.
Put in a large pan with water and the lemon peel, boil for about 45 minutes.
Strain on to the sugar, add juice of a lemon, stir to dissolve and cover until cool enough to add the yeast. I used a heaped teaspoon of wine yeast with nutrient.
Cover and leave in a warm place for 3 or 4 days.
Put in fizzy drinks bottles, e.g. sparkling water bottles, and leave to stand for a couple of days. Check the bottles daily and if they feel tight carefully unscrew caps to release a little pressure.

Less than a week from picking to drinking and the result is delicious, with a hint of ginger beer flavour. I don’t have a hydrometer but it seemed to be very low in alcohol.

I used the left over nettle pulp to make nettle pesto

As an added bonus I left an emptied bottle, with a little yeast residue in the bottom, on the kitchen worktop and the next morning, in full sun, the yeast had developed a good strong head, so I used it to bake bread. A happy accident.

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Local Food Activist Links

Crab Apple

The Abundance or Urban Harvest projects in the UK have been spreading for the last 5 or 6 years, volunteer groups offering to pick unwanted fruit from gardens and commercial sites, then selling or donating the produce or processing it into juice, sauces, pickles. Sheffield Abundance are particularly high profile and successful, with an invaluable handbook available via their website

Todmorden’s Incredible Edible is notable for their guerilla approach to the project. A couple of locals simply started sowing and planting fruit and veg on any public plot they could access, and Todmorden is now pretty much a flagship town for public food and community food projects.

The idea has spread nationwide, with variations of the basic idea in Dumfries & Galloway, Southampton, Birmingham, Exeter, London ….. endless possibilities.

foodtube – videos from local food projects.

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