I grew up in the hills of Wales and wandering along the country lanes picking berries for a fruit crumble or dandelions from the field next door for my parent’s attempts at home made wine are powerful memories from my childhood. I did the same with my own children when they were growing up. Whilst I’ve always made time to cook, it’s been more difficult to find the time or energy to forage over recent years. That changed with the COVID-19 lockdown which has wreaked havoc on the world as we know it but, for me at least, has provided the gift of time. In the absence of relentless international travel that my job usually demands I’ve now been able to take long walks in the beautiful countryside where I live, foraging fresh ingredients to make some completely new dishes (to me at least), sometimes creating recipes from scratch reflecting what I have to hand in the cupboard or fridge. Of course all of these dishes are seasonally and geographically particular, but that’s precisely the beauty and pleasure of foraging. You go out for a walk not knowing what you might find and the rest of your day – including what you eat – has to adapt accordingly.
Torta rustica ai luvertin – During Spring it is an ancient tradition for the Piedmontese to forage for luvertin, which is the Piedmontese name for wild hop shoots. The luvertin shoots – also known as wild asparagus due to their shape – are usually cooked in a pan with butter or used to flavour a risotto, soup or frittata. I made mine into a simple flan with eggs, mushrooms and spinach for a quick and delicious lunch
Roasted chestnut and squash soup – There is something completely addictive about foraging for chestnuts and these days I return from every walk with my pockets bursting at the seams. This recipe combines the rich flavours of roasted chestnuts with the sweet charred flesh of some beautiful golden squash picked from my garden
Foraged fig chutney – A delicious chutney made with foraged wild figs and apples, perfect with cheese
Elderflower cordial – A refreshing elderflower cordial made with the creamy heads of the elderflower steeped in water, sugar and lemon
Fritta di acacia – Hot sugary fritters made with the flowers of the acacia tree, biting the flowers away from the stems to savour the flesh of the petals.
Wild garlic pesto – As with all recipes involving foraged ingredients, there is something very satisfying about turning a few leaves collected on a woodland walk into a delicious vegetarian dish