Looking back, going forward

This year has been a watershed one in my life. After years of bashing my head against an academic brick wall, I have finally finished my PhD and passed my viva. Meet Dr Mina! I have also met some wonderful people through my wild food walks and had countless fascinating conversations with such interesting people. So to all those wonderful people….thank you!

 

It turns out that I am gluten intolerant. So bye bye wheat bread, and hello interesting and intriguing flours with names like ‘Jowari’(Sorghum to the uninitiated). I still have lots of wheat recipes in my collection to share with you but from next year, I will also be providing lots of gluten free recipes too. Also, all of the food served at my workshops at home will be gluten free and there will always be gluten free options at the picnic lunches. There will even be gluten free cookery classes coming up so watch this space!

 

Speaking of watching this space…there are lots of amazing and interesting things coming your way next year. Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal will be coming up to Leeds again to do a six-month long, intensive herbalism course (the same course I did last year in Norfolk) as well as some herb walks and day courses (dates of these to be confirmed). Those who came along to the wild food walk on the 4th of November last year will have gotten a taste of their skills and they will be doing a herb walk early next year before the long course starts. Have a look at the ‘Herbalism’ page for more details of these workshops and courses.

 

For you Masterchef fans, remember Nat Tallents from this year’s show? Well…she and I will be doing a pop up wild food restaurant together next year. We’re still working out the details and dates but expect exquisite and stunning cooking paired with foraged, wild and oh so fresh ingredients. The cooking will be done in our open plan kitchen so there will be ample opportunity to sneakily peak at the wizard in action. Having eaten some of her food before (I’m still dreaming about her wild mushroom risotto with parmesan crisp), I can tell you you’re in for a treat! Why not go and check out Nat’s lovely Website where you too can drool over her food pictures.

 

If you read Bushcraft Magazine, you will no doubt have come across the inspirational recipes of Carol Hunt. When I was first starting out on my foraging journey, she was kind enough to take me out for what still remains as the most informative and interesting wild food walk I have ever been on. Her knowledge of wild plants is truly astonishing and regardless of whether you can eat it or not, she would probably be able to tell you what it’s called. She also gave me my first foraging stick; a stunning piece of hornbeam that she had harvested for me herself. I later managed to leave it on a coach coming back from a field trip to Malham and was so very upset. She does in the wild (with a skillet and a rocket stove) what Nat does in a professional kitchen (with lovely shiny equipment); turns innocuous, slightly odd ingredients into culinary masterpieces. So you foodies are in for a real treat next year!Have a look at This Article of Carol’s that she wrote for Bushcraft Magazine last year. If it doesn’tblow your mind, nothing will!

 

And if you thought that that was all the stuff to look forward to…you’d be wrong! Next year we will be launching a brand new website where you will also be able to buy my wild preserves and skincare products. So if you are on a journey to a natural, chemical free life, you will find everything you need from solid lotions to hand creams, lip balms to shower truffles. And all made using wild ingredients and without any preservatives or unpronounceable ingredients.

 

So here’s to a wonderful New Year!

In the meantime, here is a delicious recipe of Carol’s (accompanied by lots of her wonderful photos) to tantalise your taste buds. Yes…it involves quite a bit of prep…yes…It’s a week too late…but who says mince pies are just for Christmas? Enjoy and have a wonderful New Year’s Eve!

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Forager’s Yuletide Mincemeat

Quick puff pastry morsels packed with flavoursome and fruity wild hedgerow produce.

Ingredients:

100g Dried wilding apple rings, coarsely chopped

200g Candied rosehips*, coarsely chopped

100g Sloe berries, cooked in a pot with a tiny bit of water and some sugar, with the stones removed

1 Medium sized tart wilding apple, grated

120g Soft dark brown sugar

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

120g Vegetable suet

120g Sultanas

50g Wild walnuts, chopped coarsely

50g Chestnuts, chopped coarsely

50g Hazelnuts, chopped coarsely

60ml Wild apple juice

30ml Rosehip syrup*

30ml Sloe liquid from cooking the berries

2 tsp Ground allspice

Half tsp Ground cinnamon

Half tsp Grated fresh nutmeg

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In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix everything thoroughly. Cover the bowl and set aside in a cool place (overnight is ideal).

Heat your oven to the lowest setting available (A quarter gas mark, 225F or 120C maximum). Cover the bowl with foil or an ovenproof lid and place in the oven for at least 2 to 3 hours during which time the suet will melt and float on the surface of the mix. This is a little disconcerting but don’t panic, you need this liquid fat to coat the ingredients thoroughly, so as the mixture loses heat stir everything well from time to time, until it has completely cooled and the suet has been blended right in.

Pot the hot mincemeat mixture into hot sterilised jars and leave to mature for several weeks before using. It is best used within 12 months, although if potted and stored correctly it may well keep for longer.

Use the mincemeat in pastry parcels, tarts and pies – I kept it simple here by making little parcels with squares of puff pastry, these can easily be baked in a dutch oven on an open fire or a conventional oven.

*These are usually made during autumn when rosehips are at their peak - the recipes are as follows:

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Candied/crystalised Rosehips

Use Rosa Rugosa or Rosa Canina

The trick with this is to take care over preparing the hips. Choose only good, well coloured and firm ones discarding any that are soft. This process requires a little patience – it will take three days – as you will need to leave the hips to steep overnight after each short cooking period. But the final result makes it worth any effort and time invested.

 

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400g rosehips topped/tailed and de-seeded

400g sugar

Water

200g granulated sugar (to dredge over the rosehips)

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Rinse the rosehips and then using a small sharp knife, nip off the round black top part and the stalk at the base. Slit the hip in half with the tip of the knife and scrape out the seeds and fine hairs inside. The hairs are mildly irritant (does anyone else remember using them to make itching powder at school?), so take care not to rub your eyes while you are working. Once all of the hips are de-seeded, place them in a sieve and wash them thoroughly under a tap to remove any remaining seeds and hairs.

Place the hips into a pan with just enough water to cover them and bring the heat up to a gentle simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until they have become just slightly softened when tested. As soon as this point is reached, stir in the sugar and top up the liquid until it covers the hips by approx 1cm or so.

Bring the pan to a fast simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously so that the sugar syrup does not stick or burn.After 10 minutes, immediately remove the pan from the heat. Once cooled, ensure that all of the hips are immersed in the syrup, cover the pan and set it aside so that the mixture can steep overnight.

 

The next day, scoop the hips from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl while you re-heat the remaining sugar syrup.Bring the pan to a gentle simmer and let the syrup reduce by about one third before adding the hips back in and gently cooking everything together for a maximum of five minutes.As soon as the time is up, promptly remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool before covering and once again setting aside overnight to steep.

The next day repeat the process by removing the hips from the pan and again gently simmering the remaining syrup until it has thickened and reduced slightly before adding the hips back in and cooking everything gently for a maximum of a further five minutes. By this point the remaining sugar syrup should have become very thick so take great care not to over heat and burn the mixture.

Place the 200g of granulated sugar into a bowl, and using two forks, pick up each rosehip half individually and drop them into the sugar making sure that each is completely coated before taking them from the bowl and placing them onto sheets of baking parchment. Try to make sure that they are not touching each other while they dry.Once the candied hips are completely dry and firm, they can be stored in sterilised clean dry jars with well sealed lids.

Candied/crystalised hips may be eaten as a sweetmeat, used as a cake decoration, or as an ingredient in recipes such as Forager’s Yuletide Mincemeat.

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Rosehip syrup –

 

Use Rosa rugosa or Rosa canina. The photo here is of black rosehips but use either colour.

This thick rosehip syrup/sauce will store indefinitely unopened, if you follow the preserving method of hot-bottling and carefully sealing it.

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Ingredients:

2 kilos rosehips

2 ltr water

1 kilo sugar

Before you begin making your syrup, start by carefully washing your glass bottles inside and out. I use swing topped bottles so I remove all metal parts from the bottles and place them, along with the cap and rubber grommet, into a bowl of boiling water. Put the bottles into an oven on a very low setting for at least a half an hour. You will want them to still be hot when you bottle everything so that a secure vacuum is formed on sealing.

Wash, top & tail and de-seed the hips and add them to the pan covering them with the 2 ltrs water (it should be enough to cover them, if not then top it up a little).Simmer the hips over a low heat in a covered pan for 30/40 minutes or until the rosehips become really soft and pulpy. Take care to stir the mixture occasionally during this process so that the mixture does not catch on the base of the pan and burn which will spoil the flavour.

Once you’re happy that the hips are nice and soft, set a large strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture in. Using the back of a spoon press and rub the rosehip puree through until all you have left are the skins or the odd pip (you can discard all of this into the compost heap). Put the thick puree into a clean pan along with a little water (just enough to thin it a little) and add the sugar, stirring it in thoroughly. Set the pan over a low heat and leave it to simmer and thicken slightly. Once you are happy with the thickness, you are ready to bottle into your hot, sterilised bottle.

Set the bottle aside to cool, taking care not to place it on a cold surface. Once all the bottles are fully cool, they can be stored in a cool dark place until required. Place in the ‘fridge on opening, after which the contents should keep for up to a week.

Muhaimina Said-Allsopp