The Forager’s Kitchen

Hedgerows are always a source of fascination, they are so full of flora and fauna. At the moment, they are dotted with glossy blackberries, and I can never resist picking them as I pass. My mother, the queen of preserves in our family, is already making jam and there has been talk of a blackberry and apple crumble coming our way too…!

My level of hedgerow foraging is fairly basic, but there is lots of ‘free’ food out there if you only know what to look for. My friend Julia Horton-Powdrill is a great forager and it was through her excellent Facebook page that I came across ‘The Forager’s Kitchen’ a truly fascinating cookery book that contains over 100 easy recipes from savoury to sweet, written by a Scots lady called Fiona Bird.

Don’t be put off by the title – this book is absolutely fascinating just to sit and read even if you have no intention of going and collecting any of the ingredients yourself. Not only does Fiona provide lovely (and easy) recipes, she gives lots of additional information about wildflowers, herbs, fruits and berries and more. Should you feel inspired, she also tells you how to forage, essential ground rules (how to avoid misidentification!) and a range of lovely little ‘wild notes’ with really useful hints and tips.

The book is divided up into sections – Flowers & Blossom, Woodland & Hedgerow, Fruits & Berries, Herbs and Sea & Shore. There’s a huge range of recipes – from Christmas Tree Cookies (using Douglas fir needs) through Carrot & Clover Cake to the most gorgeous looking Violet Macarons with Primrose Cream. Fiona writes very well and, whether you live in a city, the countryside or by the coast, if you follow her advice, you will find more ingredients growing in the wild than you could imagine!

Our ancestors knew what to pick and I do think it’s a shame that most people today are so ‘disconnected’ from the countryside and, indeed, wary of it. There is so much beauty in nature and such bounty out there if we only know what to do with it.

Fiona Bird is a mother of six children. She is a self-taught cook and past Masterchef finalist who has always had a passion for cooking and her approach to food is based on her knowledge of tight budgets and limited time. You can follow Fiona on her Facebook page. 

 

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Delicious light, savoury bites

Most of the time I tend to show you sweet things, so I thought we should redress the balance with something savoury! These smoked salmon and cream cheese bites are delicious and easy to eat if you are balancing a glass in one hand – or if you tend to have more casual family gatherings as I do –they can just be arranged on a plate as part of a cold meal. But do give them a try!

I also ended up making some tiny chocolate éclairs – for the simple reason there was too much choux pastry just to make the salmon bites… and my mind obviously went to chocolate (oops)!

Savoury choux buns

Choux buns:

  • 75g butter
  • 200ml cold water
  • 125g plain flour
  • 3 eggs

Filling:

  • 200g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives
  • 50g smoked salmon (diced)

Preheat oven to 200ºc.

Melt the butter in a pan with the cold water and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, using a wooden spoon, until well combined (about 3 mins). Add the eggs a little at a time whisking constantly. Put the mixture into a piping bag/gun and pipe 3cm balls onto a non-stick baking tray, leaving a space double that size between each one. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 mins.

For the filling combine cheese, chives and smoked salmon then once choux buns are completely cooled cut off the tops and pipe in filling.

Mini éclairs:

As I had enough choux mixture left over I made some mini éclairs, I piped 5cm lengths instead of balls and baked for the same time, then once cooled filled with fresh cream and topped with chocolate.

 

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Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread

These biscuits are quick and easy to make and judging by the reaction here, will go down a storm. Ideal if you are having someone very smart to tea … or actually just something nice to have in a tin in case of emergencies like ‘Oh must have a biscuit’ times! 

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 220g butter
  • 220g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Grated rind of 1 orange
  • 100g dark chocolate

Method

Preheat oven to 175ºc and grease or line baking trays.

Cream butter and sugar, add the egg and orange rind and mix, then fold in the flour, salt and baking powder until combined.

The mixture can then be piped onto the baking trays using either a piping bag or a biscuit gun, leave about 1 inch between the biscuits as they will spread a little during baking.

Once cool melt the chocolate in a bowl and dip in biscuits, place on parchment paper until chocolate hard.

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Lemon Drizzle Cake with Cream Cheese filling

I was so thrilled how well this cake turned out and the fruit decoration looks stunning but more importantly it goes really well with the cake. The addition of the fresh fruit can lift it from a tea time treat into a lovely pudding… err with some clotted cream? No OK, maybe that’s too many calories!

The filling is delicious and not overly sickly as it’s a Philadelphia base – so try it!

Cake

  • 210g Caster Sugar
  • 210g Butter
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g SR Flour
  • 50g Ground Almonds

Preheat oven to 180ºc/160ºc fan, grease and line an 8” tin.

Beat sugar and butter until creamy, mix in lemon zest and then the eggs one at a time, fold in the flour and ground almonds until just combined. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for about 30-40mins.

Drizzle

  • 75g Caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons

Mix together until sugar dissolved. Once the cake has cooled, prick the top and drizzle over the liquid.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 1 tub (300g) Philidelphia cream cheese
  • 100g Icing Sugar
  • 1 Lemon (juice & zest)

Mix all together until smooth, use as much or as little icing sugar depending on how sweet you would like it to be and add lemon juice a little at a time, to ensure mixture does not get too runny.

Split the cake in two, spread with the filling, finish by dusting with icing sugar and lemon zest. Then decorate with fruits as in the icture, or choose strawberries, raspberries or any other fresh fruit of your choice. 

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Stencilled cupcakes

Cupcakes are so popular these days, here are a couple of very pretty design ideas for you – butterfly stencilled cupcakes and a sweet embossed and painted cupcake. 

I have used the ‘Butterfly A6 Stencil Starter Kit’ which you can buy from our website. This provides everything you need apart from the cupcakes and fondant!

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes (any of your choice) – homemade or cheat and buy some!
  • Butter-cream icing
  • Coloured Fondant Icing
  • Butterfly Stencil Kit
  • Round cutter (roughly the same size as the cake tops)

Method

Put a small amount of butter-cream onto the top of each cupcake and smooth, this will ensure the fondant will stay put and will smooth out any bumps on the cake.

Roll out the fondant to about 3-5mm thick. Take the stencil and press down lightly, then  brush over the surface with the brush and powder provided in the kit, try not to leave too much residue on the stencil. Carefully peel off the stencil, then use the round cutter and place the finished discs on the cupcakes, being careful not to touch the stencilled surface too much. 

Katy Sue Designs Cupcake Mould

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes
  • Small amount of butter cream
  • Corn flour
  • Floral Meadow Cupcake Mould
  • Fondant
  • Edible food pens (Dusky Pink/Grape Violet/Yellow/Holly Ivy Green)

Method

Take a cupcake and smooth a little butter cream onto it – this will stop the fondant slipping or falling off. Rub a little corn flour into the mould to prevent the fondant sticking. Take the fondant and make a ball, then flatten until the same size as the Floral Meadow mould, press the fondant into the mould, ensuring it does not move about once pushed in. Carefully peel the mould away from the fondant and place this on to the cupcake, leave fondant to harden a little before colouring in with the edible food pens.

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