Today, I am delighted to bring you a guest blog from well-know professional forager, Fiona Bird, author of the wonderful ‘Forager’s Kitchen‘. Fiona has been travelling the length of the country and foraging all sorts of wonderful things along the way…
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to leave the Outer Hebridean, Isle of South Uist where I live, to participate at a food festival on the Inner Hebridean, Isle of Tiree. I took the opportunity to head on to the mainland to forage rock samphire and sea-buckthorn for a coastal foraging book that I am writing. I visited lots of lovely people too but exploring autumn Britain, in what has been a mast year for berries and nuts was a forager’s delight.
My mainland travels took me right down to Cornwall and also to Wiltshire where I foraged dusty, blue sloes. They shouldn’t be picked until after the first frost (‘bletted’) but of course wildlife and other foragers may then beat you to them. I forage sloes and pop them in the freezer, thereby avoiding the need to await a frost. If you make sloe gin or vodka it’s a good idea to make it in a wide-necked jar and you can then pick out the ‘alcohol soaked fruit’ with ease and use the fruit in a second recipe. There’s an alcohol soaked chocolate treat recipe in ‘The Forager’s Kitchen‘.
I’m ending my guest blog with a recipe using damsons, which are also in abundant supply this year. It’s a mini variation on a tart tatin and children will enjoy making it too. The damsons could be replaced by cooked quince scattered wild thyme. Wild thyme is fading as the autumn days shorten but, as with all foraged ingredients, ‘once you’ve got your eye in’ you’ll find it on moorland, sand dunes and scrubland. It is milder in flavour than garden thyme, so adjust quantities accordingly. Thank you for inviting me to blog about foraging Joanna, it’s a wonderful way, whatever the weather, to appreciate our beautiful countryside and gather food for free, for your lunch or supper.
What to forage and find:
- About 200g (approximately 30) wild damson plums*
- 75g soft light brown (light muscovado) sugar
- 2 generous tablespoons (35g) butter
- Plain flour, for dusting
- 27 x 20cm sheet puff pastry
- Yogurt or ice cream, to serve with
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200ºC/gas mark 6).
- Wash and cut the damsons in half, and remove the pits (stones). In a muffin pan (tin), put 6 damson halves, skin side down, in each muffin cup, filling 10 cups.
- Meanwhile, heat the sugar and butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted. Stir well, and divide the mixture between the 10 cups.
- Lightly dust a working surface with flour, and lay out the pastry. Use a cutter to stamp out 7.5cm circles. Put a pastry circle on top of each filled muffin cup.
- Bake for 10–12 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden.
- Take the tarts out of the oven, cool for a minute, and then run a knife around the pastry to loosen it. If you are brave: put a tray over the muffin pan, turn the muffin pan upside down, and fingers crossed, the mini damson tartes tatins will turn out. Alternatively, spoon the pastry (base) onto a serving dish, and spoon the damsons back on top. Either way, it’s yummy.
These are delicious cold or warm, with yogurt or ice cream.
* In season, replace the damsons or plums with wild cherries or poached quince.