Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Bowl of freshly made wild green pakoras

These are quite a rustic version of wild nettle pakoras and are very simple to make, you can use many different wild greens if you like. I had three cornered leek to hand, rather than wild garlic, or you could use a clove of cultivated garlic.

I've also learnt a few things while making these for the 'nth time. I can work with the spices I have (and don't have to stick to those listed), baking powder makes them a little like popcorn (yum!) and I can (almost) eat them as quick as I can make them!

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picking spring common hogweed shoots (Cow parsnip)

I've written about hogweed shoots many times; celebrating and bringing this weed into the limelight. I'm rather fond of it as an ingredient and have used it in dahl, cake and farinata.

As I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic I am unable to teach face-to-face, so I thought I'd share more practical pointers on how to identify this plant and important things to remember when picking it.

Here I share an ID video, a bullet-point list of things to remember when picking this plant and a simple recipe to get your started. Plus a taste test for you to do! Which is a great way to get to know this plant and compare our cultivated foods to those our ancestors ate.

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Pink and white spring blossoms for making syurps

It is possible to taste, drink in and immerse yourself in Spring in so many ways. This morning I was standing under my friend's flowering cherry tree, enjoying the floppy bunches of blossoms and their subtle scent.

This afternoon I'm making a Cherry blossom syrup and I'm sharing the recipe with you. Cherry trees typically flower for no more than 2 weeks, making it a special window to enjoy in Spring.

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Simple and delicious (wild) onion-flavoured water biscuits. Serve with cheese or just plain on their own. I made these for a group of school children who loved them (phew!). They ate them plain and with wild herb butter on.

This recipe uses three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrium), but you could use any of the wild garlic family. Just follow these simple tips to make sure the biscuits work.

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A roll of freshly made Spring wild herb butter

This is so easy and a great way to use wild herbs and smother baked potatoes, toast, fish or anything you wish with foraged goodness. The butter can either be used within one week or frozen and sliced as needed.

A handful of freshly picked sorrel leaves

When to make herb butters

Spring is often when an abundance of herbs appear and are at their best. In summer most flower and seed late-summer to autumn. You may find a new bounty in Autumn but bear the flurry of spring greens in mind!

Ingredients

60 g butter, room temperature
1 tbsp wild herbs

Herbs you could use:

  • sorrel
  • wild chervil
  • wild garlic
  • mints
  • scurvy grass
  • wild mustard
  • hairy bittercress
  • fennel
  • yarrow leaves

Method: Wash and dry the herb you are going to use, this minimises the water which doesn't blend brilliantly with fat! I pat mine dry on a tea towel. Finely chop and blend thoroughly with the butter. Use immediately, or if you're going to keep or freeze it, I wrap mine in greaseproof paper and roll into a sausage-shape. Once in a sausage-shape, it it is easy to slice from fresh or frozen and watch melt over hot food.

Wrapped herb butter ready to freeze

All the herbs mentioned are taught on my foraging courses, especially in Spring but perhaps not all on the same course! You can also keep up to date with what I'm foraging, making or cooking at @rachellambertwildfoodforaging

A bowl of freshly-made wild gorse ice cream

This melt-in-the-mouth ice cream really captures the coconut-scent that fills the air around wild gorse bushes on a warm, sunny day. That's why this recipe is so good! Oooh, I can almost taste it as I write this.

I've experimented a lot with gorse (Ulex galli and Ulex europeaus) over the years and here I share with you my best recipe yet. Here I also share my top tips on how to bring out that gorse-scent in foods and drinks - which is not as easy as it sounds!

Drying gorse flowers

Plus, a few ideas for using any left-over flowers, including how to make gorse sugar and what to use it with.

Gorse is one of my favourite flowers to use as it is so abundant and in many areas is considered an invasive. And that bright yellow colour is great too!

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According to my Danish friend, this is what green should taste like!

The colour and flavour of this tart is heavenly! Fresh sorrel leaves add a wonderful lemony tang to desserts and savoury dishes. I used Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) for this recipe, but you could use cultivated sorrel or a different wild variety that grows abundantly in your area.

Here I share the recipe. Common sorrel is also one of the plants I cover in my book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and on Spring Foraging Courses.

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Hogweed shoots are normally used as a type of so-called poorman's asparagus, cooked on their own, or used in dhal. I also enjoy them in lightly spiced Thai stir fries and recently discovered the joys of eating them in farinata - a lovely subtle addition. I've been foraging hogweed shoots (Heracleum sphondylium) for years, I find them superior to asparagus and a delightful way to broaden my experience of spring. I've written a very thorough blog before on their identification and use as a 'superior asparagus'.

At some point, most of the wild foods I eat are incorporated into some kind of dessert. Call it an inevitable result of having a sweet tooth. Partly I'm just intrigued, though sometimes it feels inspired!

Heracleum sphondylium

I had an idea of a Pear and Hogweed Cake and had to give it a go, to see whether my idea would stand up to the taste test of reality. Hogweed shoots have an unusual aromatic taste, quite subtle when cooked and I just wondered...

Recently I even tried to make a vegan, gluten-free version of this cake and it came out trumps. So here's the full of everything (butter, eggs and wheat version), and I'll share the other one soon. The recipe below has been tweaked to include a hogweed seed sugar as well. A teaspoon of the seeds are ground with the sugar to make a lovely aromatic topping. Once baked it makes the top slightly crisp too.

Heracleum sphondyliumHeracleum sphondylium

Pear and Hogweed Shoot Cake

A beautifully moist cake with an intriguing filling. Perhaps you won’t notice the unusual perfume of the hogweed shoots – some do, some don’t.

Ingredients

100 g butter

90 g unrefined sugar, plus 1 level tbsp

2 large eggs

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

100 g whole-wheat flour

30 g hogweed shoots (mainly shoots rather than leaves)

5-6 tbsp apple juice

1 tsp dried hogweed seeds (optional)

200-230 g pears

Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a 20 cm diameter cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale, almost white. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat in well before sieving in the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and whole-wheat flour.

Chop the hogweed shoots into 2 cm lengths and simmer in 3 tablespoons of apple juice for 2 minutes and put aside. If using, use a spice grinder to blend the dried hogweed seeds with the tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle the mixture over the base of the cake tin. Slice the pears to about ½-1 cm in thickness and layer these across the base of the cake tin. Next sprinkle on the semi cooked hogweed shoots. Measure out the remaining juice that the shoots simmered in and add this, one-tablespoon at a time, to the cake mixture, making it up to 3 tablespoons with extra juice. Pour and smooth the cake mixture roughly over the pears and shoots and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when pierced into the centre of the cake. When cooked, turn out onto a wire rack, with the bottom-side facing upwards and leave to cool. Serve alone, with crème fraiche or clotted cream.

Heracleum sphondylium

Allium triquetrium and Rumex acetosa

Spring is full of wild ingredients that are perfect for adding into, oh so many different recipes. Farinata - a savoury bake made out of chickpea flour - is a great carrier for these spring wilds. Like an omelette, though egg-less, baked in the oven and extremely tasty, it happens to be vegan and gluten-free too and is easy to add shoots, leaves and flowers, and even seaweed to. Here's my spring version, feel free to add different wilds. I've made a version with hogweed shoots and rosemary too, which was equally delicious.

Wild Spring Farinata Recipe

Makes 7-8 farinatas

Ingredients

  • 300 g chickpea flour
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 heaped tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground seaweed (I used bladderwrack/popweed, Fucus vesiculosus)
  • Light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Large handful three-cornered leek/wild garlic, chopped
  • Small handful common sorrel leaves and stems, chopped

In a large bowl mix the chickpea flour, water, salt and seaweed. Whisk well to combine. Leave to sit for at least an hour, ideally overnight, it will also keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Using a heavy-bottom, oven proof pan, generously add oil and heat over a medium to high heat, till almost smoking.

Spoon in a couple of ladles full of the mixture, coating the pan with a thin layer, about 0.5-1 cm thick. Sprinkle over some three-cornered leek, allow to cook for 5 mintues, sprinkle on the sorrel and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and slice off with a fish slice or similar. Re-oil the pan and repeat with another couple of ladles full and follow until you have enough to eat! Best eaten fresh. Like I mentioned, the mixture keeps well in the fridge well for a few days in the fridge, so you don't have to finish it all in one go.

with common sorrel and three-cornered leek

Works well as a snack (shared it on the beach with a foraging group), I also shared it with a friend, served with a potato salad and well-dressed green salad for supper. I run monthly foraging courses which always include homemade, wild tasters.  I'm also available for private forays, looking at the weeds on your land, in your area or just for a holiday delight.

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