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Epoch Times 20th Dec 06

Foraging your Christmas pud

I?m a full-time professional forager. For me, this doesn?t mean I?m out from dawn to dusk every day come rain or shine or that I eat nothing but wild food ? although I?ve both enjoyed and suffered many such days. Rather, what it does mean is that I?m involved in a whole range of delightfully varied foraging related activities: sourcing wild or at least foraged food (mulberries and the fruit of the Strawberry Tree can?t be classed as wild) to provide tasty, seasonal, nutritionally rich and interesting ingredients to feed myself, family, friends, my favourite farmers market and the odd restaurant. Also, I find running foraging courses, wild plant and fungi photography, crazily creative cooking and general wild food research immensely engaging and great fun. The well-springs that drive this wild passion have many sources although in the main there are just three: A commitment to promote the use of seasonal, local food in which the excesses of needless packaging and food miles are eliminate; a sense of rebellion against consumer culture, speed, standardisation, a distorted sense of risk and the over regulation of so much of our lives; the desire for an intimate sense of place and belonging which comes from really engaging with the local environment.
Putting all thoughts of convenience food aside and, in a challenging seasonal celebration of the slow, fantastically inconvenient, absurd and impractical, here is my recipe for a completely foraged Christmas pudding.
Ingredients (serves 2-3, all measurements approximate)
100g chestnuts
100g hawthorn berries
100g bilberries
1 large eating apple
2-4oz (depending whether or not you use the
optional extras) concentrated apple syrup
(from approx 2kg of fresh eating apples)
5 medium sized fresh figs
10 wild cherries
10 soft rosehips (dog rose)
10 walnuts
2 large bletted medlars
1 cup home-made cider
Optional extras:
3 oz veg suit
3 oz bread crumbs
1 egg
zest of I lemon and one orange
teaspoon mixed spice
teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8th teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons of stout
Peel and core the apple, remove seeds from rosehips, chop both of these as well as the figs bilberries and stoned cherries. Spread out and dry on wire racks on a heater (overnight) or low oven (4ish hours). Bake and peel the chestnuts. Boil the hawthorns in a little water, strain and press pulp through a sieve. Into a good food processor place the chestnuts, hawthorn and extracted medlar pulp, apple syrup and cider (and other optional drinks). Blend to a smooth paste, the consistency of thick mashed potato. To achieve this it may be necessary to gently heat the paste in a pan, low oven or microwave. Thoroughly mix in the chopped walnuts and all other ingredients (including optional ingredients if desired). Press into a pudding bowl, cover and steam for three hours.
NB. You can just about forage for all the ingredients now except the wild cherries (July) and bilberries (August/Sept ? can be obtained from home brew shops). I made this without any of the optional extras. Happy Christmas!

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