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Posted on Jul 2, 2015 by

Caroline Davey of Fat Hen Wild Cookery School has shared with us some essential foraging tips along with a selection of her favourite recipes.

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Only pick things you have a 100% positive identification for. There are plants and fungi out there that can kill you so it’s important that you don’t take any chances. Start with simple things like blackberries and wild garlic.

Start foraging in your own back yard! You don’t have to travel miles to forage; you will find edible plants on your street, in your garden and in your local park.

Do not trespass to forage for wild food. Either get the landowner’s permission or stick to public footpaths.

It is illegal to uproot wild plants without the landowner’s permission so only dig up plants if you have permission to do so, or if you are the landowner of course!

It’s important to be careful and think about the potential problems with places you forage from. Avoid picking along busy roads or immediately next to the path on dog-walking routes. If you pick from water courses find out how clean the water is, be aware of leptospirosis in slow flowing water and cook your watercress as there may be a problem with liver fluke (which is killed by cooking). If you forage in parks find out from the council if any of the grassland and shrubs are treated with herbicides or other sprays.

Organise your foraging trips with friends and family as it’s such a good activity for all round physical and mental health. To forage together and to prepare a meal from your finds will leave you with a profound sense of community, achievement and well being.

Fat Hen 3


Serves 4 as a starter


Small bowl of cooked laver seaweed*

1 small onion

Scattering of oatmeal

2 pieces of pancetta or smoked bacon

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 egg

White breadcrumbs

Oil for frying

Knob of butter

Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

16 mussels

Half a small bottle of good quality dry cider

Equal amount of cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp chopped wild garlic or wild fennel fronds

*Pick laver seaweed from the rocks -enough to form into 4 fishcake sized patties. Take home and wash very well. This may need up to 8 washes to remove all the sand and small creatures hiding amongst the fronds.


Once washed put the laver into a saucepan and simmer on a gentle heat for 2 hours until tender but still with some texture. You may not need to add any water to the seaweed as it will hold quite a lot of water naturally. However, check to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan. If it does stick add some water.

Whilst the laver is cooking trim and chop some smoked bacon, fry until crispy. Sauté the onion until caramelised.

Add the bacon, onion, oatmeal, butter, salt, pepper and lemon juice to the warm laver seaweed and stir until thoroughly mixed and the butter has melted.

Cool and leave in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Remove from the fridge and make the mixture into fishcake sized patties. Dip into whisked egg followed by breadcrumbs and lay on a try until ready to fry.

Fry the laver cakes until golden, place in a warm oven to keep hot.

Now make the sauce. Get a saucepan very hot on the stove. Throw in your cleaned mussels. Add the cider and cook until the mussels have opened. Remove the mussels and set aside.

Now reduce down the cider to half. Add the cream and mustard and reduce the cream by half. Season and add the chopped fennel fronds and the reserved mussels (out of their shells) at the end of cooking.

Serve the laver cake surrounded by a couple of spoons of the sauce.

Fat Hen 2


Serves 4


4 sheets of kelp, approximately 10cm in length, fresh, or dried and soaked in cold water for 30 mins

1 side of hake fillet (400g)

Selection of seaweeds to cover the base of the pan to sit fish on e.g dulse, serrated wrack, carragheen.


Makes 225 ml – serve 2-3 tablespoons per person

3 tablespoons vermouth or white wine

3 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar

3 tablespoons poaching/steaming liquor from fish

1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot/red onion

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon cream

6oz unsalted butter

Lemon juice

Two tablespoons of fresh pepper dulse or one of dried rehydrated in cold water.


Cut hake into 4 portions and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the hake in kelp and place on top of seaweeds in a shallow pan with about 3cm depth of water. Place on the lid and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and steam for approximately ten minutes. Check the fish for firmness and turn off the heat while you make the sauce.

Put the first 4 sauce ingredients (in list above) in a stainless steel pan, heat and reduce it down to one tablespoon. Add cream and reduce till the sauce thickens then whisk in the cold diced butter one piece at a time off the heat keeping the sauce warm. Add salt and pepper to taste, pepper dulse and a squeeze of lemon juice. Keep warm.

Unwrap seaweed from fish and cover with two or three tablespoons of sauce. Serve with poached alexanders and nettle gnocchi (see below).

Fat Hen 1


You will need 4-5 Alexanders’ stems per person (well peeled and cut into length approx 15cm long; the length of asparagus).

Cut  the Alexanders from the base of large plants that are just starting to come into bud but that have not fully flowered. Once the flowers open the stems become too fibrous and woody.

The season for eating the stems runs from March to May.

Boil the Alexanders in salted water for 3 mins until tender.


Serves 6

Just over 1 kg spuds (choose a floury variety such as King Edward or Maris Piper).

300 g plain flour

2 eggs yolks

A bunch of nettles

50g Parmesan


Wash and blanch the nettles in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, squeeze out as much excess water as you can from the nettles and chop them finely.

Boil the potatoes in their skins – until just cooked erring on the side of undercooked. Peel the skins and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer. Put the potato into a large bowl. Add the flour, egg yolks, chopped nettles, grated parmesan and salt.

Bring together all the ingredients with you hands to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop and knead it bringing in plain flour to stop it sticking.

Break off small balls of dough and roll out into a long sausage shape on the worktop. Cut pieces off the ‘sausage’ all the way along.

Roll each piece up the back of a fork using the back of a teaspoon. Roll it the alternate way to the knife cut to get the lines across the gnocchi.

Blanch in boiling salted water. The gnocchi are ready when they float to the top of the pan.

Either serve now or if you want to use them later, put them straight into a bowl of cold water to stop them continuing to cook, drain and run through a further jug of cold water. Set aside.

If you want to store them, drain off the water and mix the gnocchi with some olive oil. You can store them like this overnight in an airtight container in the fridge.

When you want to serve the gnocchi, heat some butter and olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the gnocchi and sear each piece until golden, turning once during cooking.

Fat Hen baskets on beach

If you want to learn more about foraging and wild food cookery then I can highly recommend a visit to the Fat Hen Wild Cookery School. You can read about my visit last year here. Upcoming courses are as follows:


3rd Forage, Cook and Feast Day

4th Wild Food Cycling Day

16th Forage, Cook and Feast Day

18th Wild Food Walk and Canapés

19th Artisan Bread Making

31st -2nd August Port Eliot Festival


12th/13th Gourmet Wild Food Weekend

18th Forage and Feast At The Gurnard’s Head

20th Fish and Shellfish Cookery

25th Wild Italian Cookery

26th Forage, Cook and Feast Day

30th Seaweed Foraging and Cookery


2nd Forage, Cook and Feast Day

3rd Game Cookery

9th Wild Food Cycling Day

16th Forage, Cook and Feast Day


11th Forage, Cook and Feast Day

14th Game Cookery

Fat Hen Wild Cookery School, Boscawen-noon Farm, St Buryan, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6EH

Phone: 01736 810156 or 07767 792417 | Email: [email protected]

All recipes copyright Caroline Davey. All photos by Tom Young other than header image by Ellie Michell.

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