Partridge and damson; Rabbit and nettle; Pheasant and barley; Oliver Gladwin tells us why these British pairings work so well – and how you can source them from the ground around you.
As a child, I grew up on a farm in Sussex. In our house we refused to eat vegetables out of season because they must have travelled round the world to get here – not the best way to respect the planet. As a chef, I now lead three kitchens in London and a company with my two brothers that strictly uses British seasonal produce.
Foraging is a great way to source this produce, benefit our global carbon foot print and create natural, healthy and delicious meals.
Foraging is not limited to mushrooms, flowers and herbs. It includes any plant, animal, fish, fungi, vegetable or fruit that can be collected in the wild. 100 years ago it was common house practice. Now we seem to ignore the wild food readily available round us, and rely on shops for food. Isn’t it staggering that most of the British population could likely walk down a beach abroad and recognize a coconut tree, bananas, dates, mangos, pineapples - but can’t recognize a similarly edible plant or weed back in the UK?
I live and cook by the saying ‘what grows together goes together’ – meaning that plants and animals which grow in the same habitat form a natural marriage of flavours in a dish. For example, if a pheasant lives near a barley field then in my kitchen a combination has already been made from nature. Other examples include venison and rose hip, or squirrel and cobnut. When any of these pairings are plated up on a dish and cooked with precision and respect the result is always beautiful.
If you want to go and forage you must respect the environment and follow the rules for safety. Wild foods can also be poisonous and toxic. Follow the golden rule: Do not eat anything until you have 100% identified it with a reliable source.
Whatever age you are, just look about you and you will find an endless supply of special seasonal foods. You will gain huge satisfaction from gathering from the environment around you. Enjoy!
For foraging-inspired recipes and more, check out The Shed: The Cookbook, compiled by Oliver and his brothers Richard and Oliver and winner of the Michael Smith Award for Work On British Food. Available to buy here.
Oliver’s London restaurants:
Rabbit, Chelsea - rabbit-restaurant.com
The Shed, Notting Hill - theshed-restaurant.com
Nutbourne, Battersea - nutbourne-restaurant.com