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Paul Foster

Foraging around Tuddenham St Mary

Posted on 05 Sep 2012 at 05:33

Myself and my team are often out in the hedgerows in Tuddenham picking different items for the menu. Although foraged items make up less than 10% of my menus it is a very important part of what we do. Most of the time the items won't even be written in the dish description as they are a back ground element, for instance I made a grouse sauce yesterday and when it was finished I infused Hogweed seeds into it for 60 seconds, which took its depth up to another level. It is crucial to understand the flavour profiles of each item and why they are being used on the plate. I ask myself, why is it there? Is it enhancing the flavour/texture of the dish? Does it add anything? If the answer to these questions is no, then don't bloody use it!! I'll never use ingredients or techniques just because they are in vogue, it can quickly become gimmicky. You have to really believe in what you do to be secure in your food, and then the passion and your identity will shine through with it. My food is about the relentless approach for purity of flavour, and how you can enhance it and extract more flavour from great ingredients.

The photos and descriptions below are some of the things we pick locally to us at this time of year;

Hogweed seeds - a very lemony flavour, similar to cardamom, I have been finishing my grouse sauce with it and rolling chocolate truffles in the ground seed.

Yarrow - a delicate lavender flavour. I use the flowers to infuse into vinegar which we are cooking and pickling carrot in at the moment. The little shoots we are using on desserts for its delicate flavour and unusual texture. 

Elderberries - stunning at the moment and in abundance. I am sweet pickling them and serving them with Grouse. Last year I did the same but served it with mackerel, they work very well with earthy oily fish. 

Mugwort - the leaves and seeds have a very delicate minty aroma and flavour, I am making a juice to go with 40C salmon at the moment, last year we made a slightly sweeter juice that worked amazingly well with bitter chocolate. 

Ground ivy - a very powerful leaf with a sage like flavour, I use the small leaves ripped over deserts, I find it works well with yoghurt, buttermilk and sea buckthorn, all quite sour flavours. 

Ribwort plantain buds - coming to the end now but can still find some small shoots around, it has a great mushroom flavour similar to cep! It is important to get the soft buds before they flower as they lose all of there flavour. I have made it into a velouté and served it with egg yolk and salted apple. 

Ox-eye daisy - the green leaves have a slightly bitter spicy flavour to them. The flower has a neutral flavour in the same way that chickweed does. 

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