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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Foraged Food and Fun

Last September The Felin Fach Griffin ran an event called Hiraeth, a farm to food day which I missed as I was in Italy. The second will be this September and, once again, I shall miss it as I shall be at Ballymaloe and then the Celtic Cook Off.


The Griffin was the venue for Garden Party Gatecrashers, a day of foraging, fun and food and this time I could make it!

Bringing together two great Foragers, Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods and Adele Nozedar, with Hedgerow Tea specialists Fine Pluck and the culinary skills of Ross the FF Chef a great time was guaranteed for all, and the weather ensured that it was.


Fine Pluck Produce

Ross in Action

The event started with a Forage Hunt. A table covered in empty jars and printed labels confronted us. The challenge was to fill each jar and match each label with foraged items from the area around the pub.

Whilst Janet and others including fellow bloggers @gomezadams and @babettesfest searched out the esoteric and rare, I contented myself with demonstrating that I could identify Cow Parsley and Hogweed (not the Giant type).

The treasure hunt table soon filled, and demonstrated the immense diversity of edible plants that are in any small area.

After a refreshing glass of Rhubarb Shrub, a fermented Rhubarb drink not a small bush, it was time for the serious discussions about foraging so whilst Janet joined the group I decided to sample the delights of the Foraged Bar!


All the while Ross had been working away on the barbecue, Lamb and Chicken were rubbed with foraged herbs and flowers and regularly basted with foraged marinades, whilst Yesterdays News ( vegetables cooked in Newspaper Parcels) steamed away on another grill. Even the mops used to baste were foraged plants!
Finally the food was ready and a horde of ravenous foragers descended like Locusts to annihilate the fresh food, now accompanied by salads and fresh potato salad before a summery dessert of fresh Strawberries and Cream. Being allergic to Strawberries I had a lovely Rhubarb brulee and got jealous looks from all.

Whilst, and after eating we had a chance to talk with the foragers and Janet bought a copy of Adele's book The Hedgerow Handbook, a beautifully illustrated tome on foraging and using local wild plants.
The drive back to Cwmbran was interspersed with regular spotting of ingredients in the hedgerows as we passed and Janet determining that foraged alcohol was the way forward!
We had been lucky enough to get some recipes at Gardenparty Gatecrashers as well as picking up Afdle's book so Janet had a small arsenal of potential to mine.

As our roses were in fine bloom Janet decided that Rose Petal Gin and Vodka would be the first drinks from our homebased distillery and an orgy of petal plucking and separating ensued.

Whilst Janet needed fresh petals for her drinks, I needed then dried for later incorporation into dishes and rubs so mine went into a very low oven overnight.

In the meantime Janet was infusing petals with either Gin or Vodka and leaving them for 24 hours.

Removed from the alcohol the petals were discarded (after Janet had taste tested each one individually) and the now flavoured Gin and Vodka bottled. it will be some weeks before it is tasted, though the ones I tried at Garden Party Gatecrashers indicate that will be a pleasant duty!
My petals were stored safely and have already made appearences in rubs and garam masalas.

A cracking day with much learned, good food and good company. I hope that the Felin Fach Griffin repeats the exercise, possibly a winter forage? and I promise I will get to Hiraeth at some stage.

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Morphy Richards