Monday, 15 August 2011

Food for free

From August onwards if you go walking a bit - or have a garden with those kinds of plants - you'll start seeing plenty of free food appearing. Some will not be obvious to most people but give the opportunity for some amazing flavours to use in the kitchen.

Membrillo - fantastic with Manchego cheese,
or our own Lancashire or White Stilton
It may be something as obvious as your apple or pear tree in the garden to a quince bush, usually just grown nowadays for its orange spring blossoms but prized by our forebears and still in Spain for the amazing intense fruit tang. If you've ever tasted membrillo with a slice of manchego cheese, then you'll know exactly what I mean!

I've started looking out for the fruits of the hedgerows now and windfalls are starting to drop; the first batch of spiced apple chutney has been made with more as they fall to be followed with batches stewed apple for the freezer to form the base for sauces, to add to curries, or just on yoghourt or rice puddings. Even better combine with the blackberries that are appearing in the hedgerows around now for the classic Blackberry and Apple crumble.

If you're more adventurous, then there are sloes, medlars, rose hips and plenty more - and if you know what you are doing then huge growths of fungi are also now appearing after the damp summer we have had in the UK. Some fruits will freeze fine til you are ready to so something with them while others will need to be pickled, bottled or made into jam as soon as they are gathered. Remember to leave on the bush whatever you are not likely to use, so that others - and our wild birds - can make good use of them.

If you want to know what to do with them, the BBC website has a huge store of recipes from its collected cookery programmes from the simple through to quite complicated concoctions.

As for me, I'll be scouring the hedges and woodlands to see what's around for free to freeze or bottle and last me through to next year. I'm looking forward to the first burst of wild garlic leaves in the woods around Jesmond Dene and along the Northumberland colliery track network.

Happy walking and cooking :)