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Foraged Veg

I’m so happy to have the veg back. I didn’t even make it to the market last week (which is why things have been quiet around here), and I think I was suffering from withdrawal. But no longer; my crisper is full and I’m ready to cook again.

This week, tops on my list is a huge pot of Ribollita. Ever since Tiina wrote about enjoying it on her recent Tuscan holiday, the thick Italian soup has been on my mind. Loaded with beans and vegetables and served with Parmesan, it’s always been a favourite meal of mine, especially during the dark, chilly days of winter. The leafy kale and knobbly carrots above will contribute to a great version, you’ll see.

The purple sprouting broccoli will likely be dinner tonight. This veg goes wonderfully with the rich flavour of anchovies, and I think I have a fillet or two in the fridge. Tossed with some pasta or couscous and a bit of cream, it will make a delicious meal. The squash of course will be enjoyed during the week; I can always think of something to do with butternuts!

Now, to explain the title of today’s post. No, the selection above wasn’t foraged from London’s parks, but bought as usual from my local farmers’ market. But this week I did obtain some foraged “veg” of sorts, and it was such an interesting experience that I wanted to share it with you.

You’ve heard of noma, yes? The reigning “best restaurant in the world”, led by head chef and co-owner René Redzepi? Well, as you may or may not have heard, Redzepi has recently published his first cookbook, published by Phaidon Press. He was in London this past week, to give a talk and book-signing at the majestic Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden. I was lucky enough to be gifted with tickets (thanks, Andrew!) for the event, which was equal parts bizarre, impressive and inspiring.

The evening started with the distribution of snacks to the assembled audience. Before your mouth starts watering at the thought of gourmet canapés, I must say that these snacks were carrots. Raw, freshly scrubbed and somewhat misshapen carrots. Believe me, there is nothing stranger than listening to a world-class chef speak in impressive surroundings, to the sound of several hundred people munching on carrots.

Of course, there was a point to this. Redzepi is known for his localvore leanings (they were Danish carrots, you see), a stance which some might say he takes to extremes. Much of the food on the menu at noma is actually wild, foraged from the beaches, woods and marshes surrounding Copenhagen. Over the next two hours, I watched in awe as Redzepi cooked and talked through nine creative and beautiful dishes, using such ingredients as moss, two-year-old “vintage” carrots, spruce boughs and seaweeds.

Which brings us to these “goodie bags”. Everything you see above was foraged in Kent, England, by Redzepi and UK rural enterprise Forager. While I haven’t quite worked up the courage to try everything (the Sea Buckthorn berries are particularly intimidating), others are surprisingly delicious. Have you ever tried a Douglas Fir needle? They taste exactly how you’d imagine: sweet, resin-y, spicy and warm. I’m considering grinding these up and using it on some roast potatoes, or even heading out to Greenwich park and seeing what else I can come up with! At the very least, I plan to devote an hour this week to pouring over Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.

So, what are you cooking this week? Any plans to head into your backyard and start snacking?

5 comments

  1. f. says:

    I love the idea of foraged veg. I used to have a roommate who would go out and pick wild mushrooms and fiddleheads. One of my favourite (and most relaxing) teas has Douglas Fir in it, so yummy. I’d love to try it on potatoes!

  2. Liz says:

    Event sounds fantastic! I went to a talk last year where I learnt to make a panna cotta from foraged seaweed. Slightly off-putting at the start with the boiling of wilted, foraged seaweed but was actually delicious!

  3. This weekend, I’m cooking special omelets and dreaming up healthy holiday desserts.

  4. oh that event sounds fab! im so green with envy!
    mmmm doulas fir cake would be yum!

  5. fresh365 says:

    Wow, that sounds like such an inspiring event. Its amazing what you can actually cook with that is growing outside your door!