Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A foraging feast

It's hard to know where to start with my foray into foraging, and really do it justice - it was full-on from the moment we started, and yet wonderfully relaxed.


About twelve of us gathered to experience a Fat Hen foraging and feasting weekend in the far west of Cornwall, not far from my home. I was also joined by Kristina and her husband G, who'd travelled down from London - such fun to have another blogger joining in. Our day started with coffee and hogweed biscotti, followed by a demonstration of how to make halloumi cheese and ricotta, and home-baked soda bread. We then headed off for our first forage on the sea shore, with St Michael's Mount as the backdrop. We collected all manner of leaves for our lunch, and checked out the varieties of seaweed freely available below the tide line, and followed this with flasks of seaweed broth (delicious!) while sprawled on the rocks. Back to base for lunch, and a cooking demonstration with tips on how to make the perfect risotto, and a salsa verde.


Our meals were taken in The Goat Barn - a beautiful converted barn next to Caroline and Frank's home. Lunch was Alexanders Risotto, foraged salad leaves, and warm soda bread.


Our afternoon was spent on a different part of the coastline, at Gwenvor and Sennen, identifying more edible plants and seaweeds. We were met at the far end of the beach by Matt, one of our chefs, who cooked up a quick snack of black pudding and laver, accompanied by a fabulous japanese knotweed caipiroska (vodka caiprinha) on crushed ice. Yum! Back to the barns for more cooking - preparing potted rabbit, and home-smoked mackerel for sunday's lunch.


Our evening feast in the candle-lit and cosy Goat Barn kicked off with halloumi and pigeon breast appetizers, along with deep-fried seaweed (heaps better than your local chinese!), followed by pan-fried mackerel and salsa verde with potatoes. Dessert was a delicate carageen milk pudding with elderberry port wine sauce and fennel shortbread. Copious quantities of wine were also consumed!

Sunday brought slightly gloomier weather, but at least it stayed dry. We foraged in the surrounding hedgerows and farmland, collecting common sorrel, sheep's sorrel, gorse flowers, pink purslane, wood sorrel...and more. We stopped for hedgerow teas at Boscowan Un stone circle, sampling yarrow and meadowsweet. Back for lunch - fritatta, tortilla, various salads, fresh sea bass, potted rabbit and more.... I came home buzzing - from all the fun, the delicious gourmet food, the potential of foraging, the cooking tips, the fantastic location, and most of all the warmth, knowledge and generosity of Caroline and Frank, and chefs Matt and Claire.

If you would like to spend a weekend doing something a little bit different, and you love cooking and eating, and want to learn about foraging, then join Fat Hen for a weekend. I can't rate it highly enough!

There's also a great review here.

18 comments:

Irene said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time looking for your edibles and then eating other ones for dinner and lunch. My mouth is watering when I read your descriptions. Having a gastric band, and being very constricted in what I can eat, I nevertheless enjoy reading about food and people's experiences with it and what they ate and how it was prepared. I think in my next life I want to be a chef de la cuisine. How about it, you and I?

Pipany said...

MMorning Diana. This sounds the perfect weekend - loads of walking, foraging and of course eating. Just lovely and even more lovely to think it is happening right here in Cornwall. I really must look into Fat Hen for next year. Really getting excited about next week! xx

Discerning Admirer said...

In retrospect, it was an amazing weekend course. Obviously it is worth visiting Cornwall just to enjoy the company of Pebbledash herself, but when you add the fantastic landscape (Sennen Beach on its own was a delight), exotic food in the form of fresh foraged salad, music played in the goatbarn by a roaring fire, I can truely say the whole weekend greatly exceeded my expectations. Caroline and Frank were highly knowledgeable about their flora of their enchanted farm as well as being gracious hosts (a perfect combination), while Matt and Claire's culinary skills bordered on genius. I don't think I could be more gushing, nor lavish enough praise, nor make a stronger recommendation than going on a Fat Hen course! Who ever had the good idea to go for a foraging weekend in the first place should be awarded Cornish Order of Goodsense, with Yewtree & Sorrel clusters :)

Heart in the country said...

Sounds like you had a brilliant weekend Diana. Did they cater for veggies?

Ali said...

What an amazing foodie weekend. Your iron levels must be well topped up from all that seaweed (I'm jealous!).

Tilly said...

Sounds fabulous. The only foraging I've ever done is a few blackberries and a form of local 'blueberry' when I was a nipper.

Poshyarns said...

Oh it sounds like such fun and so very different.

I just found you via Jolly Hockey Sticks, you have a lovely blog, I will be back for sure.

JuliaB said...

Sounds REALLY interesting ... are there vegetarian options? x

Gina said...

Sounds wonderful!

Melissa said...

oh my goodness, that looks divine!
i love the picture of the salad... sigh. :)

jacoline said...

Sounds great!!!

nimblejacks said...

Can't afford a Hen weekend which is a shame my hubby would love that for his 40th! The nearest we got on the weekend was a trip down our local beech to gather Mussels, once there we saw loads of frinds and locals doing the same so though dubious we gave it a whirl the kids loved picking them and getting the barnacles off them. Wow they were good, with carrots from my garden some steamed chard. |Yum you can't beat food that fresh. Made raspberry muffins last night with home grown fruit , log firs, 2 cats 2 kids my life is complete:D

carolyn said...

It sounds incredible just the sort of thing my husband would love.

elizabethm said...

Looks and sounds just fantastic and I would absolutely love to. I wonder if I should plot for next year?

kristina said...

You described everything so beautifully, I don't think I need to write a post now :) And I just realized I took pictures of everything but the food! Silly me. Thank you so much for such a lovely weekend. K x

notesfromthefrugaltrenches.com said...

How amazing!

Exmoorjane said...

That sounds absolutely fabulous....might just have to check it out... jx
Gorgeous pics as always...

LOUISE said...

Your title describes your time at Fat Hen so well, you certainly ate well! We love mackerel and do have plans to fish off our local harbour in the near future? Your post just shows that it is possible to live off the land, if you have the knowledge and know-how. x