Foraging and Wild Cookery Course at The School of Artisan Food
| AD – gifted |
I’ve always been super interested in food (mainly eating it, not cooking it) and I’ve become increasingly interested in where our food comes from and sustainability so I was super excited when I got invited to attend a Foraging and Wild Cookery Course at The School of Artisan Food in North Nottinghamshire. I’d never done anything similar before – the closest I’ve come to foraging is somehow scraping together a meal from the minimal contents of the fridge – so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.
I arrived at the school and was amazed by the surroundings. The School of Artisan Food is based in the heart of Sherwood Forest on the Welbeck Estate and it’s housed in the former fire stables, dating back to 1870. The Welbeck Estate is made up of stunning grounds with a huge manor house as well as some other buildings and businesses. The school offer literally hundreds of courses with everything from ice cream, bread and pasta making to game butchery and wood fired pizza making (I really liked the sound of this one!). All the courses are taught by highly experienced professionals and the school has an excellent reputation. It’s also a non-profit organisation which I liked.
Upstairs at the school there are training kitchens and a dining room where we were collected by forager James Wood who was taking us out. James was really nice and friendly and put us at ease straight away (I was kind of nervous for some reason!). He was also so passionate about foraging that it made me get into it really quickly. He told us how a lot of Michelin starred restaurants were starting to use foraged ingredients within their cooking – like dandelion syrup, which sounds insane but is actually delicious!
We spent a couple of hours searching around the estate for different plants ready to cook up a storm when we got back to the school. We picked things like elderflower, dandelions, linden leaves (which are a bit like lettuce) and even daisies – yes, you can actually eat daisies! I found out that there are lots of wild alternatives to the things that we eat all the time – you can find tastes like celery, lettuce and mushrooms all in wild plants. Of course, there are plenty of plants that you can’t eat so make sure you do your research before heading out!
On return to the school we tucked into a delicious lunch of breads made by the students at the school and different cheeses and salads which was lovely. We were then split into teams and headed into one of the training kitchens to cook up a storm. First on the menu – nettle soup! I actually gave picking nettles a miss as there weren’t enough pairs of gloves and I’m glad I did as everyone was complaining about the stings! Apparently there are plenty of things you can do with nettles – including making crisps by frying them in a pan for a few seconds – and as soon as you cook them, they lose their sting.
Now, as you probably know, I’m not exactly a whiz in the kitchen (my boyfriend does ALL the cooking at home) and so I was tentative while cooking the soup – I had to keep checking I was doing everything right! The soup had added ingredients of garlic, leeks, potatoes and onions and it actually tasted pretty good – there were even leftovers which I took to work over the next few days. The main course was wilted greens on a bed of salad and to be honest, I wasn’t super keen on this bit as it really tasted quite garden-y as you would probably expect. I think I could handle it as a side salad, but I’m not sure about a main meal.
For dessert we made ice cream with blossom from a linden tree. I’ve actually never made ice cream before and I’ve never heard of this way of making it but we added milk, cream and the blossom to a plastic bag and then put ice and salt in a larger bag and put the smaller bag inside. We then kneaded and spun the bags round, churning and freezing the mixture as we went. It only took around 10 minutes and we were left with frozen ice cream! I really enjoyed this flavouring, it was quite subtle and slightly sweet and a lovely palette cleanser after everything else we’d eaten on the course.
I really enjoyed my Foraging and Wild Cookery Course at The School of Artisan Food, especially spending time outside and learning more about plants and discovering new flavours. I’m not sure that I’ll be foraging every week but it’s definitely something I’d try again.