Worldwide, harvest festival is in full swing, so in the spirit of British autumnal feasting we set out to see what’s abundant on the doorstep of our offices here in Bristol. A local forage with leading ethical restaurant, the Ethicurean, was the order of the day.

Whilst harvest time is surely about reaping the fruit of the farmed fields, it is also about scanning for delights in the ditches, hedgerows and hills. There’s no better way to ensure that you eat seasonally and engage with the local area than keeping an eye on what’s abundant just a stone’s throw from the footpath. What’s more it’s all for free.

Foraging may require you to think twice before popping things in your basket, but it’s thrice the fun of the supermarket. Watch on as we head for the hills to source a free three course meal and a cocktail to boot.

Shaggy ink caps on toast with black garlic & vetch

Ingredients – Serves 4
12 young shaggy ink caps, cut in half
4 slices good quality sour dough, very thinly sliced
2 cloves black garlic, sliced
several sprigs of vetch to garnish
several chive flowers to garnish
rapeseed oil
salted organic butter

To cook

1. In a frying pan, heat some rapeseed oil with a small knob of butter until the butter foams. Place two of the sourdough slices in the pan and cook on one side until golden. Flip over and fry the other side. Repeat with the remaining two slices.

Photo 12-09-2014 18 05 342. Clean out the pan and heat some more rapeseed oil to medium high. When hot, add the mushrooms cut side down and fry until golden, then add a small nob of butter and flip to cook the other side. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to soak up the residual oil.

3. Place each slice of toast onto a plate, top with the mushrooms and garnish with some black garlic, vetch and chive flowers.

Wood pigeon with beetroot, pearl barley, cob nut, blackberries & wood sorrel

Ingredients – Serves 4
4 wood pigeon
150g pearl barley
8 large beetroots, (keep seven whole, dice one)
100g fresh cob nuts, shelled and chopped
20 blackberries
wood sorrel
orache (optional) also known as halbeardleaf orache
rapeseed oil
salted butter

Pigeon sauce
500ml brown chicken stock (from roasted chicken bones)
pigeon carcasses

To cook

1. When purchasing the pigeon, ask the butcher to take off the breasts and skin – keep the carcasses for making the sauce. To make the pigeon sauce, roast the pigeon carcasses at 200˚C for 30 minutes, turning as needed and ensuring they do not burn (they should be deep brown in colour rather than black).

2. When done, place the pigeon carcasses in a pan and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, skimming any scum from the surface, and then leave to simmer for one hour. After an hour, strain through a fine sieve and reduce the remaining liquid until it reaches your desired consistency. In the meantime, place the pearl barley in a pan, cover with two inches of water and bring to the boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, remove from the heat, then strain and rinse the barley. This helps to clean the starch off the barley so it isn’t so sticky and it also removes any scum from the grain.

3. Next, clean out the pan and replace the barley along with enough fresh water to cover it. Bring to the boil and cook until tender but still slightly al dente. When done, strain and leave to cool on a tray.

While the barley is cooking, peel and grate the seven whole beetroot. Wrap in muslin cloth or a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much of the juice as possible (you can, of course, use a juicer instead). This will be used to reheat and flavour the barley.

Photo 12-09-2014 18 25 154. Now you will need to make a start on the pigeon. Heat some rapeseed oil in a pan until smoking, then add the pigeon breast, tenderloin side down, and cook for 30 seconds. Next, flip the breast over and cook the other side for another 30 seconds. At this point you can pop in a knob of butter to baste the meat (if your pan is too small for all of the pigeon you can cook them in batches). When done, take the breasts out of the pan and leave to rest on a cold oven tray. Pour the butter and juices from the pan over the meat and then leave to cook in a pre-heated oven 200 ˚c for two to three minutes. When ready, remove from the oven and leave in a warm spot while you finish the pearl barley.

5. In a pan, heat some rapeseed oil and cook the diced beetroot over a medium heat until tender. Next, add the cooked pearl barley and heat through for 30 seconds, pouring in the beetroot juice and leaving to reduce until all of it has been absorbed by the grain. Throw a few knobs of butter in, just for good measure. The barley should look glossy and not too dry. If it is too dry, add a splash of water & a couple more knobs of butter.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and divide between four plates. Place two breasts on top of each serving, then add a smattering of cob nuts. Finally, heat up the sauce with the blackberries and drizzle liberally over the breasts when suitably warm. Garnish with a little wood sorrel and away we go!

Rosehip set cream with damson sorbet & walnut crumble

Ingredients – Serves 4
Set cream
300g yoghurt
200g double cream
100 g castor sugar
200g rose hips
4g leaf gelatine

To make

1. The first thing to do is make the set cream; to do this you will need to make a rosehip syrup. Put the rose hips in a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb. Place the rosehips into a pan and add enough water to just cover. Add the sugar to the pan and heat, while stirring, to dissolve the sugar. Cook on a low heat to infuse for about 20 minutes and strain into a bowl through a fine sieve when done. While the rosehips are cooking, ensure that they are always just covered with water. Add more as you go, if necessary.

Photo 13-09-2014 18 16 512. Next, bloom the gelatine by placing the leaves in iced water. Add the yoghurt, rosehip syrup and cream to a pan, adding the gelatine when it has softened. Pop the pan on the hob and slowly bring up the temperature until the gelatine has fully dissolved. Now pour the mixture evenly between four plastic moulds and leave in the fridge to set overnight.

Damson sorbet

Ingredients
1600g damsons
400g water
200g caster sugar
100g liquid glucose

To make

1. Roast the damsons in the oven at 200˚c for ten minutes. Next, transfer them into a pan with 400ml of water and cook on a low heat until very soft then pass them through a course sieve. Now weigh out the amount of puree there is and to every 1000g add 200g of caster sugar and 100g of glucose.

2. Blend all the ingredients with a stick blender or in a food processor until completely combined. Transfer to the fridge, and allow to cool. When cold, put into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can put the mix in a tub in the freezer and agitate it every hour or so with a fork until set.

Walnut crumble

Ingredients
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
175g wholemeal flour
85g butter
85g castor or muscovado sugar

To make

1. Put the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor and blitz until combined. Next, add the walnuts and pulse once or twice to incorporate. Pour the mixture onto an oven tray and cook on 150˚C for 20-35 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.

2. To assemble the dessert, dip the plastic tubs containing the set cream in hot water to loosen the sides, and then turn out onto a plate. Add a small pile of walnut crumble next to the set cream and then a liberal scoop of sorbet on top of the crumble.

Film by Pier Giorgio Provenzano at I Did This Film, featured image by Nikita

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