Recently, I had a wonderful night at the Forest of Dean with Forest Holidays (Part 1 of review). The idea of the trip was to teach us how to forage for food and then prepare it.
Warning: this post is NOT vegetarian friendly.
The second day of our visit saw a slight blip when the electricity on site and in the surrounding village failed. However, this wasn’t a problem for us as the trip was about getting back to nature anyway, although I have to confess to being sad about missing out on my promised bacon sandwich for breakfast! The staff dealt with it as well as they could expect and we gathered with our baskets and smiles, ready for a foraging walk through the forest with Gerry the Ranger and Nick Weston of Hunter Gather Cook.
It was fascinating learning just how much is edible and along with wild garlic, chestnuts and nettles, we also gathered ground ivy, loganberries, blackberries, Ribwork Plantain (tastes like mushroom, yuck!), Common Sorrel (lemon tang) and many others. After an exciting morning scurrying around, Gerry finally led us to a clearing where we set fires and made pine needle tea. Jonny from Don’t Stop Living and I happily recounted tales of Northern Irish fires (he’s Norn Iron, so he is, and I lived there for a few years).
I was pleasantly surprised by the Pine Needle tea. With hot drinks, if it isn’t coffee or mulled wine, I generally don’t drink it. However this was very refreshing.
After hiking back up the hill (seriously, this place is a dream for trail running), it was time for a cookery demo from Nick. He showed us how to butcher venison, before preparing a stunning smoked venison tartare. We were then set loose on the various ingredients and fruits of our foraging…
Jonny and I teamed up with Chloe (The Gastronomic Gorman) as we all wanted to try cooking partridge. With feathers and everything still in place, it was time for a quick lesson in how to skin the bird. Skinning complete, Jonny successfully removed the breasts and Chloe decided to stuff hers. With this inspiration, Jonny and I opted for a similar idea. I created a stuffing from breadcrumbs, olive oil, wild garlic, ground ivy and diced the offal from the bird, before opening up the breast and rolling it. I then wrapped it in parma ham, before opting to make a ballotine. Whilst I wrapped in clingfilm and poached it outside, Jonny got busy making a blackberry and loganberry sauce and a salad. We finally finished off the ballotine with a blowtorch, making the parma ham nice and crispy.
Using a blowtorch has to be one of the best moments of my life. I think I’m a closet pyromaniac.
So how was the food? Absolutely stunning. The slight tartness of the sauce perfectly complemented the slight sweetness of the partridge. It was tender and juicy – it was just a shame we didn’t have more time to eat it!
I had a wonderful time on this trip – my only criticism is that it wasn’t for longer as there was so much to see and explore! For further information, Forest Holidays have put together this fantastic video. I feature in the green coat.
Thank you to Forest Holidays and Propeller PR for inviting me to take part in this trip. Views are my own.