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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Wild Soup Recipes and Some Thoughts on Foraging and the Accessibility of Wild Food in the UK.

Note; These are not recipes which rely solely on wild ingredients, they are not survival foods and are much easier to prepare in a kitchen, but does that mean that this isn't bushcraft? What is bushcraft?  

Alexander and Vegetable Soup with Chilli

Alexanders are one of the Umbelifers, same group of plants as hemlock and cow parsley, luckily there should be no confusion with hemlock as they have very distinctive leaves. Unlike the carrot like leaves of hemlock they have three unequal lobes to their leaves so there should be no mistaking them. 

The flavour of Alexanders is very strong and almost 'chemically' so you wont need too many leaves. I have found that the chilli counteracts this slightly chemical taste. for the ammount of leaves and veg as shown above I would add a single fresh  a whole dried birdseye chilli (a small one)   I don't really do weights and measurements when I cook so my suggestion would be to add carrot and potato to give the soup some bulk in approximately the following ratio;

(the amount shown here made soup for seven people) Boil the potato and carrot until soft, if you are using dried chilli's I would add them at the same time as the carrot and potato so they can impart their flavour. Finally add the leaves (and if you are using fresh chilli add a single chopped chilli now), once the leaves are in the pot you wont need to cook them for long, just a couple of minutes. After two minutes blend the soup with a hand blender or in a food processor. Now you can add a dash of cream and salt and pepper to your taste. 

Nettle and Cleaver Soup

I find nettle soup to be quite acidic so I often mix it with something else, normally chick weed, young hogweed leaves or cleavers. First chop and fry an onion and a single clove of garlic. First add the nettles to just enough water to cover them and simmer until they have shrunk and the water has turned green. At this point I pour off about a third of the liquor, this will give a thicker soup and take away some of the stronger flavour of the nettles. Now add the cleavers which should have been roughly chopped, and the fried onion. Again no weights and measures, this amount made soup for nine;

Boil for another few minutes and then blend with a hand blender or food processor, season with salt and pepper and add a generous amount of single cream. 

The Results 

Alexander soup at the front and the nettle and cleaver at the back.  

If I was cooking in the woods then of course I would do this differently, no blenders and potentially no cream depending on how long I had been out, but does carrying ingredients with you detract from the experience or make it less valuable? This highlights a difference between foraging and living of the land which Paul Kirtley has spoken about before.  And raises a few questions in my mind;

  1. When we talk about living off the land in the context of bushcraft we normally are talking about foraging, trapping and collecting our own WILD food but the phrase 'living off the land' is also used in terms of subsistence agriculture, is there a relationship between the two?
  2. Can we 'live off the land' just from wild food's in the UK? 
  3. If we can't, and my opinion is that we can't, what has changed since people did once subsist as hunter gatherers in the UK. 
  4. Is there anything we can do to make wild food more accessible.
I will share some of my thoughts about these questions over the next few weeks.      

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