Happy hunting ground: Mark Hix finds some wild accompaniments for fish and game dishes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

The craze for foraging is showing no sign of abating, at least not in my household. With the weather improving (ever so slightly), it's a good time to head out there, to the beach, to a field, or even on to the roadside in search of some great ingredients growing wild.

Thoughtful foraging is a wonderful thing – what a sense of achievement, especially for kids, when you can go out and pick a carrier bag or two of food all for free. I always get a mixture of peculiar and inquisitive looks when I'm at the beach in Charmouth on the hunt. For some it's an insight into what you can find wild, while others just think I'm a hippie.

Watercress and crayfish soup

Serves 4

If you live near a river or stream, it's likely that you will have wild watercress growing on the banks.

The beauty of this soup is that it works equally well served hot or cold.

250g watercress, rinsed
1 leek, rinsed, trimmed, roughly chopped
1tbsp rapeseed oil
½tbsp plain flour
1 litre vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 preferably live freshwater crayfish
1tbsp fennel seeds

Cut the stalks from the watercress and put the leaves to one side. Gently cook the leek in the vegetable oil in a covered pan until soft, without allowing it to colour. Stir in the flour, then gradually add the vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the watercress stalks and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat, add two-thirds of the watercress leaves and blend the soup in a liquidiser until smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve, not too fine as it becomes watery. Bring back to the boil briefly and season again with salt and pepper.

If you are planning to serve the dish chilled, then cool it down on some ice first before refrigerating.

To cook the crayfish, bring a pan of heavily salted water to the boil with the fennel seeds and simmer for 5 minutes. Drop in the crayfish, simmer for 3-4 minutes, then drain in a colander and leave to cool.

Remove the tail meat by pulling away the heads and squeezing the shells until they crack, then carefully peel them. If the claws are large you can crack them with the back of a heavy knife. Next, add the crayfish meat to the soup and serve.

Grilled deer cutlets with sweet and sour Alexanders

Serves 4

Alexanders are perfumed, celery-like plants that you have probably driven past hundreds of times on the roadside. Try to pick them when they are 2-3 feet high, as the larger and taller they are, the tougher and more stringy they get. If you fail to find Alexanders, then celery itself would do.

People are often scared off by deer because it tends to be sold as a haunch which requires long, slow cooking. But you can make things easier by using deer cutlets: cook them on the barbecue and they're an interesting alternative to the usual outdoor offerings of beefburgers and steaks. Donald Russell butchers do very nicely French-trimmed deer racks – or a local butcher who specialises in game could help.

One or two bone racks of deer weighing about 700-800g, French-trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing

For the sweet and sour Alexanders

250-300g Alexanders
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
3tbsp white wine vinegar
2tsp English mustard
1tbsp tomato ketchup
4tbsp extra-virgin rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the stems of the Alexanders into 3-4cm pieces, peel them and then quarter them lengthways if they are thick. You can leave the thinner ones whole or just halved. Next bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the Alexanders for 3-5 minutes, or until tender, then drain.

Meanwhile, simmer the shallots in the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, ketchup and rapeseed oil, then season to taste. Mix the warm Alexanders with the dressing and leave to sit for about an hour.

Preheat a barbecue or a ribbed griddle plate on the stove. Cut the rack of deer into cutlets and flatten them with the palm of your hand a little if they are thick. Lightly oil and season them. Cook the cutlets for about 3 minutes on each side, keeping them nice and pink. Serve with a few spoonfuls of the sweet and sour Alexanders.

Crispy mackerel and pennywort salad

Serves 4

On a mackerel charter trip you can take home a bucket-full of fish, but it's better to keep what you would use in just a couple of days. The mackerel won't be suitable after a few days out of the water anyway, so there's no pointing wasting fish.

Pennywort leaves are common on coastal cliffs and stone banks, especially in the south-west and are easily foraged. They are one of my favourite edible weeds with a great texture, look and flavour.

300-350g mackerel fillet, boned
100ml milk
100-150g gluten-free self-raising flour
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
A few handfuls of pennywort leaves
3-4tbsp pickled walnut liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

I've used the liquid from pickled walnuts here as usually it ends up going down the sink, which is a shame because the flavour is fantastic, like a fruity, aged balsamic vinegar.

Put the walnut liquor in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until it's reduced by half, then transfer to a small dish to cool.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or deep-fat fryer. Cut the fish into chunks of about 2cm square. Season it, then pass through the flour, shaking off any excess. Next pass it through the milk, and then again through the flour. Deep-fry for 2-4 minutes, turning the fish with a slotted spoon as it cooks, until crisp and golden. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Wash the pennywort and arrange on plates with the mackerel, season, and pour a teaspoon of the walnut liquor (and a little oil if you like) over and around the leaves.

Steamed wild salmon and seashore vegetables

Serves 4

A simply steamed piece of wild salmon or sea trout with some freshly foraged seashore vegetables like sea aster, sea purslane, sea beet or samphire makes a really healthy and light summer main course.

4 portions of wild salmon with the skin and bones removed, weighing about 180g each
A handful of wild seashore vegetables (see above) washed, with any stalks or woody ends removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil

If you have a steamer, then pour about 4-5cm of hot water in the base, bring to a simmer on a medium heat, season the salmon on both sides and place in the steamer with the skin side down, then over the water with the lid on for about 3-4 minutes, depending on how thick the salmon is. If you haven't got a steamer then don't panic, as you can steam your fish for 7-8 minutes in a deep, tight-fitting baking tray covered with foil and 200ml water.

Next, scatter the seashore vegetables over the salmon and steam for another couple of minutes. Carefully remove the salmon and vegetables and arrange them on warmed serving plates, spooning over a little rapeseed oil.

Check out the Hoxton Street Market every Saturday, 9am-4pm, in east London, with new food offerings including HIX fish dogs, soups and toasties from the award-winning Deeney's and much more; hoxtonstreetmarket.co.uk, @HoxtonStMarket

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport