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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen