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

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Boxer Amir Khan will travel to Pakistan in bid to 'make a difference' in the wake of army school massacre
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture