Amazing flavour: Sea beet and cockle broth / Jason Lowe

A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket

If you live in the countryside, you are unknowingly surrounded by lots of tasty wild foods. When I cook a dinner party at home, be it in London or Dorset, I try to balance the menu with some "can't buy in the shops" ingredients. It's always a good conversation point; people love talking food these days. We will be having a wild food week at Hix Mayfair at the end of next month, which will feature dishes similiar to the ones that follow.

Centuries ago it would have been the norm to live off the land: foraging, fishing and hunting would have taken the place of a supermarket shop. Imagine never knowing what, if anything, your next meal was going to be...

Sea beet and cockle broth

Serves 4

Sea beet or sea spinach, the wild ancestor of vegetables such as beetroot, is abundant on many of our coastlines. It has an amazing flavour, like superior spinach, that you just won't forget. It's easy to spot because it looks just like thick-leaved spinach. You can use the small leaves in a salad and cook the larger ones just as you would normal spinach.

Live cockles are much easier to come by these days, and for me they are as good as, if not tastier than, clams. If you live near the seaside there may well even be a spot where you can gather them for free.

50g butter
1 medium leek, washed and roughly chopped
1tbsp plain flour
1ltr hot vegetable stock
2-3 handfuls of sea spinach, washed well
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g live cockles
1tbsp double cream

Put the cockles in a bowl under a very slow-running cold tap for about an hour, agitating them with your hands to make them expel any sand or grit. Give them a final rinse in cold water, drain and put to one side in a saucepan with a lid.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the leek for 2-3 minutes with a lid on, stirring every so often. Stir in the flour until it's well mixed, then stir in the hot vegetable stock gradually so as to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.

Stir in the sea spinach (you can keep any small leaves to garnish), season and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat then blend in a liquidiser until smooth, and strain through a sieve if necessary. If you aren't going to use the soup on the day then cool it quickly in a bowl or sink of ice, in order to retain the colour. You can then keep it in the fridge for a day or so.

To serve, cook the cockles on a fairly high heat with a couple of tablespoons of water in the covered pan, shaking them as they are cooking until they are all open, then remove from the heat. The cooking liquid can be strained into the soup for extra flavour.

You can serve the cockles in or out of their shells, up to you. Either way, put them into warmed serving bowls, bring the soup back to the boil, then stir in the cream and pour over the cockles. Garnish with the reserved small leaves, which you may like to blanch first.

Sea vegetable fritters with oyster mayonnaise

Serves 4

There are many types of edible seashore vegetables you can harvest, such as sea purslane, sea aster, sea blite, sea beet and samphire. You can also buy samphire and sea aster from shops such as Waitrose these days, so no need to head to the beach for this dish if you don't want to.

A couple handfuls of sea vegetables as above, washed and dried
100g preferably gluten self-raising flour
Enough cold sparkling water to make a light batter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying For the oyster mayonnaise
2 oysters, shucked
2-3tbsp good quality mayonnaise

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Sea vegetable fritters with oyster mayonnaise (Jason Lowe)

First make the mayonnaise: put the oysters in a small pan and heat them for 20 seconds, then transfer to a plate and leave to cool. Once cool, blend in a small liquidiser, Nutribullet or food processor then stir into the mayo. To make the batter, mix the flour in a bowl with enough sparkling to make a thickish batter and season to taste.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180°C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Dip the sea vegetables a few at a time into the batter and cook for a minute or so, turning them as they are cooking with a slotted spoon until crisp (they shouldn't colour). Drain on some kitchen paper, and serve immediately with the mayonnaise.

Wild rabbit and chanterelle salad

Serves 4

Wild rabbit is such a good-value meat; you can use the saddle fillets in a dish, then freeze the shoulders and legs to use in a braise or pie, and make a broth with the bones. It will be half the price of a chicken (unless you happen to know someone who shoots rabbits, in which case it's food for free).

We have just started seeing chanterelles, or girolles as they are sometimes called, which are one of the tastiest and finest-coloured wild fungi.

4 rabbit saddle fillets
1tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
A couple knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150-200g chanterelle mushrooms
A handful of small salad leaves For the dressing
1tbsp sherry vinegar
4tbsp walnut or hazelnut oil
½ tsp caster sugar

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Good value: Wild rabbit and chanterelle salad (Jason Lowe)

Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan and gently fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, stirring as they are cooking and seasoning lightly. Remove the mushrooms and keep warm – a plate covered in cling film is a good way to retain the heat and moisture while the rabbit cooks. Return the pan to the heat, season and cook the rabbit fillets on a high heat for about a minute, turning them as they are cooking and keeping them pink. Transfer to a chopping board then whisk the vinegar and oil into the frying pan, and pour into a bowl to cool.

To serve, cut the rabbit fillets into 4 or 5 slices and arrange on serving > plates with the leaves and mushrooms, then spoon over the dressing.

Elderflower and wild-strawberry jelly

Serves 4

Wild strawberries are scarce and precious. If you know where to forage them locally, great. If not, you may find them in places like Selfridges or Harrods, or in specialist fruit and vegetable shops. Or you can grow them yourself – I planted some wild white strawberries a few years back and they have gone mad in my small garden.

Note that some elderflower cordials are better than others. Unless you have made your own, try Belvoir as it has the best natural flavour.

250ml water
150ml sauternes or a good dessert wine
Juice of ½ a lemon
100g caster sugar
12g leaf gelatine (4 sheets)
100ml elderflower cordial
70-80g wild strawberries (use ordinary, hulled and sliced up if not available)
Thick cream to serve

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Scarce: Elderflower and wild-strawberry jelly (Jason Lowe)

Bring 200ml of the water to the boil with the lemon juice, add the sugar and stir until dissolved, then remove from heat. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a shallow bowl of cold water for a minute or so until soft. Squeeze out the water, add to the hot syrup and stir until dissolved. Add the elderflower cordial, then put the jelly somewhere cool, but do not let it set.

Fill some individual jelly moulds or, if you prefer, one large one with half of the strawberries, then pour in half of the cooled jelly. Transfer to the fridge for an hour or so to set, then top up the moulds with the remainder of the strawberries and unset jelly. This allows the strawberries to stay suspended in the jelly and not float to the top. Return to the fridge. To serve, turn out the jelly or jellies and serve with the cream.

Mark Hix will be serving up his 'fishdogs' at the Port Eliot Festival this weekend; 'On the Wild Side' is on at Hix Mayfair from 28 September to 4 October

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