Where the wild things are: Mark Hix goes foraging

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If you go down to the woods today, you could find a savoury delight – wild garlic. Freshly foraged ingredients make wonderful sauces, says our chef.

A month or so ago I was visiting my partner's brother, who lives close to us in Dorset. His eldest son Joel, aged nine, loves outdoor activities and particularly loves to go fishing with me.

I decided that foraging should be his next country experience, so I sent him off to the nearby woods with a bin liner and a pair of scissors in search of ramsons – or wild garlic as it is more commonly known.

After half an hour, he returned with the bag half full, so, not wanting to put his bounty to waste, I taught him how to use it to make a British version of British pesto. We pulled out the blender and Joel found some nice old jam jars, and in no time we had ourselves some fresh and tasty convenience food that can be tossed into pasta for a quick supper, or serves as a sauce for fish or chicken.

Joel got on the computer, downloaded a label program, and now he's going to be selling his own foraged sauces at local fairs and markets – and, hopefully, using some as gifts for the family.

Preserving the delights of the wild garlic season, which lasts two to three months, is a very interesting and tasty way to use a truly delicious food that costs nothing.

Wild garlic, walnut and Berkswell sauce

Makes about half a litre

This is essentially a pesto but made with totally British ingredients; use it as a pasta sauce or mixed with mayonnaise, or straight out of the jar with meat, fish or vegetables.

250g wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
200-250ml rapeseed oil
50g good-quality walnuts, lightly toasted
150-180g grated Berkswell cheese or other British hard cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all of the ingredients in a liquidiser or food processor and blend as smoothly or as coarsely as you wish; season to taste. Transfer to sterilised jars, seal the lids and keep refrigerated for 3-6 months.

Green sauce

Makes about half a litre

Like the 'pesto' just described, this is a great sauce to have to hand for grilled meats, fish or vegetables. If you grow mint, parsley and basil in the garden, then it really is cheap to make. It will become your summer barbecue dish of choice.

60-70g wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
60-70g flat or curly parsley, stalks and all, washed and dried
60-70g mint leaves, washed and dried
60-70g basil, stalks and all, carefully washed and dried if dirty
2tbsp Tewkesbury or grain mustard
80g large capers, rinsed
250ml rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all of the ingredients in a liquidiser or food processor, coarsely blend, then season to taste. Transfer to sterilised jars, seal them and keep refrigerated for 3-6 months.

Garlic butter

This is a handy butter to keep in a roll in the freezer. Just slice up from frozen, and serve on grilled meats and shellfish, or use it to finish a pasta or risotto. Add some finely-chopped fresh chillies for a bit of a kick.

500g salted butter, softened
200-250g wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put 150g of the butter in a saucepan over a very low heat until it's just melted, but not hot. Put the wild garlic in a liquidiser or food processor with the melted butter and blend until the garlic is a pretty smooth paste. You may need to scrape the sides of the machine every so often with a spatula to get the leaves well blended.

Transfer to a bowl and mix well with the rest of the softened butter and season to taste. Lay some clingfilm out on a work surface and spoon half the butterf mixture evenly in a line down the edge of clingfilm nearest you, leaving 4-5cm at each end. Roll the clingfilm around the butter until it is encased in about 5 layers.

Then hold each end and twist in opposite directions until the butter has tightened up and formed a cylinder shape. Place in the freezer for up to 3-6 months. When required, just cut the butter into ½cm-thick slices.

Wild garlic and chilli sauce

Makes about half a litre

This one can also be tossed into a quick pasta or used as a straight sauce or dressing for grilled fish that needs a bit of zing. Or it can transform some simple grilled or barbecued squid and salad leaves into a great starter.

200g wild garlic leaves, washed and dried
50-80g fresh red chillies, stalks trimmed and roughly chopped
200-250ml rapeseed oil
2tsp sea salt

Put all of the ingredients into a liquidiser or food processor and blend as coarsely or as smoothly as you wish. Season to taste, then transfer to sterilised jars, seal the lid and store for 3-6 months.

Wild garlic salt

This is great to use as a seasoning for meats and fish or add to a marinade for an early-summer barbecue.

200g or so of wild garlic leaves
150-200g flaky rock salt

Set your oven to its lowest temperature. With some modern ovens you can get away with using just the fan; or the warming oven of an Aga is also ideal for this.

Scatter the wild garlic leaves on to a baking tray and leave in the oven overnight until the pieces are dry and crisp, but don't let them start to go brown.

Once dry enough to crumble, put them into a food processor with the sea salt flakes and blend to a coarse powder-like consistency, or as coarse or fine as you wish. Store in airtight containers.

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