Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Foraging with the Wild Garlic, Dorset

Time is racing by (how is it April already?) and I've only just found a moment to sit down to blog about the amazing couple of days I had in Dorset last week, foraging with Mat Follas. Mat won Masterchef in 2009 and opened his restaurant, The Wild Garlic in Beaminster soon afterwards. Be prepared - there is no crafting in this post but it may well make you hungry!

My good friend and self-confessed foodie (@chuchibum on Twitter) arranged this little trip for us; we were going to be staying in the stylish apartment above the restaurant for two nights, joining the foraging course on the first day and enjoying lunch at The Wild Garlic on the second. Yum!

After a fantastic nights sleep in the HUGE bed we went down to the restaurant to meet our fellow foragers over a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice. We were about 12 in total - a wide range of ages, some locals and some city folk like us! The weather was unseasonably hot, and the Beaminster countryside was glorious.

Mat and his friend Theo took us on a leisurely stroll through the countryside before driving us to the coast, and pointed out all manner of tasty edible plants. And taste was the key here - there are lots of plants that you could eat and while they wouldn't do you any harm they wouldn't really be worth your time either. Mat is a chef first and foremost, and he enjoys using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients in his dishes. The things we spotted and tasted included: Hairy Bitter Cress (like watercress), Jack-along-the-hedge (mild garlic and wasabi taste), Wild Sorrell (fresh lemon), Meadow Sweet (Root-beer flavour), Sea Kale (crunchy broccoli), pretty edible flowers and of course....Wild Garlic by the bucket load!

Despite nibbling all morning we had worked up quite an appetite so we were all grateful to return to The Wild Garlic where we were served a fantastic three-course lunch featuring some of the ingredients we had been learning about. The starter was Nettle and Wild Garlic Risotto, followed by fresh Mackerel with the most delicious Rhubarb sauce, and a Lemon Curd Eton Mess for dessert. The picture below will tell you what I thought of that (and how long it stayed around!)

We spent the rest of day feeling very contented: a stroll along West Beach at sunset and an evening in a local pub topped of a perfect day. 

I managed to haul myself out of the comfy bed in the morning to have breakfast and go for a little 7 mile run through the fields. I'm glad I did as it made me feel a bit better about the enormous lunch we devoured! My starter was Brill Cerviche, followed by 12 hour Pork Belly with Crackling. Both me and my friend are big dessert fans so it seemed rude not to try the taster plate featuring all the sweets on offer: lemon creme brulee, violet panna cotta, cinnamon shortbread, chocolate brownie, salt and pepper ice cream, milk chocolate with lemon and chilli and dark chocolate with salt. All of them amazing! Just look at the pictures to see how beautiful each dish at the Wild Garlic is...

A huge thank you goes to Mat and Theo for leading such an interesting and enjoyable course. I do feel that it is good for the soul to get out and experience nature, especially living in London. We should all try to be in contact with our food a bit more too, and although I would not be able to live off the land as Theo does, I do try to live as responsibly as I can. And if it can taste this good too, then why not?! Thanks to Katy too: the wonderful front of house who looked after us and showed us the night life!

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