Words by Tara Kent. Photos: Sarah Brown
My son Alfie and I enjoy watching Masterchef together, and we loved the recent episode in which contestants visited a Michelin starred restaurant, The Black Swan at Oldstead. Chef Tommy Banks has a distinct style, using local produce, and his restaurant is almost entirely self-sufficient, growing its own food and foraging.
Foraging has gained popularity in recent years, and we are lucky to have a knowledgeable supplier in our area. Bellord and Brown was started in 2017 by chefs Jason and James, serving restaurants in Portsmouth and the wider area with fresh fruit, vegetables and wild food. You may have seen their produce on the shelves of The Southsea Deli, on the menu at The Fisherman’s Kitchen, Southsea Coffee, and the Mercer Hotels.
Jason is fanatical about traditional style BBQ, wild foraged food, and its relationship to modern cooking techniques. James, with a BSc in botanical science, is interested in wild food and its medicinal benefits. As well as working with local farmers and producers, they are keen foragers, picking seasonal and wild ingredients for kitchens.
As a chef, having a supplier who can source local and wild produce helps me to connect with the seasonality of food. We’re currently entering the abundant season for UK produce, so whether wild foraged food, or simple fruits and vegetables, eating locally is a perfect addition to your plate.
Here are some tips for seasonal wild food:
The season for ramson (wild garlic) lasts from April to June; its stems and beautiful white flowers are edible, with the distinct taste of garlic. Try making it into pesto (as in my recipe), or shredding the leaves into a salad.
Elderflower blooms towards the end of May, but with a very short season; when that ends, Meadowsweet starts to flower. Not as well known as elderflower, these fragrant and pretty flowers spread vanilla, honey and almond scent. Just like elderflower it can make delicious cordials, sorbets and syrups.
The Woodland Trust has advice on its website about how to forage responsibly and sustainably.
Instagram: @jamesforage @cureandbaste @bellordandbrown
I’ve turned some foraged plants into a delicious early summer tart; using wild garlic to make a pesto and pairing it with creamy cannellini beans inside a buckwheat tart. Top with griddled British asparagus and fennel and garnish with foraged flowers; vetch, ramson, micro ramson, viola and wild fennel.
Quick & Easy Wild garlic pesto
(vegan & nut free)
150g wild garlic (ramson*) • 50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds • juice & zest 1 lemon
200ml rapeseed oil • salt & pepper to taste
Throw the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until broken down and creamy.
*When the ramson season ends, switch to herbs of your choice and add 1 clove of garlic into the mix.