Foragers' pickings
Published 30 November 2017

Moor Hall

Traditionally, chefs don’t get out for many walks in the wilderness. But the continuing trend for foraging means that some of them will feel the sun on their skin and the wind in their hair at some point – unless they pay a pro forager to gather goodness for them. Either way, it should be done sustainably.

From the land

As you might expect from a former Simon Rogan staffer, Mark Birchall uses shoots, leaves and funghi – some foraged, some nurtured – with a judicious brilliance. At Moor Hall in Ormskirk, he adds anise hyssop to a crab and turnip broth and hen of the woods to Westmorland chicken with kale in ham fat and whey cream. There’s a lot of hay, too.

At The Whitebrook in Monmouthshire, wild things are a way to reflect the bounty of the Wye Valley. Hogweed and hedgerow pickings are paired with the local asparagus and charlock, regarded as a weed in some circles, brings a sharp, mustardy note to crab dishes.

From the seashore

Beach pickings aren’t just for the well to-do. On a village high street near Stockton-On-Tees, laid-back Café Lilli uses heat and butter to impart a velvety texture to sea vegetables served with simple pan-seared fish.

At The Whitehouse in Lochaline, the presence of the sea is fabulously inescapable. Scallops with seashore butter are a great way to taste it.

Niall Keating, recently installed at Whatley Manor, makes a seaweed mignonette to serve with oysters – a brilliantly simple idea.