Autumn has to be my favourite season, all the amazing colours that start to appear around us and the wild foods available to use without spending a penny! There is something very satisfying about gathering some blackberries on a dog walk and then baking a crumble along with some apples that are still hanging about in the fruit bowl.
Chris Westgate from Heavenly Hedgerows, foraging tutor at Vale House Kitchen in Timsbury, Devon advises that nettles are also fantastic in the autumn – just avoid them in the summer when they are flowering. They are normally in plentiful supply and so perfect for foraging….here’s a recipe from Chris that shows off young nettle leaves at their finest:
170g self-raising flour (wholemeal or brown)
85g plain flour
85g seed and grain bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
285ml of buttermilk
Good handful of young nettle leaves
1 Gather your nettle tips (with gloves on!) before they flower. Strip off the stems until you have enough for one large handful of leaves.
2 Preheat oven to 200c / Gas 6.
3 In a blender or large jug blend the nettle leaves and buttermilk until smooth.
4 Place the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Form a well in the middle and pour in the nettle and buttermilk mixture. Quickly mix together with a fork until a soft dough is formed.
5 Turn out the mixture onto a floured surface, kneed lightly for 2 minutes then form into a round shape.
6 Place on a floured baking tray. Flatten the top of the dough and score a cross on the top.
7 Cook for 30 minutes until the dough sounds hollow. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
8 For a seed topping you could rub a little buttermilk over the top and add some sunflower or pumpkin seeds.