Cookbook road test: Wildcook: ceps, shrubs & rock ‘n’ roll
This cookbook is as badass as it sounds — for two reasons. One being that many of the recipes in it require foraging for ingredients (instructions included) and the second is that the recipes in the book come from famed Chef James Golding of The Pig Hotel group.
Garry Eveleigh, the official forager for The Pig Hotel and Limewood Hotel, has made a career out of his passion – gathering the finest ingredients that the New Forest has to offer. Garry forages for the kitchens of both the aforementioned hotels, he also accompanies hotel guests on walks to explore and forage in the New Forest.
When myself and delicious. marketing guru Hannah were invited to join him on a foraging excursion at The Pig — we just couldn’t resist. One sunny morning in October we went off into the woods with Garry, his trusty canine sidekick Finn and the book’s editor Penny Ericson.
From the left: Me, Garry Eveleigh, Finn and Hannah
We were off in search of autumn’s most delectable (and abundant) treat – the mushroom – but not just any mushrooms. Garry had plenty of varieties in mind, which with careful eyes and agile footing we were able to find.
We found hedgehog mushrooms, winter chanterelles and lots of ‘horn of plenty.’ It was certainly an educational journey andwe picked up some tricks of the trade along the way too. We learned about where mushrooms grow, the patterns they grow in and whether or not you should pick them by hand or cut them with a knife. We were informed that Garry carries the mushrooms he picks in a weaved basket, not because it’s adorable and reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood but, because the open weave helps redistribute the mushroom spores as he walks. He works hard to protect the New Forest by foraging in a sustainable manner.
Garry holding a chanterelle
There was no shortage of mushrooms that day…
We learned that the pretty mushrooms are usually ones to avoid…
After a lovely morning of foraging we went to The Pig where Garry walked us through their expansive garden and, ironically enough, picked and fed us all the weeds that sprouted up in between the veg. They were the tastiest weeds I’ve ever had. Garry’s ability to spot something edible and flavourful in what is seemingly an unkempt patch of grass is truly remarkable.
Next stop was The Pig’s dining room. Chef Golding prepared mushrooms on toast — the meal was a true testament to fresh ingredients’ ability to outshine any fancy techniques. The lunch was simple and phenomenal.
Mushrooms on toast as prepared at The Pig
I went home that day with the Wildcook cookbook, some of the mushrooms we had foraged and a full stomach.
The cookbook itself is an informative guide to foraging (broken down by shellfish, forest floor, hedgerow harvest, wild salad, etc.) that includes some familiar ingredients and others that sound as though they’ve been plucked straight from a fairytale. Each chapter delves into how to identify the specific ingredient, where you’re likely to find it, tips for collecting, how to prepare it as well as a recipe for the respective ingredient.
The recipes are translated from chef to recipe writer so it includes some chef-y nuances meaning one would need some basic kitchen skills to understand what heat to use when the method instructs to “finely chop the garlic and cook without colour.” There’s not a lot of hand-holding, but the recipes are all fairly straightforward as they’re using simple, high-quality ingredients.
Since it was also in the cookbook, I decided to test the mushrooms on toast recipe that Chef Golding had prepared for us. Technically the recipe called for hedgehog and oyster mushrooms, I opted to go with hedgehog, horn of plenty and chanterelles and used a loaf of sourdough from Bread Ahead. The recipe is about as simple as they come, but seriously shocking how good it tasted in the end. You expect something this simple to be just OK, but the flavours of the mushrooms (especially the horn of plenty) flooded my mouth… with the help of the butter, of course. It’s the perfect starter or lunch item.
This book is a fab find for anyone who has an interest in foraging and cooking. With the two combined anyone can be in full control of where their food is coming from, how it’s handled and prepared. It’s the ultimate in garden, forest floor or beach-to-table cuisine.
Photo of the mushrooms on toast recipe from Wildcooks
Hedgehogs & oyster on sourdough
- 400g hedgehog and oyster mushrooms
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100g butter
- 4 slices sourdough
- a handful of edible flowers
- a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Finaely chop the garlic ad cook without colour then add the mushrooms and saute until golden brown. Add the butter and season to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
2. To serve, toast the sourdough and place in the centre of plates. Spoon the mushrooms onto the toast, drizzle with the leftover butter and top with edible flowers. Serve immediately.
(When Wildcook was photographed, hedgehog mushrooms were out of season so they used wild oyster mushrooms.)
And one more of Finn, just because…
You can purchase Wildcook here.