This refreshing winter salad recipe includes handfuls of wild brooklime leaves, which have a wonderfully bitter taste. If you enjoy the dish, join Eden foraging expert Emma Gunn in one of our courses.
You’ll find this succulent herb growing in the damp soil around streams and ditches. It has large, rounded leaves and thick, juicy stems that are both creeping and upright. Between May and September it displays pairs of blue or pink flowers.
Always take a good field guide with you – and read Emma’s golden rules of foraging, below – before you go.
Deep fried breaded Camembert with winter salad and honey and mustard dressing
Ingredients (serves two)
- 2 good handfuls of Veronica beccabunga, well washed
- 1 good handful hairy bittercress, plus any other salad leaf you’d like to add
- 10-12 x 2cm cubed pieces of Camembert
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 pieces of bread, whizzed in to breadcrumbs
- oil to deep fry
- 1 apple or pear, cored and cut into slices (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp runny honey
- 1 tsp mustard (Emma uses American mustard)
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- sea salt
- black pepper
- Heat the oil ready for deep frying.
- Dust the chunks of Camembert with flour, then coat them in beaten egg, and finally toss them in the breadcrumbs.
- Cook the Camembert in batches – however many you can fit in your pan – until golden, and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
- Meanwhile, combine the ingredients to make the dressing.
- Divide the washed salad leaves between the plates, place the Camembert on top, add the apple or pear slices if you wish, and then drizzle with the dressing.
Emma Gunn, a member of Eden’s Green Team, is running a series of one-day foraging courses throughout the winter, until March 2013. The foraging courses will introduce you to what’s available in our hedgerows and wild places, as well as to some easy recipes.
The day is centred around a guided walk of Eden’s wilder perimeter (where you’ll get to have a nibble), followed by a food sampling session back in the classroom.
Emma’s golden rules of foraging
- Choose easily recognisable plants
If you’re new to foraging, don’t choose plants that are easily confused with others. Some plants can be poisonous, especially mushrooms, so don’t risk it. As foraging guru Richard Mabey wrote in his brilliant Food for free book, ‘Indigestion brought on by uncertainty about whether you have done yourself in can be just as uncomfortable as real food poisoning!’
- Invest in a good field guide
Take along a guide that includes illustrations or photos, as well as Latin names. These botanical names can give great clues about the plant, such as its habitat. For example, the suffix montana means it grows in the mountains, maritimus denotes that it is found on the coast, halimus in the dunes, while officinalis shows that it is a medicinal plant.
- Keep hygiene in mind
Avoid picking plants which may be dirty or polluted. For example, pick from areas away from the road. Also, don’t gather from low down along a path, where dogs or livestock may have brushed past. Don’t forage straight after a heavy rainfall, when plants in the ground – and shellfish – may be contaminated with run-off from the fields, which can contain chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Always give your leaves, flowers, fruit, nuts and roots a good wash before use.
- Don’t be greedy
Remember, you’re sharing nature’s harvest with wildlife too, so don’t take all of it. Also, be careful not to damage plants. If you only need the leaves, don’t pull them up by the roots; use a pair of secateurs. That way there’ll be lots more to harvest next year too.
- Remember where you found it
Make a note of the lane, field or beach where you found the plant, so that you can come back to that hotspot next year as well.