Thursday, 16, April 2015
Foraging For Ingredients With The Bristol's Head Chef
This means that it’s the perfect time for foraging, taking to the wild to find naturally grown food. Fragrant wild garlic is flourishing in the hedgerows, tiny wild strawberries are on their way and the shores are thick with edible seaweed.
One man who is more than excited for the fresh foraging season is Matt Lord, who has been Head Chef at The Bristol Hotel since 2012. Matt is a passionate forager, who incorporates wild, local ingredients into his menus, complimenting the best produce sourced from the West of England.
We sat down to ask him about the kind of foods he can forage, how he includes this in his dishes and what he loves to cook.
How much do you include foraged ingredients in your menu?
It is very seasonal. We usually aim to source well-known ingredients, that we know we can find enough of around the city and the local area.
How often do the menus change at The Bristol Hotel?
We change our River Grille, Lounge and Room Service menus every three months to tie in with the seasons. This means we can use the best local ingredients around at that time of year, and also reflect the season in the texture and flavour of our dishes to suit the weather.
In addition, we also run a nightly “specials board” in The River Grille which gives us scope to use smaller amounts of produce – ideally suited to foraged items.
What are your favourite ingredients to forage locally?
Wild garlic is my absolute favourite as it also represents the first green shoots of spring. It is also great towards the end of the season, around late May, when you get amazing tasting white flowers growing from it.
Nettles are always abundant everywhere, and often overlooked. In the summer, elderflower can be found in several of Bristol’s parks, then in autumn lovely blackberries from the Avon Gorge and Leigh Woods.
What’s your favourite dish to cook with these kind of ingredients?
We try to do something different with the ingredients each year. This year on our spring menu we have a great vegetable risotto, which we finish with a small amount of “kicky” wild garlic pesto. Giant puff ball mushrooms are also an amazing ingredient that can be found in late summer. They’re pretty rare, very exciting to come across and they taste amazing! You have to be VERY sure of getting the right species when you’re mushrooming – you need advice and can’t just go off foraging without knowing what to look for. It can be deadly.
What thrives around your local area? Whereabouts can you find it?
Elderflower can be found in several parks; Avon Gorge and Leigh Woods are great for wild garlic and berries, and several sea herbs can be found in Portishead at different times of the year.
What is the best season for foraging?
Summer is when most green herbs and berries are available and growing well. If you look hard enough though, you can forage something all through the year.
What foraged ingredients typically find their way onto the menu every year?
Wild garlic is always on the menu. It grows abundantly, and it is also so easy to find and identify. Wild blackberries always help to sell desserts from our specials boards!
Do you have any tips for people who want to forage their own ingredients?
Get a good reference book! I use “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey. It was first printed in the 70’s but has some great hand drawn pictures to help you identify plants.
Never pick and eat mushrooms unless you are 100% sure what they are! It is best to have an expert with you especially if you want to pick mushrooms.
You can read more about The Bristol Hotel here.