Foraging was once an essential part of life for islanders the world over. Today, it is the latest food trend.
Fiona Bird is an expert forager and cook, bringing the tastes and scents of the Scottish countryside to her kitchen table. In a new book, The Forager’s Kitchen, she shares the knowledge she has gained from years of gathering food from the land.
The recipes and photographs featured here can be found in the chapter, ‘Sea and Shore’, which highlights many mouthwatering recipes for seaweed and shellfish.
Use dulse pesto on pasta, pile on top of fish before baking, or add to cream or yogurt in sauces. Sea lettuce pesto can be made in the same way, and the colour contrast of sea lettuce pesto on oven-baked salmon is simply stunning, or try dandelion leaves. Makes one small bowl.
What to forage and find:
- 1⁄2 cup (30g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried dulse
- Scant 1⁄2 cup (50g) walnut halves
- Juice of one small lemon
- Approximately 1⁄3 cup (75ml) canola (rapeseed) oil
- Freshly ground black pepper (a few twists)
What to do:
- Put all of the ingredients except the oil and pepper into a food processor, and blend well.
- Add enough oil to make a thick paste, and add pepper to taste.
- Put into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for up to 10 days, or freeze.
Simply razor clams
Razor clams are the ultimate forager’s delight: they are a tease to catch and, once caught, pop in and out of the shell in a rather rude and disturbing manner. There will be a lot of live action in the bucket in which you collect your spoils. I make no excuse for the simplicity of this recipe; the time and excitement spent foraging is complicated enough. In my opinion, cooking should take place as soon as possible, and as close to where the clams were foraged as possible. However, some people prefer to leave the clams to soak overnight to remove grit and sand. Poke the razor clams to check for movement before cooking—they must be alive. Serves four.
What to forage and find:
- 20 razor clams, cleaned and prodded for a life check
- Salted water
- 41⁄2 oz (125g) garlic butter
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
- Crusty bread, to serve
What to do:
- Half-fill a large, shallow pan with salted water and bring it to a boil. Add the razor clams and cover with a tightly fitting lid (to steam them).
- Bring the pan back to a boil and simmer for a minute, or until the razor clams open. Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams from the pan. Do not overcook them or they will become tough.
- When the razor clams are cool enough to handle, remove the clam flesh from the shells (I use my hands). Discard any shells that haven’t opened.
- Cut the razor clams into pieces if you like, but I tend to serve them whole; 4–5 razor clams per person makes a generous portion.
- Meanwhile, melt the garlic butter, add the parsley, and pour it over the hot razor clams. Eat immediately, with hot crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Fiona Bird lives in South Uist in the Western Isles of Scotland. She is a mother of six and a BBC Masterchef finalist. Campaigning for healthier diets and for cookery teaching in schools, Fiona writes articles and recipes extensively for newspapers and magazines.
She is a member of the Guild of Food Writers, and also develops recipes for television. With her husband, Fiona is the founder of Stirrin’ Stuff, an organization which works to educate children about food. Fiona is also the author of Kids’ Kitchen cookery cards, published by Barefoot Books.
Fiona’s website can be found here.