This is a metaphor for EATING. A dish is the tool in which soups, stews, salads and puddings are served. People can be 'dishy' too (if you are old enough to remember Mary Quant perhaps). My dish is always half full.
My dish metaphor is mainly concerned with wild and foraged food. The stuff that humans survived on for the hundreds of thousands of years of nomadic existence before the invention of agriculture. This is the stuff that our cells, gut microbes and bodily organs are attuned to needing. Why not try nibbling with nature? It's all around you if you have the wit to look and the patience to gather. Come on in and let me help you, to find out how, here.
You can also skip over to BEE to read about EAT THE VIEW
What's good to eat from nature's wild harvest throughout the year
EAT WILD is my book for first time foragers - but it is not a field guide. You need to know what you are doing out there. It aims to guide you, with a modicum of knowledge and common sense, to widely available, easy to identify and tasty wild foods. It provides spectacularly interesting recipe ideas to cook them for yourself or for the amazement of friends. This book is inspired by my old mate Richard Mabey, author of 'Food for Free', who graced it with a foreword, and a copy still sits (I hope) in the kitchen library of René Redzepi in Copenhagen whose restaurant NOMA was a winner of the World's greatest culinary awards.
EAT WILD here:
Richard Mabey's book FOOD FOR FREE (40th anniversary edition) incorporates a few recipes from EAT WILD get it here:
MAKING AN EDIBLE TOWN
Incredible Edible Todmorden
We all need to EAT. Over at INCREDIBLE EDIBLE TODMORDEN my old pal Pam Warhurst generously described the entrance qualification for that project as being "If yer eat, yer in" Catch this global initiative here
Check out Pam's brilliant TED-talk
COOKING ON AN OPEN FIRE
Scandinavians do it. We should do it more. I'm not just talking about summer BBQs but something a little more edgy. This is about fire pits, types of wood fuels and seasoning logs, making fire, controlling flames, heat and smoke, selecting tools and relaxing with timings. This is an ongoing experiment with the stuff that kick-started the good life: fire, meat, fish, damper bread perhaps, a drink or two and great craic deep into the night, maybe a singalong or music, as the stars twinkle overhead.
A gallery of yumminess will be posted here
The unpredictable joy of the grate, outdoors
Gastronomic inspiration from the wild landscapes and stunning seascapes of Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Many years spent foraging in woods, forests, foreshores and inter-tidal beaches in the Fleet Estuary National Scenic Area for an abundance of wild foods sparked this project. The other inspiration was more prosaic; to raise funds for the Mossyard Inshore rescue boat manned by heroic local volunteers from the McConchie family. With the nearest RNLI lifeboat station at Kirkcudbright, and at least 45 minutes away at top speed over the water in good conditions, the need to have a rib ready to launch in the Fleet Estuary to save lives at sea was an important facility. If you want to contribute to the fund in return for using these fun, unique and wild recipes please contact one of the McConchies at www.mossyard.co.uk and mention this fortuitous connection.
The full recipe book is here
A – Z
THE AREA OF
Welcome to the unsullied coasts, less trodden hills and extensive forests of Dumfries & Galloway. A landscape abounding in; sandy beaches, moors and machar, ancient places of war and worship and spectacular wildlife. Delight in the ever changing tidal seascapes of sand, mud, rock and water searching for shellfish; walk free in the hills with wild goats and the call of the raven; explore the berry and fungi-filled forests and talk farming with any butcher in any town. This is a geography that exhales the generous spirit of a very special place. Enjoy!
I hope that this A to Z of local food from the area around Mossyard will whet your appetite for the delights of Dumfries and Galloway’s gastronomic treasures and the variety of ways in which it can be cooked outdoors (or indoors). Galloway has: salt marsh and upland sheep naturally hefted to specific locations at estuary edge or sedgy moor and mountain; saddle-backed Belted Galloway cattle and a scatter of beefy breeds from Highland to Aberdeen Angus via Limousin cross; wild mushrooms aplenty from apricot-scented chanterelles to plump giant puffballs; Kirkudbright scallops and local lobsters, cockles, mussels, razor clams, winkles, bean clams and piles of other seafood including the elusive wild salmon, loch trout, mackerel, herring, sea bass and sprats; wild aromatic herbs such as alexanders, bog myrtle and gorse flowers; local beers; and wild fruit such as blaeberries, raspberries, blackberries and the rare cloudberry; and local apples like the Galloway Pippin.
All the towns are complete with butchers eager to impart their knowledge of cuts and the provenance of their meats, how long they might have been hung, salted or smoked and why you should try out various types of offal such as the ubiquitous but varied haggis, white and black pudding or their speciality cooked meats like mutton pies, steak pies and bridies. Similarly fishmongers can usually explain how to best appreciate locally netted wild salmon, sea trout, eels, sea bass, mackerel, whiting, sea bream and mullet as well as the fresh shellfish and crustaceans. New speciality shops will supply local delicacies in cheese, jams, vegetables and cakes particularly the craggy and nutty oatcake. There is a local brewery in Castle Douglas selling distinctive beers and a once defunct but now re-opened distillery at Bladnoch selling variously aged lowland whiskies. Buy local food from local sources and your pound will stretch further in the local economy as it recycles around traders and suppliers. Many Scottish rural communities are fragile because of sparseness of services and distance from major employment centres but these are also the very factors that make the place so special and welcoming.
c. Duncan Mackay: July 2007
Ashy heathery bannocks*
Ash from heather burning or swaling is a soil tonic and adds minerals to the land so that new growth can arise to feed sheep, grouse and bee alike. Heather moors have been burnt in patches for centuries to ensure this new growth. Albeit that during the Lowland and Highland Clearances the former peasants whose subsistence economy maintained the hills were swept away to make way for sheep and greater profits. This tragic and cruel episode in history is still lamented in many places in Scotland where ruined crofts still dot the landscape.
This recipe uses old straggly heather cut from the gnarliest of moors to give the bannocks heat to cook by and an extra crusty texture. Gather an armful of it with permission and transport it back to the beach or your place of firing. Find and clean a stone about half a paving slab in size that will not split in the heat of the fire. Find a suitable safe place for your fire. Definitely do NOT start any fire on or near a heather moor or woodland please!
To make the bannocks add a sachet of dried yeast to a cup of lukewarm water and leave to froth up. Take a cup, (mug or other suitable small measure) and pour one measure of hot water, two tablespoons of lard and one of heather honey with a pinch of sea salt into a bread mixing bowl and stir together. Add one measure of your favourite flour into the mix and the yeasty water. Mix it all up and then add 3 more measures of flour until it becomes a dough; add more flour if it feels sticky. Kneed it until smooth and stretchy or you get bored about ten minutes later. Leave it in the mixing bowl to rise in a warmish place covered by a clean tea towel.
Now to make the fire around the clean flat rock gather kindling and light it to burn bigger pieces of wood. Generate a good heat after about half an hour of burning your woodpile. Put the heather on the fire over the rock and burn to ashes assisted with a bit of poking from a suitable stick Sweep most of the ashes off the rock with a piece of broom and prepare to bake the bannocks. Pull the dough into eight equal sized pieces and flatten into a circular cake shape in your hands. Add some flour to your hands if the dough is still sticky. Place each one carefully on the hot ashy rock and watch that they don’t burn by regulating the surrounding hot embers with a stick. Bake for 15-20 minutes turning once at the mid point. Test a sample for edibility and return for more cooking if not done. The other way to cook this is with a long handled Dutch oven but it won’t taste of heather ash! You decide…
Beefy Balls in haggis gravy
Beef fed on grass is always good and Galloway beef is very special. One of the sights of good agriculture is cows with their calves being suckled in the fields. This does not occur everywhere but it is nearly universal in this part of Scotland. Naturally, with the bond that is established there is a deal of distress when the time of separation occurs. The calves continue to feed on grass as they grow towards their target slaughter weight. This diet and being outdoors rather than in feedlots or indoor pens makes special beef. The butcher’s skills at hanging the carcass and maturing the meat after slaughter are also vital parts of the equation. Local butchers can tell you a lot about their meat and all you have to do is ask. There’s probably a story or two as well especially if other customers are listening in…and it’s all for free. I was in a famous butchers in Castle Douglas and became the first customer to use their newly fangled credit card chip & pin machine…at least three other customers joined in the task to offer advice.
The humble pound of mince is the bedrock of this dish so choose it carefully. You will need a bit of fat in it so don’t go for the minced fillet steak option. Buy some beef dripping and a haggis slice while you are at the butchers too. You will need to go wider afield and find some wild ceps as these will impart a delicious nuttiness to complement the beef. Add in a couple of finely chopped shallots and you have nearly all the ingredients. The ceps are seasonal fungi and grow in good years from June to October but disappear at the first sign of frost. If you can’t find ceps then bay boletus are nearly as good and are more common. Ceps are notoriously different in size with some monsters growing to become a couple of pounds in weight but settle for about half the volume of your mince. Chop them finely into little cubes roughly the size of a black peppercorn using pores as well as stalk and cap.
Combine minced beef with chopped shallots, ceps, black pepper and a pinch of sea salt in a bowl and squeeze the mixture together with your hands into beefy balls. Boil some water to cook the potatoes and neeps together and get them going for 25 minutes or until the neeps are tender and the tatties are beginning to fall apart. When draining the water prior to mashing ensure that it is used to make the gravy and not thrown away! Heat a frying pan over a fire and slip in some slivers of beef dripping and get it hot. Add the beefy balls and cook by turning them over to nicely brown the whole of the outside surface. By the time this has been done the inside should be cooked too. Remove from the pan and let them rest covered in a warm place. Crumble the haggis slice into the frying pan and heat it through. Drain enough of the spud/neeps water into the frying pan to make the amount of gravy you want and merge with the crumbled haggis slice. Stir and thicken with flour if you want it that way or leave runny.
Mash the tatties and neeps with salt and black pepper and form a field on the plate with your warm beefy balls on top with a smothering of hot haggis gravy.
Cockles a leekie*
Cockles only live in certain parts of estuaries where a combination of sand and silt mingles to their preference. Sometimes this habitat only occurs in bands and therefore cockles cluster in beds sometimes by the thousand but sometimes whole estuaries are filled with them and they number in the millions. Wherever, you see empty cockle shells on the beach you will be close to a bed. You may need to search hard for the actual living cockles and it is always worth looking for signs of mud in a sandy estuary or sand in a muddy estuary. Somewhere near the junction of these sediments you should find fat cockles. At low tide they betray themselves by squirming to the surface and indulging in a bit of siphon squirting awaiting the return of the nutrient rich waters. As such they are easy pickings and just beneath the surface there will be hundreds more easily accessible with a bit of excavation. Serious cockle pickers take a short handled rake (and hessian sacks) with them to scoop up the estuarine bounty but this is not necessary for the casual dinner gatherer, just use your hands and fill a bucket. To prepare your gathered cockles for use wash them several times in cold clear seawater to remove all external silt and sand. Then leave the cockles in a bucket of cold salty water with a tablespoon of flour stirred in to stimulate the shellfish to siphon out any silt or sand in their guts. Leave them to bubble away for a few hours in a cool place.
Whilst the cockles are undergoing their colonic irrigation treatment get 4 or 5 handfuls of pearl barley and wash them in a pan. Refresh with clean water and leave to soak with a pinch of sea salt for a few hours too.
Meanwhile, prepare a bunch of leeks and literally use all parts of them but ensure that they are scrupulously cleaned of dirt before slicing them thinly. Fry in a splash of sesame seed oil with black pepper and some fresh bay leaves until softened. Cover and leave to rest.
Examine your cockles and reject any that are gaping open. Test any suspicious ones by tapping them and if they don’t clam up tight put them aside for the seagulls. Heat a big pan and tip in your cleaned cockles. Stir the shellfish around until the shells open and they impart their juices. Reject any that have not opened after about 5 or 6 minutes of stirring and cooking. Take the pan off the heat and start extracting the cockles from their shells with your hands or any handy implement. Pile the shells up in a midden and place the meat back in the juice pan. Once all the cockles are done reheat the pan with the cockle juice and add the leeks and the drained pearl barley. Heat and stir together adding a little water to make sufficient quantity for your soup. Chop in either some spring onions or chives right at the end and serve with crusty rolls.
Dundrennan ‘hot’ sausage
Dundrennan is the home of the MOD firing ranges between Kirkcudbright and Palnackie to the east of the Fleet estuary. It is used to test (amongst other things) armour piercing shells tipped with depleted uranium. Naturally or un-naturally this tends to deposit quite a lot of ‘hot’ radio-active uranium into the Solway. The good news is that this accumulates almost as fast as the escaped radioactivity that swirls around the firth from Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria. Some of this radioactivity has been found in lobsters as far away as Norway…
If you want to have the perfect sausage for the modern nuclear family this hot little treat will serve you right. To feed 4 place three slices of Lorne sausage meat, haggis and black pudding in a mixing bowl and add some Jerk seasoning (see J). Chop and mix the ingredients together with a fork or your hands until completely assimilated. Use your hands to squeeze and shape the mix into shish kebab shapes. To grill, insert previously soaked wooden skewers through the sausages to cook over an open fire until browned on all sides.
Serve behind a lead shield.
Egg on Ronay*
Eigg is a far away island near the Isle of Skye in a group including Rhum and Muck. It is now administered by the islanders following their successful purchase of the land at auction from an absentee landowner. Eigg is now the nearest thing to declaring your own state. This recipe is the nearest thing you will get to declaring the state of your own fried egg. Based on a recipe thought to originate on the lost island of Ronay that sank beneath the waves one night in an Atlantic storm. It is believed to lie somewhere off the far tip of the Isle of Man and it is said that on clear nights you might see the lights of the little people looking for their lost homeland.
Anyway, you might need the help of the little people to guide you to a fat white puffball but they shouldn’t be too hard to spot in unploughed fields or verges (the puffballs that is…). Make sure that you get one with white internal colouration. Reject any that are yellowing or going brown inside as they are getting ready to release their spores for next year’s fungal harvest. Take your puffball and cut it into thumb thick slices and peel off the outer white skin. This comes away quite easily and should be discarded. If your puffball is enormous (some grow to the size of a small sheep) cut your slices to fit your frying pan. You are going to coat your slice with a mix of egg and crunchy stuff. You can be as creative as you like at this stage. I prefer a mixture of crushed up oatcakes and rye crispbread, sea salt, black pepper, mixed seeds (sunflower, onion, parsnip, pine nuts, sesame etc) but you can select what you like including the standard breadcrumbs. To coat the slices beat up two or three eggs to a frothy mixture and coat the slice in the egg. Transfer it to the coating mix and press down so that the crumbs stick to it. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and when hot but not smoking slide your slice into the fat. Keep a watchful eye to ensure that the coating does not burn and flip it over when the outside is lightly browned. Crisp up on both sides and remove to a draining plate to get rid of excess oil. Quickly fry a free range egg to your chosen consistency in a second clean pan and serve the puffball slice with the fried egg on top. Yum!
Fleety spoots in butter *
Fresh squirty razorfish are one of the joys of the Fleet estuary at very low tide. The name ‘spoots’ comes from further north and refers to the razor clams’ tendency to spout a jet of water from its siphon if it detects danger and goes into a crash dive under the sand. They are fast and you have very little chance of catching up with them unless you use chemical warfare techniques. The chemical in question is sodium chloride aka the humble salt and it works a treat. The spooting razor clams actually betray their position by their actions and all you need to do is pour a little salt from a salt cellar into the oval siphon hole and poke the salt down with your finger. Watch closely to observe the miracle of spoot fishing as the clam detects the increased salinity, decides it doesn’t like it and starts ejecting it with pulses of sand. Gradually, the shell emerges in a series of energetic thrusts before throwing itself on to the sandy surface. Just in case it doesn’t perform the whole dance you can grab the shell as soon as feasible and gently pluck the shell and its pulsating white digging muscle from its hole.
The spoots need to be ‘cleaned’ in a bucket of cold fresh water to allow them to siphon out any sand or silt for about an hour or so although you don’t need to eat everything in the shell as the Portuguese and Spanish do. The use of fresh water also allows them to expire gracefully and you can extract their muscular parts after the shells have opened. Take care in the extraction as the edges of the shell are razor sharp and will cut you. Clean out any residual sand, discard the stomach and chop up the white flesh into thumbnail size pieces.
Heat some salted butter in a pan and when starting to brown toss in some similarly thumb nail sized pieces of chopped chanterelle mushrooms and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the spoots. The test here is to coat and cook the razorfish as quickly as possible by a maximum of 60 seconds in the pan. Serve immediately into cut morning rolls with a dribble of buttery juice and season to your liking. Spoots mon!
Goat from the fells is wild, woolly and occasionally culled. If you get the chance grab a goat’s leg from a local game butcher (or if unavailable a boned leg of mountain lamb) and prepare to cut it into small chunks for this Caribbean inspired curry. The only thing vaguely Scottish about it apart from the main ingredient is the use of Scotch Bonnet chillies.
Curleywee will probably be an after effect of the chillies consumed in this dish but it is also the name of a great little climbing hill shaped like a mini-Matterhornin the Galloway Forest Park. I took my good friend Hugh and my son Nick up there for a yomp one year and we were watched all the way by warily suspicious wild goats. And indeed the wind was blowing and after a fair amount of drinking on the way up we did all engage in the manly pursuit of mountain top weeing…and yes it was curly. In truth that was the only reason we went there apart from the fantastic views to the Mountains of Mourne in Eire, the Antrim coast and the Paps of Jura to the north west. The feral goats stared yellow eyed but gave away no emotion.
The chunked goat meat should be browned in olive oil in a lidded pan. Add chopped onions, celery, red peppers, wild garlic and a single carefully sliced Scotch Bonnet chilli and soften. Add in a tablespoonful of your favourite curry powder or bottled curry sauce (NOT curry sauce from the chippy) and a tablespoonful of ground all spice powder and stir it all together. Add two tins of coconut milk and a sprinkling of Kaffir lime leaves and mix gently. If the meat is still not covered add a bit of spring water. Put the lid on and simmer in the pot for about 2 hours until the goat is tender checking regularly to see that nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan. Add freshly squeezed lime juice from two limes when the curry is judged to be ready and stir into the thickened coconut sauce to give added piquancy. Serve with long grain rice and fire extinguishers.
Herbert’s No.4 Rabbit Stew
Herbert has been waging a personal war against local rabbits ever since he started planting out delicious poppy seedlings and gourmet flower beds for them amidst the sparsely nutritious gorse and sloe coastal scrubland. Rabbits just love this sort of stuff as well as being nature’s lawnmowers over any tract of grassy sward. Knocking off the odd rabbit for the pot has been a long tradition in most rural places although the introduction of myxomatosis in 1953 has reduced the wild rabbit population dramatically and the desire to eat them. Thankfully there are still plenty of healthy rabbits around and enough farmers with guns to maintain a steady supply for the pot. Rabbits can be caught using ferrets and nets too but (a) you will need a ferret and (b) the a map showing the location of every interconnected rabbit hole in the area. As most of these clever zippy bunnies live down holes in impenetrable thickets of prickly gorse, bramble and sloe bushes (see any Brer Rabbitbook) it is unlikely that you will cover all the escape tunnels with netting without a visit to the severe scratch unit at A&E.
Gut and skin your rabbit if still very fresh and warm! Gralloching or paunching is an important first step so that the body cavity is allowed to cool. Make a slight cut at the urinary end with a sharp knife and slit gently through the fur to the neck. The guts should fall out gently into your hands but take care not to burst the bladder, gall bladder (very smelly) or the lower intestines. When most of the guts are clear of the rib cage a brief but firm tug at the neck should pull the windpipe clear and an equally firm tug should pull the rest clear at the anus. If in doubt a little scoring with your sharp knife should free the guts at both ends. Retain any useful and tasty offal such as liver, kidneys and heart if wanted. To remove the skin extend the belly slit up and around the neck with a sharp knife and then, holding the head start to pull the skin in a firm grasp across each shoulder until your reach the forepaws. Cut the paws off and having freed the fore legs pull the skin down the back to the rear limbs cutting off the tail in the process and reaching the last two paws cut them off too. You will then have a whole rabbit skin to treasure.
Cut off the head and quarter the rabbit with a chopper. Rub the portions in poppy seeds and freshly crushed black pepper. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven or covered pan and when sizzling hot place the joints (and offal if desired) and coat in hot oil until browned on both sides. Add four finely chopped onions and four finely chopped leeks and four crushed cloves of garlic (or four handfuls of wild garlic leaves) and cook until softened. Peel and quarter four medium sized local variety potatoes and four small white turnips (quartered) and stir into the pan. Add four types of herbs such as thyme, marjoram, bay leaves and rosemary with Criffel beer from Castle Douglas to cover. Put the lid on and simmer for an hour. Check the level after the hour and add four chopped or crumbled haggis slices. Stir it up and moisten with some more beer (if there’s any left) or spring water and cook for another 15-30 minutes until the meat is tender and the juice has transformed into a haggis gravy. Serve with four small dobs of freshly mashed Scottish raspberries in rowan jelly. Use this sharp but sweet addition as a dip for the rabbit meat when extracted off the bones. Watch out for shot, the nearest dentist might be miles away!
Ice Dream O’Galloway*
If you combine a whole tub of Cream o’ Galloway luxury vanilla ice cream from Rainton Farm (just follow in the direction of the wind turbine from the A75 near Gatehouse of Fleet), wild blaeberries and wild raspberries from the woods, blackberries (if out, chopped strawberries if not), a spoonful of rowan jelly and one of local heather honey and a tub of local sheep’s’ milk yogurt you get a many fruity flavoured thing. Mix all the ingredients together and serve straight away in small glass dishes. Vary the amounts of fruit with what is in season (and collectable) but it should be about half of the total content to achieve the sensation of sharp fruitiness over the creamy sweetness.
Jerk seasoning is a West Indian flavouring so you should expect something with a lot of heat. It is available in prepared form as a powder or you can grind and mash up your own spices (Scotch Bonnet chillies, all-spice berries, salt, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, thyme, shallots, several other secret spices and brown sugar) although you will never reproduce the accurate taste of jerk gained from the smouldering green wood of the pimiento or all-spice tree which is used for fuel. There seems to be an infinite variety of jerk spice mixtures so experiment until you strike the one you like the most. The indigenous local Arawak Indians of Jamaica even invented the term ‘barbeque’ as they used green sapling pimiento branches to make a simple grill and called it a barbacoa. This has now passed into legend. The word jerk might be derived from juka patois expression meaning to stab with a stick. The first ‘jukkers’ were the runaway slaves called Maroons who tracked down wild pigs to eat in the Jamaican mountains where they lived beyond the reach of pursuing British soldiers in the eighteenth century. They probably copied the cooking methods of the local Arawak and both the Maroons and the juk style came back down the mountain to spread around the world.
To jerk your mackerel first gut and clean them. Butterfly them by flattening the fish with strong pressure along the backbone on a firm surface. Remove any protruding pin bones and cover the fish in freshly squeezed lime juice. Smear the fish with freshly made marinade or if using a dry powder mix rub it in to the flesh of the fish and leave for an hour. Make your barbacoa or BBQ hot and grill your mackerel for a few minutes each side until the skin is crispy. Serve with bannock bread.
Kerr’s Smoked Beef
Kerr is a Scottish beef farmer frequently seen in the company of a John Player Special, a flat hat, a land rover and a collie dog. You’re bound to recognize him when you see him. The smoke from Kerr’s fags has been so thick in the shed that winter store cattle have actually become flavoured with it. Sadly most have passed unrecorded into the food chain…however, if you ever hear a steer coughing heartily in the fields it might be one of Kerr’s smoke inhalation victims.
Using some of Galloway’s finest sirloin steak, some wetted alder chips and a pan of new potatoes and baby carrots you can create a simple meat feast over an open fire. The steaks should be at least a thumb width thick and your alder chips wetted for at least an hour. Alder chips are probably more accessible on riversides and loch shores and give a more unusual smoky taste. Indeed alder was the material of choice for many Native American north west coast tribes when preserving the seasonal wild salmon harvest. Native Americans also smoked shellfish to dry them for winter use and took delight in smoke-cooking them in alder for immediate consumption. Alder chips can be easily obtained by cutting a small branch off an alder tree and chipping it with an axe. The wood is a bright orange colour. Put all your chips or shavings in a bucket of water for an hour until soaked. Use this time to get your fire glowing hot with good embers or charcoals. Place a BBQ grid over the coals. Scrub your new potatoes and baby carrots but do not remove the skin. Set a pan of water to boil and chuck in the veg to simmer for 10 minutes.
At the ten minute mark throw a few handfuls of the alder chips on the centre of the fire and lay the steaks over them. Place a large chanterelle mushroom cut lengthways on each steak. Let them absorb the smoke for 5 minutes each side before turning them with tongs (never a fork…to ensure that no juices are lost). Return the chanterelles to each steak and cook for a further 5 minutes. The vegetables and steaks should now be ready. Remove the steaks and chanterelles and let them rest together with a knob of warm butter whilst you drain the potatoes and carrots. Serve and pour the buttery juices over the vegetables.
Lamb and horse salad*
Lambs lettuce from local market gardens might be hard to track down but most greengrocers now stock it. It does of course grow wild in the arable fields but you might have to travel a long way to find an arable field. It is a subtle flavour that sits flatly on the palate. It is the ideal counterpoint to the aniseed and almond tastes that exude from a freshly cooked wild horse mushroom. These fungi can be found in fields and grassy margins of roads where they emerge as a dome shape but rapidly over 24 hours spread out into a huge buff coloured plate of a mushroom. If we like to eat them then so do a whole air force of flies so you will need to get to them quickly and reject any that are maggot ridden or gone over. They don’t need much cooking and can be sliced and tossed in walnut or sesame oil for a quick browning on both sides.
Serve by scattering the lamb’s lettuce over the plates and sprinkling with the slices of horse mushroom. Season and eat with the hot oil and fresh mopping up bread.
Mustard rubbed pleasure pork
Making space for pigs amidst all the sheep and cattle in Galloway is rarely achieved but thankfully just over the border in Ayrshire there are plenty of porkers. You need a couple of pork loins, dried mustard powder or thick mustard and flour, olive oil, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pinhead oatmeal, salt, pepper and (optional) Jerk seasoning. If you can’t obtain these use a packet of sage and onion stuffing. You will need to have a fire or hot BBQ to cook on and a basting tray or Dutch oven. This goes well with mashed tatties and something fresh and green like sugar snap peas. Use the potato water to make a gravy out of the juices in the pork pan.
Prepare the pork by rolling out the fillet and drying it if wet until the surface is just damp. They either rub in mustard powder all over it or flour until all the crevices are filled. Smear it in your favourite mustard until well coated and sprinkle with the seeds and seasonings until it looks knobbly. Repeat with the other pork loin. Heat some oil in your pan or tray over the fire and when hot lay the two loins in the pan. You will need to baste and turn the loins until each side is well cooked: roughly about the same time as the spuds. Don’t burn them and leave them to rest away from the heat whilst you mash the tatties and heat through the sugar snap peas. Remove loins to a wooden chopping board and make your gravy. Serve the loins on the board and slice as thick as you want before adding them to the other ingredients on the plates.
Naughty but Nice*
Never underestimate the power of a good pud to revive the spirits on a cold wet day. Not that there any cold and wet days camping in Scotland, of course, merely severely challenging weather. Dry suits are for wimps.
Toast some pinhead oatmeal with some brown sugar to make a kind of oaty caramel crunch. Leave to cool. Whip up some Galloway double cream until nearly stiff. Break up the oaty caramel crunch into small pieces and stir into the cream. Serve into small glass bowls. Grate some of your favourite chocolate and scatter over the bowl. With a steady nerve pour a warmed spoonful of Bladnoch whisky over each bowl and light to flambé the confection and partially melt the chocolate. This is an evening treat as the light of day diminishes and the blue flames erupt to spectacular effect.
Oak and pine smoked mussels*
Oak sawdust gives the mussels a great intensity of flavour but added to the pine needle cooking technique called eclade in France you can celebrate the Auld Alliance in flaming style. Obviously you will need to collect sufficient mussels for your guests and it would be prudent to allow about 15-20 each. Collect mussels on the lowest tide you can so that you obtain those washed by the greatest amount of seawater and marine nutrients. They are likely to be bigger and certainly fresher because of this tidal geography. Select mature and relatively clean shells but as you do not have to scrape off the barnacles they do not need to be smooth and unadorned. Keep the mussels in a bucket of clean cold seawater and stir in some flour to help them siphon out any grit and sand in their guts. Pull off their byssus.
Prepare your smoker campfire by gathering oak sawdust from a wood-yard or timber mill. The eclade part uses dry pine needles and you will need a large sack full to build up a mound over the mussels. The pine needles will need to be very dry so only attempt this in a rain free period of the summer (obviously you might be waiting a few years to try this out!). Dampen your oak sawdust by sprinkling water on it but do not soak.
Spread out a finger thick layer of damp sawdust at your fire place and place your mussels on it in a neat circular arrangement hinge side up so that the mussels open downwards. Pile the pine needles and the rest of the oak sawdust over the mussels in a great mound and check the wind direction.
Mash some French garlic cloves with a pack of salted Scottish butter and put in a pan near the mound to allow the butter to melt when you light the pine needle pyre.
Pity the poor mussels but set fire to the base of the mound with the breeze at your back. As the fire burns down the mussels will open and absorb some of the oak and pine smoke from the bottom layer as they cook. The fire needs to be hot for at least 10 minutes so have extra supplies of sawdust or pine needles to hand to add to it. Ensure that all the mussels are open before attempting to eat them from the shell.
Serve with ashy heather bannock bread and the warm buttery garlic as a dip. Use the bannock to wipe the garlic butter off your face! Beware the mussels will be finger burnin’ hot! Zeut alors, brules droigts!
Prawn Cock Snail
Poking about in rock pools is always rewarding and in the larger rock pools you might well come across wild prawns large enough to be worth catching. They tend to hide under seaweed fringed boulders by day when the tide is out but become more active when it is sunny or they sense the return of the incoming tide and its rich nutrient load. You will need a stout net to catch them and aim for 2 big ones per person as showpieces and as many smaller ones as you can catch. The ‘snails’ are winkles that are abundant on the rocks along the seashore of the Solway. It is a tough little algae-eating snail as it scrapes itself over inter-tidal rocks munching away quite merrily and well equipped to hunker down in a crevice when the wild waters rage in from south westerly storms. They are also very easy to catch but time consuming to extract. Allow about 10 per person and dust off your winkle picker!
Cook the winkles in a pan of salty boiling water for 2-3 minutes before draining and leaving to cool. Extract them from their shells with a twisty wrist action and keep in a bowl. You need to use one roast cooked free range chicken thigh per person diced into small pieces. These can be had already cooked and cold or you can do your own over a fire and leave to cool. Add the pieces to the winkle bowl. Cook your prawns in boiling salted water for no more that 60 seconds. Leave the big ones in their shells but drain and unshell the rest and add to the bowl. Forget boring old Rose Mariesauce but make a tangy chilli mayo out of Indonesian chilli sauce Sambal Oelek and as much heat as you can take adjusting the amount of mayonnaise to suit your palate. Stir the shelled prawns, winkles and diced chicken into the spicy mayo.
Finely shred some Romainelettuce into glass bowls and strew with dollops of mighty meaty mayo. Serve with your ‘show prawns’ on top and buttered fingers of hot fresh granary bread.
Quinoa and Scottish Wild Fungi Warm Salad*
Quiet beech and birch woods are the haunt of the apricot scented chanterelle fungi that grows in local profusion from mid June onwards through to October. Collect a handful per person and search out other edible fungi if you can such as ceps, orange birch boletus, edible russulas, chicken of the woods and trumpets of death. In unploughed grazing land or road verges search out the newly emerged field mushrooms, horse mushrooms and giant puffballs. You will need a colourful selection of fungi for this recipe with different shapes and textures. Cut or tear the fungi into smallish pieces.
Add some quinoa to boiling water with a pinch of sea salt and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drain and keep warm. Obtain some fresh watercress, flat leaved parsley, coriander and rocket and clean under cold water. Spin and tear into pieces onto the plates. Add a few gorse flowers if available.
Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the sliced or torn fungi mix and rapidly swish in the oil until browning (the colouration not the ghost of a dead poet) appears. Add the drained quinoa to the pan to coat and mix with the hot fungi and serve scattered over the torn leaves.
Roast ‘green’ pheasant with bog myrtle cooked over alder and seaweed
Roasting pheasants over an open fire spatchcock style requires care as all game birds are very lean and the meat will dry out easily. To avoid this smear the spatchcocked pheasant with butter and stick on an overlapping covering of bog myrtle leaves like feathers. Wrap streaky bacon around that and tie down the rashers with butchers’ string. Create and stoke up a good fire on the beach with supports to lay a wire grid over the fire to take the spatchcock pheasant.
The additional seasonings are wet alder chips for the fire and damp seaweed both of which will add a form of humid smoke to the cooking medium but don’t put too much damp stuff on a struggling fire or you might put it out. Ensure that you have a good fire bed before adding these components. As the alder burns away and the seaweed dries out if using bladder wrack you will enjoy the spectacular popping of the ‘bladders’ as an additional bit of drama with the cooking.
As the smoke dies away and the heat from the fire or BBQ increases the string will burn, the rashers will go crispy and the bog myrtle ‘feathers’ will keep the meat moist until they too burn off and allow the skin to crisp up. By this time the pheasant should be cooked through and ready to eat.
This is the kind of food that you might just want to pick at and nibble but it is also the centerpiece of a good mixed BBQ with red signal crayfish perhaps cooked in the shell over the coals.
Seared Sea trout with gorse flowers and broad beans*
Sea trout is a salmonid fish with the most glorious colouration of multiple spots on its flanks. It can be cooked in similar ways to salmon although it does not have the same intensity of flavour or colour of flesh. It should be prized, however, for its delicacy of taste.
Get a whole wild fresh sea trout and gut it. Cut off the head and tail for stock and chop into cutlets about a thumb width thick. Get your fire or BBQ going nice and hot if you can obtain old juniper word or alder add it to the pyre when the fish is ready to go on. Searing thumb thick cutlets of sea trout on a bed of hot embers or charcoal for a couple of minutes per side is all that is required to cook the fish. It will take longer to boil some new potatoes and cook the beans so ensure that your cooking times are based around the 20 minutes to cook the tatties and the 10 minutes to heat through the beans in the same water. Drain the new potatoes and beans when cooked and toss in melted salty butter with a hand full of fresh gorse flowers and serve onto plates. Take the sea trout steaks straight off the BBQ and lay over the vegetables until all the cutlets are used up and your guests are salivating.
Tied up trout*
The art of tickling wild brown trout is now very rarely practiced although I have seen it done in shallow limestone streams in the Derbyshire dales. Catching them with a rod is equally acceptable although mountain trout are quite wily and not easily fooled into giving up their lives for our consumption. If you can’t catch a wild trout visit a trout farm to bag some fresh ones.
You will need one half lb-1lb-ish fresh trout per person. Gut them by splitting the belly but not removing the heads or tails (retaining the guts as crayfish bait in a sealed jar) and clean in cold water. Grind up two or three black peppercorns per fish and mix with a tablespoon of rowan jelly and a pinch of sea salt. Smear the mixture a little at a time into the belly of each fish until used up. Wash a couple of spring onions and insert lengthways into the belly of each fish. Take a rasher of rind-on streaky bacon and wind it round the fish to keep the onions in place and tie in a knot. Repeat this if the fish looks as if it might need another tie!
Cooking this is simplicity itself but requires a hot campfire and some eager diners with nimble fingers. Whittle a straight stick about three foot long and about a little finger in width (hazel is good) to remove bark and sharpen one end. Insert the sharp end into the tied up belly and push through until it reaches the head and gives a firm fit. Continue pushing through the mouth until your fish is near the far end of your stick. Tighten your bacon knots if necessary. Repeat the task and add the next trout(s) to the stick. Find two Y shaped thumb width hazel branches and trim to create two forked sticks suitable to receive your fish stick on either side of the fire. These should be cut to length to give a couple of hand widths gap above the hot embers and sufficient depth in the ground or sand to support the fish sticks. Repeat this until every diner has a trout spaced out on a stick ready to cook.
Lay your fish sticks over the fire and keep watch so that they cook well but don’t burn Turn over gently to cook both sides and they should be done in ten minutes. Serve with nutty wild rice and a pickled caper mayo dip.
Until Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer appeared on television nobody would have been daft enough to think that something as stupid as saying ‘uvavoo…uranoo’ would have been anything but complete twaddle. Not only that but poor Ulrika Johnson was subjected to the chanting of ‘Ulrikakakakakakaa’ at every opportunity. Now it has become a catch phrase that will turn up in pub quizzes for years to come. This recipe is dedicated to their comic genius and Ulrikakakakakaa’s winsome forbearance.
This is a low tide recipe so consult your tide tables for the next big tide and calculate the lowest water in the range for the locality that is most likely to yield razorfish beds. You will also need to gather Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) from the beach or rocks as part of your ‘razorfishing’ trip (with a salt cellar) at low tide. Collect 2 or 3 razor clams per person and let them expire in a bucket of cold water for an hour or so. During this time cut the sea lettuce into strips and leave to dry in the warm sun (just wishful thinking). After an hour or so extract the fleshy foot of the razorfish from their shells and slice the white muscle into thin slivers. wash it very carefully to remove all trace of sand. Take a handful of fresh Queenie scallops with roes per person and separate the two parts.
If cooking on an open fire boil up some water in a billycan and put half a handful of bulgar wheat per person into the pot with a pinch or two of salt. Stir it for a minute and then leave to simmer off the main heat of the fire for ten minutes or so until saturated and swollen. During this time cut some dry cured smoky bacon (at least one rasher per person) into strips across the rind and cook in olive oil in a frying pan over the heat of the fire until fairly browned or crispy (to your liking). Take this off the heat whilst you thoroughly double drain the bulgar wheat and reserve the hot fat. Add the bacon to the drained bulgar wheat and stir in. Then quickly swish the scallops through the pan for a minute followed by the razorfish slices for another minute turning them to cook both sides and finally the sea lettuce strips for 30 seconds. Serve with a bulgar & bacon platform over which the scallops, razorfish slices and seaweed strips are scattered with a touch of hot fat, fresh squeezed lemon juice and black pepper to finish.
Venison wi’ wild fungi
Venison should be on every butchers slab in Scotland as the country is full of wild deer. Indeed in some parts of the country deer herds have become very large. There are no top predators to reduce numbers naturally so, short of reintroducing the wolf to Scotland, it is likely that deer will need to be culled periodically. There is no reason at all why we should not eat this wild harvest.
All game is very lean so it will dry out if great care is not taken during cooking and marinading is recommended before pan frying. Another possibility is using venison strips in a simple format derived from reindeer stew (poronkaristys) made by the Sami peoples of northern Finland. Traditionally this was cut from frozen meat and simmered in snow but even Scottish summers don’t get that cold…well not every year. As parts of the Galloway Hills are very reminiscent of Lappland and wild fungi are plentiful in both places I suggest that you try this version. It is best cooked over an open fire in a big pot with a lid or Dutch oven.
Collect a variety of wild fungi from the woods including chanterelles, ceps, hedgehogs and trumpets of death. Clean them of moss and debris before chopping into small pieces. A heaped dinner plate of chopped fungi will match the drama of the venison.
Prepare lots of potatoes for mashing later at the halfway stage in the stew.
Take about 2 lb of venison and cut into tiny slivers. Melt half a pack of butter (or lard) in the pot and when hot add the chopped fungi for 5 minutes. Remove the fungi from the pot and keep to one side. Now slip the slivers of venison into the hot fungi-scented fat and stir to coat with butter. Add a little water (or snow if handy this summer) and put the lid on the pot to allow it to simmer. Adjust the heat from the fire by moving the pot. Steamily simmer for about an hour (checking after half an hour and topping up with more water to avoid catching). Check for tenderness of the meat at the hour mark and add salt to taste. When tender add the pre-cooked chopped fungi and some Galloway single cream and coat. Cook with the lid off for another 5 minutes and serve hot on a bed of creamy mashed tatties with a dob of rowan jelly or cloudberry or lingonberry jam (available in IKEA stores).
Wild Salmon with Chanterelles and Scallops*
Wild salmon still return to the estuaries of the Solway including the Cree, Fleet, Dee and Urr although the art of catching them in either handheld haf nets or the more substantial netted structures seen on the coastal fringes is not a commonly practiced technique. Get a whole wild salmon if you can or fillets if you can’t. Decide how you want it cut and served up. Gather some wild chanterelles in the woods and brush off any moss and leaf litter. Cut the fungi in half lengthways down the stem and keep to one side to add to some Galloway cream at the end. For the scallops you need either the smaller Queenies (Aequipecten opercularis) or king scallops (Pecten maximus). Decide if you want to cut the king scallop muscles in half (better for quick cooking) or separate the roes or neither. Boil some new potatoes and when nearly ready lay the fillets scale side down over a hot wood fire or BBQ coals. In a frying pan heat through the chanterelles until they give up their water. Push the fungi to one side of the pan but don’t discard the juice. Turn the salmon over on the fire. Drain the potatoes and add some salted butter. Add the cream to the frying pan and heat until the cream starts to bubble. Combining fungi with boiling cream needs a watchful eye especially on an open fire. Let it simmer gently until the cream starts to thicken. Add the scallops and swish through the hot cream until cooked… about 1 to 2 minutes. Combine the fungi and scallops. Serve immediately pouring the creamy scallop and chanterelle sauce over the salmon fillets and new potatoes. Top with a twist of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Xanadu is a place of ancient mystery and ‘doos’ are Scottish doves or pigeons. Although wood pigeons are not very mysterious at all this recipe is dedicated to them and their unostentatious but semi-comical habits. You need a whole plucked and dressed pigeon per person. Make a fire and burn it down to hot embers with further wood supplies ready to put on for the next two hours. When hot enough put a rack over the fire to support your pan. Chop each pigeon in half and brown in olive oil and butter in the hot pan. Add smoked streaky bacon and some mixed wild mushrooms in seasonand cook together until mushrooms are soft. Add a whole bottle of Scottish raspberry wine and let it all simmer for about 90 minutes with the lid on. Check every half hour to ensure nothing is catching and that the liquid content doesn’t need topping up with water. The pigeon meat should be ready and falling off the bone at the end. Scatter more chopped mixed wild fungi into the pan near the end and stir for allowing the mushrooms to soak up the juices. Thicken with a flour roux if desired. Serve over a dome of buttered mashed tatties and celeriac.
In Xannadu did Cubla Khan
A stately Pleasure Dome decree;
Where ALPH, the sacred river, ran
Thro caverns measureless to Man
Down to a sunless Sea.
It’s never been proven that Coleridge came to Mossyard on his opium fuelled travels but his walks with William and Dorothy Wordsworth were not that far away across the Solway in the Lake District. He might certainly have been aware of the sunless sea on the Scottish side on certain days of the year even from the tops of the Cumbrian fells!
Yachts are a common sight in the harbours and estuaries of the Solway coast and sailing is a great recreational activity with lots of access to fresh salty air and the splendour of the sea. The effect makes you very hungry and sailing can be hard work in a strong breeze; enough to make you ravenous. There is also usually very little galley space on board anything but the largest yachts so this combines a one pot cooking method with ingredients easily fished or gathered in harbours from fishermen or contained in sealed tins or waterproof packets and bags.
This is not a meal for the prissy and delicate; it is hardy and chunky like an Aran sweater. You need fish but it doesn’t matter what you add to the pot and it will depend on what you can obtain but avoid oily fish like mackerel, sprats and herring if possible. So whiting, pouting, angler, conger, mullet, sea bass, shark, dog fish, plaice, dabs, brill, sole, ling, haddock, hake and codling would all be good. Aim to achieve a mix of types if possible but don’t overdo the variety just for the sake of it as this will simply waste fish. Try to measure out a piled handful of prepared fish per person. The fish need to be cut into chunks if deep bodied or strips if flat and gutted, skinned and deboned or filleted as much as possible. Put the chopped fish to one side and keep the discarded bits together although dump the guts in the direction of the local crabs. Source a couple of Dublin Bay prawns per person and break off the heads and claws and add to the discarded pile keeping the tails separate. Cut in half some scallops, split from the roes and keep to one side.
Take a pot large enough to serve a large soup-bowl measure (about a pint and a half worth) per person and measure into it the same quantity of water for the stock. Bring to the boil and add the fish heads, bones, tails and prawn heads and claws. Simmer for no more than 15 minutes with some salt, bay leaves or fennel tops and a big pinch of dried chilli flakes. Scoop out the bones and bits and reserve the stock. Add a handful of pearl barley and a quartered potato and chopped carrot per person to the stock. Throw in a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of butter beans and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the fishy stuff but keep out the prawns and scallops. Simmer for 10 minutes, after first checking the level of liquid (add more water if needed) and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add the prawns for a minute and right at the end slosh in the scallops for no more than a minute. Stir to mingle the flavours but serve up immediately with hunks of crusty bread and a scatter of thinly sliced green salad onion tops.
Zante is a Greek island not far from Kephalonia (the latter island being famous in modern literature as the setting for the book and film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) and has very few connections with Dumfries and Galloway…apart from sheep. The Greeks love lamb and mutton dishes. Dante’s ‘inferno’ is a poem about the hot fires of hell awaiting all sinners. Well on the wholly contrived basis that sin is good for you once in a while why not indulge yourself in this combination of Scotch Bonnet chilli marinaded lamb ready for the hot coals of a beach bonfire. Sizzlingly hot for a cool evening of lust and gluttony perhaps!
Each diner will need a gigot chop of local salt marsh or mountain lamb. This is the cut that has the bone in the middle of the meat. The heat comes from a basting mix of olive oil, finely shredded fresh wild garlic leaves and wild thyme (if in season) or mashed garlic (with salt) and dried thyme. To this you add the chillies of your choice. These can be grown from seed on warm windowsills in small pots and range from the mild jalapeno types through hotter Thai birdseye ones to the ultimate in heat the Scotch Bonnet. You can even buy them in shops. Take care not to rub your eyes when slicing chillies and wash your hands very carefully afterwards to remove all trace of the searing capiscisum compounds (see J). Chop your chosen chillies very finely and add to the oil basting mix.
Prepare a hot fire or BBQ and baste both sides of the chops before putting them over the heat. Check that they are not burning and simply turn over after about 5 minutes and spoon some more basting mix over them. If you like your lamb pink then another minute or two should be fine.
Serve with a Greek salad (substituting Cairnsmore ewes’ cheese for the feta) and boiled new potatoes.
* indicates non meat
A Cook on the Wild Side, Fearnley-Whitingstall; Boxtree 1997
Antonio Carluccio Goes Wild,Carluccio A; Headline 2001
A Passion for Mushrooms, Carluccio A; Pavillion Books 1989
Apples, Berkshire, Cider; Hall, Hay & Mackay; Two Rivers Press 1996
Discovering Hedgerows, Streeter D & Richardson, R; BBC Books 1982
Eat Wild, Castle & Mackay Two Rivers Press
Flora Britannica, Mabey R; Sinclair-Stevenson, 1996
Food for Free, Mabey R; Collins 1972
Food from Finland,Tanttu A-M & J; Otava Publishing Co Keuruu 1988
Good Food in Sweden, Jakobsson O; Bergh Publishing (New York) 1998
How to identify edible mushrooms, Harding, Lyon, Tomblin; Collins 1996
Seashore Seafood - How to catch it, cook it & prepare it, Dawson K; Sigma Press 1994
The Book of Eels, Tom Fort
The River Cottage Cookbook, Fearnley-Whittingstall; Harper Collins Illustrated 2001
The Spirit of the Harvest - North American Indian Cooking; Cox B & Jacobs M: Stewart, Tabori & Chang 1991
The Survival Handbook, Mears R: Oxford Illustrated Press 1990
Wild Food, Phillips R; Pan 1983
Local Galloway Shops & Suppliers
The local towns and villages can supply excellent local produce or the equipment to forage for wild foods and to cook in the open. Always be on the look out for roadside signs offering home produce such as free range eggs, honey, vegetables or fruit. There will be the chance to learn more about local culture too if you stop to buy from the producer. There are suppliers of speciality foods; many of them unique and always worth trying. There are smokehouses, ice creameries, fresh fish and shellfish, flours made by water or wind-power, cheese-makers, butchers, bakers and, no doubt, a candlestick maker or two. Ask at the local Tourist Information Centre. Scotland is waking up to the gastro-tourism potential of the Slow Food movement. This celebrates the local and artisinal above fast and nasty. Join the campaign for local abattoirs and the ability to sell speciality meats in the places the animals once lived and contributed to the landscape. Eat the View in other words.
Don't take unnecessary risks. The sea and shoreline can be a dangerous place; so always ask for advice from people who know it best. Slippery mud or quicksand can prove to be difficult to walk on. Check the tide tables and local conditions before venturing out too far from the High Water Mark. Forage with a friend and wear appropriate footwear. Don't mess with cornered conger eels, large crabs or lobsters unless you know what you are doing or you risk a nasty nip or bite or even losing a finger.
Take extreme care with all fires and never leave them unattended. Locate, set and light them sensibly and leave to burn to ash or quench with water. Before you go disperse the ash with your hands by scattering it or return later to do the same if too dark to see what you are doing. By using your hands you can tell if the ash is still hot and a potential fire hazard! Burying embers in sand might allow them to continue burning and adds to the risk of wildfires so do not do this. Aim to leave either no trace of you having been there or as little trace as possible. Neverlight fires in brisk winds, over pine needle carpets, dry peat or similarly inappropriate locations close to dry woodlands, heaths, crops or other vegetation where sparks might carry. Avoid fires on turf as it will inevitably kill off the grass.
There are adders in the wild who don't like being trodden on or poked at with sticks. Treat adders with respect as a protected species and minimise contact with their habitat. In more remote forests and mountainous places carry a mobile phone and let someone know your route and arrival time. Be prepared for rapid changes in the weather and pack suitable clothing for cold, wet or windy conditions even in summer as mild exposure can occur at any time of the year. A whistle, suntan cream, energy food, water and a first aid kit is useful. Maps & map reading skills are advisable for hill climbing and walking.
In open country with heather or woodland with bracken consider covering bare legs to minimise potential contact with deer ticks and hence exposure to Lyme’s disease or other tick borne infections and conditions. It is a good idea to check your legs especially behind your knees after a walk in any tall grassland, heather or bracken. Ticks can be removed by covering their breathing pores with a blob of Vaseline or similar unguent creams.
Wild fungi must be treated with both caution and joy. Several species are excellent eating but a few can kill you, many more can make you ill and the majority are just plain disagreeable. If you can't identify it do NOT eat it. However, if you learn to identify the edible species your life will be enriched.
ENJOY YOUR FOOD!