Wild Cooking at Restaurangakademien

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Just have to share this – I was invited to do a workshop with foraging and cooking at Restaurang Akademien (Restaurant academy), something I was very humbled by, since this is a place that represents culinary knowledge and competence for professionals and lay people and play a big part in developing Swedish gastronomy on a daily basis. And the workshop was for people in the industry only so which made my ambitions fly sky high. But a little pressure can be very conducive to creativity and I decided to just…let it flow!

We met up at 9 am and lucked out with the weather which was sunny and warm, perfect for a foraging hike in the park. The group of 20 enthusiastic “food nerds” traipsed after me into to forest. It was fun to watch their suprised faces when finding so much food where all they saw was lush greenery. Foraging isn’t just about picking plants for food, it’s also about becoming more familiar with and aware of what nature gives us, learning to differentiate plants and see how they interact. To gain an insight in our very intimate relationship with nature and how our survival is depending on it, and hopefully awaken a desire to treat it with respect and love, just the way we treat ourselves and all other living species we share this planet with.

Result of our foraging, 18 lovely local, abundant plants.
Result of our foraging, 18 lovely local, abundant plants.

Amongst the greens we found were Yarrow, Nettles, Garlic mustard (Löktrav), Wood sorrel (Harsyra) Elm fruit (Almfrukt), Sweet Woodruff (Myskmadra), Sweet Cicely (Spansk körvel), Dandelion flowers, Spruce buds, Birch leaves, Meadow sweet (Älgört), and Fireweed shoots (Rallarros). I could see the minds working on this creative group, discussing the flavors and how they would best come to use,

We also discussed the importance of what I call “ethical foraging” – now that it has become very popular to go out and eat wild plants i see a lack of knowledge – knowledge as to how we fit into the ecological system and what plants are OK to pick:

– it is not OK to pick the whole patch of anything. It looks so inviting and abundant and greed settles in and we’re tempted to take it all but that is a NO NO NO! Only take maximum 20% of what is there.

– If it is an unusual plant, leave it where it is. Our survival is not dependent on this one plant bit the plant itself is – it needs to be left alone so it can reproduce. Also it needs to be there for those insects whose lives DO depend on it.

– Do not dig up roots or break branches without landowners permission.

– Forage gracefully: leave no traces behind – the patch where you picked should look the same as when you arrived.

– Say Thank You. Nature hears and appreciates that.

Nettle chips
Nettle chips

Happy with our harvest we returned to the Restaurant Academy where I let the group create the menu as well as recipes. In my headI had planned for them to cook a 3- course meal and there was fish, pizza dough, vegetables and rhubarb to add to the wild greens. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the level of ambition and creativity this group contained – they cooked up a storm! And we ended up eating a 7-course lunch! With pizza as an appetizer. And everything was so GOOD, I wish I could share the flavors with you but here are some pix to enjoy: We started off with Pizza as an appetizer. Not one but no less than FIVE pizzas. Yes, we finished them all.

Various wild goodies
Various wild goodies

Followed by Tempura fried Greens with Meadowsweet Mayo.

empura fried Greens with Meadow Sweet Mayo
Tempura fried Greens with Meadow Sweet Mayo

Then a slightly lighter snack.

Wild pesto served in Endive with Dandelion flower and Woodsorrel
Wild pesto served in Endive with Dandelion flower and Woodsorrel

Then: the Main course.

Perch, Sweetpotato purée, Sweet Cisely, Asparagus and Deep fried Nettle
Perch, Sweetpotato purée, Sweet Cisely, Asparagus and Deep fried Nettle

To fill out the last space:

Puréed potatoes with Yarrow (I think it was), Elmfruit and Woodsorrel
Puréed potatoes with Yarrow (I think it was), Elmfruit and Woodsorrel, Roe and chips from Jerusalem Artichoke.

To my great surprise, we had room for the desserts (yes, plural…):

Honey candied Hazelnuts with Sweet Woodruff flavored Rhubarb, Elmfruit, and whipped cream. Think it miahgt have been a Woodsorrel granité in there too
Honey candied Hazelnuts with Sweet Woodruff flavored Rhubarb, Elmfruit, and whipped cream. Think it might have been a Woodsorrel granité in there too

Dessert no 2 was a Sweet pizza with Rhubarb, Wood sorrel, Nettle, Spruce buds served with home made ice cream made from Fresh cheese.

That’s it!

Forage with grace, connect daily with nature and enjoy what it gives you – use it wisely.

Lisen

Proud to be wearing this apron!
Proud to be wearing this apron!

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