Go wild in Scotland with our autumn foraging routes

Posted on 06/10/2016

Using ViewRangerWe’ve all watched in awe as the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and River Cottage chef Gill Meller rustle up another dish to die for using food ingredients gathered, quite literally, in their own backyard. What you might not have realised is just how widespread and accessible so many ingredients are for many popular dishes as well as the more esoteric offerings from our celebrity chefs – there’s so much more to foraging than picking blackberries in the autumn.

The autumn collection is the final in our seasonal series of foraging walks created in partnership with Sidetracked Magazine and centres on four beautiful walks in Western Scotland. The team take in some of the country’s most scenic countryside with blackberries, wood sorrel and seaweed amongst the wildly available ingredients.

Foraging ingredientsRecommended by International Mountain Leader and expedition chef, Kieran Creevy (@kierancreevy), the collection includes a range of walks of varying lengths and difficulty levels. The national collection has been designed for people of all ages and abilities, ranging from gentle woodland walks to challenging coastal climbs. Each route has been handpicked by Kieran for its wild edibles – from flowers to berries and herbs.

Explore and download the routes in this collection here:

Route 1: Inverailort, Scotland

Route 2:
Glenfinnan, Scotland

Route 3: Kinloch, Scotland

Route 4: Spean Bridge, Scotland

Check out our spring foraging collection, which took Kieran and his team to Wales. See the Wales foraging collection here.

And our summer foraging collection in Dartmoor. See the Dartmoor foraging collection here.

Foraging recipe: AutumnApproaching the bothy
Venison steak with blackberries, mushrooms, beef shin and root vegetable casserole
By Kieran Creevy, International Mountain Leader and expedition chef. 

Ingredients: (serves six)
Serves 6
1-2 medium sized pieces of beef shinbone
6 x 100-150g venison steaks
6 large carrots
2 large parsnips
2 large onions
6 medium potatoes
2 double handfuls of mushrooms (such as chestnut, button, shiitake, chanterelle, portobello)
2 double handfuls of foraged blackberries
1 double handful of foraged wood sorrel
1 double handful of foraged bladderwrack seaweed, or use dried seaweed such as alaria or dulse
The ingredients1 bulb of garlic
500ml of heavy red wine (Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinotage for preference)
1 stock cube
1 tsp dried juniper berries
1 tbsp harissa paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black onion seeds
Salt and pepper
Fresh or dried thyme
Rosemary rapeseed oil
Seawater, tap or filtered water (NB there is no tap water at the bothy so you will need to either filter water from the nearby stream or carry in tap water)

Supply of kindling, wood, firelighters, matches or lighter (NB there is no wood supply at the bothy so you will need to carry in your stores for the night)
The cutting or chopping of any living trees or branches in the area (from the road onwards) is strictly forbidden. However, you are allowed to collect fallen dead wood, but be aware this may be damp so it's always advisable to have a backup.
Gas or liquid for a fuel stove
A few candles or tea lights – for atmosphere.

Cooking in a bothyGet a good fire going in the bothy fireplace – you want a strong fire with a good mix of burning logs and embers.

Season the venison steaks with salt and pepper.

Mash a large handful of blackberries and chop the wood sorrel.

Place in a leak-proof container with the venison steaks. Make sure the venison is well coated with both wood sorrel and the blackberry juice.

Place the unpeeled onions directly onto the embers and leave to char, turning once to char as much of the skin as possible. Don't worry if the first or second inner layer chars as well, this will add to the flavour. Leave to cool slightly, peel off the outer skin and chop roughly.

Wrap 4 potatoes in the bladderwrack and place on the embers.

Add 1 chopped onion to a deep heavy saucepan, with a good splash of rapeseed oil. Place on the fireplace's swing-arm and move over the fire until the onions start sizzling. Season, stir, then add the beef shin bone.

Cover and allow to roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and chop the carrots, parsnips and 2 potatoes.

Bring a pan of seawater to the boil on a gas stove, then boil for 5 minutes to make sure you kill any potential germs.

Add the carrots and parsnips to the pot (in batches if necessary). Cook until tender on the outside but undercooked in the centre.

Drain and reserve, retaining the liquid.

Remove the potatoes from the fire. Discard any unburned bladderwrack back onto the fire. Dice the potatoes.

Add the spices, stock cube and wine to the saucepan over the fire.

Allow the wine to boil briefly, then add the carrots, parsnips, second onion, potatoes and vegetable cooking liquid.

If the pot is too full, remove the bones, making sure to add any marrow left inside the bone to the pot beforehand.

Cover and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes adding extra filtered water if necessary. Taste, making sure the vegetables are cooked through, and season if necessary. Cover, place on the embers and leave.

The mealMake sure the fire is well stoked, then using a separate pan melt 2 tbsp butter. Season the mushrooms then add to the pan.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add to a bowl, keeping warm at the side of the fire. Return the pan to the fire, add a little rapeseed oil and heat to sizzling.

Cook the venison steaks in 2-3 batches to ensure they fry and not poach. Cook only to medium rare or /medium only as venison is very lean.

Allow to rest for 2 minutes, slice and serve with the vegetable casserole, mushrooms, some fresh blackberries and a glass of good red wine.

Replace the beef shinbone and venison steaks with 3 venison shanks. With this version, you will want to slow cook rather than roast the shanks.
Add 50g of dark (75%+) chocolate, 1 dried chipotle or guajillo chili and a tin of chopped tomatoes to the casserole at the simmering stage.
If you've travelled from the south, you might expect for the blackberries here to be overripe to the point of turning mouldy, but this far north you have to adjust for the difference in temperature and sunlight.
If you're taking thyroid medicine, be careful when using bladderwrack or other seaweed, (fresh or dried) as they're very rich in iodine.
When foraging bladderwrack or other fresh seaweed, never pull the entire plant from its placement, be it rock, stone or seabed. Once you do, the plant will die. Instead, cut or slice off a portion of the plant and it will continue to grow.
Please follow the Mountain Bothy Association Code when using any bothy. More information can be found here
Please forage responsibly. If you chose to cook in the great outdoors, please observe the following guidelines:
Please note that most land in the UK is under private ownership or owned by a state body. Ask permission before foraging on someone else’s property. Familiarise yourself with the law regarding wild plants as some species are protected due to being rare, fragile, under threat or form a vital part of the ecosystem.
Cooking on an open fire:
1. You either need permission to have an open fire or have checked with local regulations.
2. Only use dead wood, driftwood, or wood that has already been felled. DO NOT cut branches from living trees.
General advice for foraging
Most land is under private ownership or owned by a state body and The Theft Act 1968 outlaws the picking for commercial purposes of mushrooms, flowers, fruit or foliage from any land not owned by the picker. Always ask permission before foraging on someone else’s property. Familiarise yourself with the law regarding wild plants, as some species are protected due to being rare, fragile, under threat or because they form a vital part of the ecosystem.
Identification and knowledge:
1. Know which plants, fruits and nuts are edible and how to correctly identify them. Do not consume unless you are 100% sure they are safe.
2. Only harvest if you can correctly identify the plant and the surrounding area is not contaminated.
3. Many plants are highly poisonous and can cause death if consumed. Many have poisonous look-a-likes.
4. It’s important to know which parts of each plant are edible.
5. Some plants are only edible after careful preparation e.g. cooking, washing, and removal of sections.
Sustainable Foraging: where, when and how:
1. Only pick when a plant is abundant.
2. Use sharp scissors for preference, or a sharp knife.
3. Only harvest in patches, as you need to leave plants for regeneration and its continued survival.
4. Try not to remove flower or seed heads unless sourcing these specifically. Plants form a vital part of the eco-system, and many animals, insects and other organisms rely on them for survival.
Some sources advise against eating fiddlehead ferns. We would advise that pregnant women and nursing mothers abstain from ingesting ferns. However, this is a wild edible that is eaten year round in Japan, and with the right preparation and occasional use it is unlikely to pose any risk. For more information check out Miles Irving’s The Forager Handbook or click here.

(Photos: Liz Seabrook)

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