Assisting at the Fat Hen Cookery School in Cornwall
The Fat Hen Cookery School opens up a world of learning; from nutrition to knife techniques. Caroline’s workshops are a whirl of sensation. The touch of the filleted fish; alternately slippery and rasping, the smells of uncooked seaweed and three cornered leek. When out foraging, the sounds of birdsong, whispering trees and the ocean crashing in the distance. The beautiful view from the kitchen, surrounded by the scenic Cornish countryside and the new tastes; black pepper dulce butter, seaweed focaccia, wild garlic salsa verde.
The workshops last for about eight hours, and cover many different facets of eating; learning to successfully sharpen a knife, filleting a fish, how to smoke meat, the nutrition profiles ofseasonal wild foods, tips for a perfect pannacotta, cleaning and preparing seaweeds, a variety of recipes for seaweed, where to find it, and how to cook it.
The workshop ends with a veritable feast of the foods foraged and prepared by Caroline, Chef Rob and the members of the class. Below is some of the foods sampled; miso soup, smoked haddock, sea spaghetti stir fry with soba noodles, crispy sea lettuce, sea spaghetti tapenade, seaweed focaccia, olive oil with elderberry vinegar, salsa verde.
Caroline works hard to accommodate food intolerances, modifying her menu and lessons based on whether the participants have coeliac disease or are lactose intolerant or vegan.
I also helped at a Wild Foods class, this was the land version of the seaweed class.
In this class Caroline taught us about skinning and gutting a rabbit, how to forage up a fresh green salad, shared tips on how to smoke rabbit meat, shared recipes for sweet pickling crab apples and crispy gluten free crackers.
During the foraging part of the workshop she covered where and when to find sea beet, three cornered leek, black mustard, navelwort, primrose, sorrel, apple mint, Alexanders, hogweed, rock samphire and nettles along a section of the Cornish cliffside.
Caroline’s class also has a safety aspect, where she discusses poisonous plants, and showed us how to identify foxglove and hemlock waterdrop wort.
I think this side of foraging is neglected, considering the frequency of poisonings caused by misidentification of plants, and one that should be addressed more. Even within the last decade, Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer poisoned himself and three family members, causing renal failure in all four by misidentifying Boletus edulis for Cortinarius speciosissimus. Caroline taking the time to show new foragers what to pick is a valuable part of the foraging walk.
Boletus edulis. Edible, tasty.
Cortinarius speciosissimus. Kidney failure, death.
After bringing the greens back to the kitchen, Caroline, Chef Jim and the workshoppers continued to cook for the meal at the end of the workshop while I played dishpig.
At the end of the workshop they sat down to smoked rabbit, wild garlic tapenade, sea beet salsa verde, steamed Alexanders, gluten-free bread and a bit of white wine.
Fat Hen have upcoming workshops and foodie days, you can check out their calendar here. Staying with Caroline has been so educational, other wild foods I have been cooking can be found by clicking the links below;