It’s Spring and things have started to get exciting in the woods and the kitchen too!……………….. Wild garlic gnocchi with slow cooked venison ragu.

Sorry we have been quiet for this winter, but we are back in foraging/cooking mode and will be posting lot’s of new recipes.

The Wild garlic season comes to us a little later in Yorkshire, my southern friends have been harvesting for what seems like almost a month, but it has arrived and what a treat it is to have it back in the kitchen.

This recipe was my dinner last night.  A simple, warming dish (it might be Spring but its still a bit chilly) that is easy to make and tastes great.  I love gnocchi, they are extremely satisfying to both make and eat and when flavoured with something like wild garlic they only need the simplest of sauces.  However!  I had a real treat as our butchery tutors Colin and Alan had given me some beautiful venison and I used it to make a lovely slow cooked ragu.

I really enjoyed this hearty supper I hope you do too.

If you have not picked wild garlic before here are some identification notes. Remember!  Do not anything unless you are 100% positive of your identification. With Wild garlic trust your nose, if it doesn’t smell of garlic don’t eat it.

Wild Garlic   Allium ursinum

wild garlic flw

A hairless perennial that forms large patches. The leaves emerge in early spring growing to 30cm long. They are smooth, oval and pointed and come straight out of the ground on a short leaf stalk. Crush part of a leaf – it smells of Garlic. The flowers follow in April/May and are like little umbrellas of white stars held above the leaves on stalks about 30cm tall. These turn into seeds after a few weeks and what was white stars is now green balls. The whole plant dies back in late spring not to be seen again until the following year.

Wild Garlic Gnocchi with slow cooked Venison ragu.  Serves 2 greedy people

For the Gnocchi
1kg Floury potatoes.
350g Plain flour.
2 eggs beaten.
1 large handful of wild garlic leaves finely chopped.
large pinch of salt.

For the venison ragu
500g Venison
1 Carrots finely chopped
2 Onions finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic minced
A little flour
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons tomato puree
3 sprigs of Thyme
1 sprig of Rosemary
1 Teaspoon of Juniper berries
500ml dark meat stock (beef or venison).  Maybe a little extra.

First get the ragu on the go as it needs long slow cooking.

Cut the meat into 3cm cubes and dust in seasoned flour. Put a little olive oil a heavy based casserole over a fairly high heat and brown the meat in batches. Set the browned meat aside. In the same pan lightly fry the carrot, onion and garlic until soft. Now return the meat and any resting juices to the pan and add the Tomato puree, Thyme, Rosemary, Juniper and stock. When you have added the stock scrape around the bottom of the casserole to release any of the sticky bits from frying the meat and veg. Cover the casserole and place in the oven at 180 degrees for at least 2 hours top up with extra stock if it looks like it is getting too thick. Serve immediately or cool and chill until required

To make the Gnocchi

Take the potatoes and prick them all over with a fork, put them into the oven with the casserole and bake for approximately 1 hour or until cooked through.  Once the potatoes are baked remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly before scooping out the fluffy insides into a large bowl. Add the flour and eggs to the bowl along with the wild garlic and season well. work the mixture into a thick dough with your hands. Just bring the mixture together do not knead as this will make your gnocchi tough.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll 1 piece into a long sausage about 2 cm thick. Once you have your sausage, use a large knife to cut it into 2cm slices they should look like little pillows.  Put these formed gnocchi onto a lightly floured baking sheet until required. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough

When you are ready to finish off the dish heat your ragu until it is piping hot. Bring a very large pan of salted water to the boil and drop in your gnocchi, cook until they rise to the top of the water and remove with a slotted spoon.  If you don’t have a big pan cook them in batches.

Serve warm with venison ragu or the sauce of your choice. I finished the plate off with a grating of parmesan.IMG_3035


Summer berry syrup

Last week we were teaching for the North York Moors National Park on Sutton Bank and making a Wild Summer Berry Syrup for everyone to take home.

Wild Raspberries, Bilberries, Elderberries and blackberries made a deliciously fruity syrup to pour over ice cream. Collect some up and have a go at this simple summer treat.

wild raspberries Aug - Copy


Wild Raspberries grow in scrubby woodland, on waste ground and field edges etc. They grow on arching thorny stems approximately 1m tall and like a sunny position to fruit well.


bilberries compressed - Copy


The Bilberry is a small woody shrub which grows on moorland often with heather. It’s berries are blue/black, the flat top of the berry has a distinctive raised circle around it.



early elderberries


Elderberries are just ripening now on the Elder trees, you will find them on field edges, open woodland and on waste ground. The trees grow up to 3m tall usually.



2013 bumper blackberries - CopyBlackberries are ripe in sunny spots, you may also find lower growing Dewberries, they look similar to a blackberry but with fewer round segments (drupes). They often have a blue/grey bloom and like well drained ground.


 Wild Summer Berry Syrup

  • 1 litre (volume) of mixed summer berries
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 250ml (volume) sugar
  • 250ml water

To make the fruit syrup wash the berries and place in a pan with the lemon juice. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Strain the fruit through a sieve pushing through as much of the pulp as possible. In a clean pan heat equal quantities of sugar and water until it boils. This makes a stock syrup to which you add your flavouring, in this case the wild berry pulp. This basic recipe may need more lemon or sugar depending on the mix of fruit you have collected. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations. If you add less water and sugar you will have a fruit compote, you could freeze the syrup mixture and have a lovely summer granita or sorbet. Have a go and let us know how you get on.

As always be sure of your identification…come on a course if you want to learn more about Wild food and Foraging www.tastethewild/courses

Wild Berry compote with ice cream - Copy

Below are a few photos from our afternoon on Sutton Bank, thank you to Emma for organising the event, everyone had a good time learning, tasting, foraging and watching us make a wild berry syrup, we hope to do more with the National park next year.

Shrimps, shrimps wonderful shrimps!!!!


Last night our new wild food foraging courses for 2013 went live onto our website.  This year we have expanded our coastal courses to include the Northwest and explore a new area with an exciting range of wild foods that we can’t find on the Yorkshire coastline.

For this new course in Flookburgh, Cumbria we have enlisted the help of an amazing local expert, Steve Manning whose family has been fishing Morcambe bay for three generations.  His speciality is the brown shrimp which is one of my favourites and a great reason to fish and forage in this area.

The brown shrimp is much neglected, I have no idea why, yes it is a little smaller than the watery pink prawns you can buy in the supermarket, but for taste it cannot be beaten and it’s wild and local!!. We are not the only ones who want to champion this amazing ingredient and many great chefs in the UK are using them, as our course hit the internet last night the BBC’s Great british food revival had Glynn Purnell in Flookburgh fishing for shrimps just like we will on the course!!  Glynns half hour spot was hugely inspiring and some of the recipes looked amazing, it got my mind racing about all the delicious dishes I will be cooking on the courses!!!

To checkout our Coastal courses follow this link .

Come and join us exploring the wild food of the British coastline whether it is the rocky, lobster rich shore of the North east or the sandy salt marsh delights of Cumbria. You will be guided by wild food experts and local fishermen.


If you fancy trying some shrimps you can buy them online!!!  Make sure you support our local fisherman, they are a dying breed and if we lose them we will be losing some of our British heritage as well as amazing ingredients.