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foragers frittersI trust you all had a lovely Easter and, that as well as spending time with family, you’ve had your fill of chocolate.

Dark, milk, plain, white or studded with all manner of added-value add-ins, chocolate is nigh on impossible to ignore at this time of year. Falling hard on the heels of the official chocolate day of February 14th, Easter seems now to be all about this most of desirous of sweets. I’m not sure where this obsession with chocolate has come from but, as a mother, I have for years been caught up in procuring the best, most delicious chocolate egg I can find. But last week, looking at the piled high confectionery contents of passing shopping trolleys, I noted that my single egg, nestled uncomfortably with the broccoli, salmon and muesli, was a bit paltry in comparison. Nearly empty nest syndrome. Nest envy. Call it what you like but this nutrition-aware mom felt a pang of guilt for not heeding the call of the aisle. 

foragers frittersIt is amazing to me, and not a bit saddening, that in a few generations a religious holiday, a major one at that has, in the UK at least, morphed into a celebration of chocolate. But it has. In fact a recent British poll found that a quarter of children polled thought that the holiday was celebrating the Easter Bunny’s birthday, and that 53% of all polled didn’t know what it celebrated, seeing it instead as a sanctified opportunity to eat chocolate.

Ostensibly for the kiddies, really it’s just as much about us as it is them. Whether as an old-fashioned Easter egg hunt in the garden with marshmallow chicks, painted eggs and foil-wrapped choccies (fond memories from my rather wonderful childhood), or a fancy box at the foot of the bed,  we adults connive to get our share.

Being a one-child family chocolate eggs were a bit thin on the ground, but it was arranged that Miss R would have a hollow Lindt egg, accompanied in its plastic carapace by an overflowing handful of Lindor truffles. You know, the ones with the soft, very bad for you centres that taste of toffee and bonfires. As I have protested on numerous occasions, I am not a chocolate fiend, but I must admit a certain weakness for the old Lindor truffle. And so it has come to pass that I am in charge of the Lindor truffles. Miss R and Mr A have bravely/foolishly ventured forth in a snow shower to do a bit of wild camping while I am home working and trying to ignore the small treasure chest of shiny red and white twists of said truffles. It is proving quite a challenge, especially as I have ignored my own advice and have skipped lunch entirely. It was just the one. Truly. But I am glad, in more ways that one, that my little  family returns tomorrow with their pile of dirty washing and their hair smelling of campfires, and saves me from myself.

stinging nettles

stinging nettles

wild garlic

wild garlic

And so this little adventure in foraging is my antidote to chocolate. Savoury, a bit salty, these fritters are filled to the absolute brim with green, minerally  goodness. I know the asparagus is cheating, but it tastes too darn good to leave out. You could of course use just the fruits of your foraging, a la Richard Mabey.

At this time of year I can hardly resist the lure of the woods around the corner from our house, holding as they do such edible treasures as nettles, borage, young dandelions and sticky jack. For the wild garlic I go down to the nearby Water of Leith and selectively, and conservatively, pick the abundant wild garlic from the steep banks, away from dogs and trampling feet.

I have recently found and bookmarked a great foraging calendar listing UK edibles. Lots of stuff I haven’t heard of, let alone tried, but I am up for most of it. Last year I was almost tempted by the thought of fiddlehead burgers, but never got around to it. I like to stick to the more mundane end of foraging and, unless you are with an experienced guide, I suggest you do the same. Here are some good pointers from Nature’s Secret Larder to get you going.

Do you forage? What do you forage for? What do you do with your free finds? I would love to hear about your foraging adventures, and any hints of secret woods or valleys for rare and delectable treats (x marks the spot map optional!!).

foragers frittersForager’s Fritters

Last year: Chocolate Beetroot Cake (so pretty, with edible flower topping)
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Ramble On (live), Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, 1998
I think a piled up plate of bite-sized forager’s fritters would make a terrific seasonal appetiser for a Spring gathering, or a surprising starter with individual pots of wasabi mayonnaise and lemon slices. Out of season make these with wilted spinach and slices of garlic, but still with the slivers of asparagus for a nice crunch and subtle taste. Admittedly not an everyday snack, but utterly scrummy.

100g young asparagus, woody ends snapped off
75g stinging nettle leaves, rinsed
75g wild garlic leaves and stems, well rinsed and chopped 
100g self-raising flour – gluten-free or wheat (I used Dove’s Farm gluten-free)
¼ tsp dry mustard or wasabi powder (optional)
Refrigerator-cold soda water, enough for a batter the thickness of cream
Salt and pepper
Rapeseed oil for shallow frying

Lemon slices
Best quality mayonnaise with an optional swirl of wasabi paste or Dijon mustard, to taste. I made these with umeboshi paste, which although delicious, is probably a bit on the salty side.

First task is to deal with the nettle leaves. If you were able to pick just the leaves, fine. Just rinse the leaves and pop into a pot of salted boiling water for one minute, drain and refresh with cold water. If like me you were too impatient and got some stem with your leaves, use tweezers to hold a stem and snip the leaves with a small pair of scissors. Using tweezers makes it easy to turn the stem for better snipping, I find. I didn’t even bother with gloves, but I am perhaps foolhardy. Let the cooked nettles cool on some kitchen paper and squeeze gently the now-stingless leaves to remove excess water. Chop the leaves well and pop these into a mixing bowl and set aside.

stinging nettles

Slice the trimmed raw asparagus on an angle – about ½ centimetre – and add these to the bowl along with the chopped wild garlic, the flour, dry mustard/wasabi and seasoning. Mix well before adding in enough soda water for a ‘single cream’ batter. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or wok to about 170C, or until a cube of bread browns at one minute; any hotter and the batter will burn while the inside is uncooked. This lower  temperature also reduces the formation of acrylamides. Drop in large or small tablespoonfuls of the mixture (don’t crowd the pan as it lowers the temperature) and turn with a slotted spoon when it becomes golden-coloured and crisp. Pop the fritters onto kitchen paper and carry on with the remaining batter, perhaps keeping them warm in the oven as you carry on. Serve with lemon wedges and wasabi or mustard mayonnaise. Makes about 20 small fritters/12 larger onesforagers frittersforagers fritters

37 thoughts on “Forager’s Fritters

  1. Love love love these. Nettles are brilliant free food. Need to use them more myself. Thanks for sharing x

    1. Thank you Urvashi. Quite a compliment coming from you, the Botanical Baker!

  2. Kellie, such a lovely post and delicious recipe.I am with you on the eggs and Easter. It’s more about family for me, these days. My mum always bought new pyjamas for my children for Easter. I have continued her tradition and did the same this year, though they are 25 and 29, they both loved the gift, especially with the sudden cold snap. My son bought us a small box of Lindor truffles (we still have some from Christmas, unopened and the use by date has passed, but they were bought with love, so I am loathe to throw them out yet). As the ladies at work came towards me chocolate bunnies and eggs, I (hopefully not rudely) put up my hand and said ‘Thanks so much, but please, no’.

    We don’t forage too much, as there are no forests nearby, but we do pick fruit from overhanging vines when we are out walking, especially if said fruit is clearly left to rot on the tree. We had some delicious figs on our walk just last night.

    Always enjoy reading your work!

    1. Hi Lizzy 😀 I am loving the pajama idea. Now that my daughter is nigh on 16 I think I could get away with this, and even have it appreciated. Great idea! And I am with you on the low-hanging fruit. As a matter of fact my father-in-law used to pick fresh walnuts (with permission) from a house a few streets away. He would then pickle them. I have never tasted them but they sound nice. I wish I had a dig tree to pilfer from as they are high up on my list of favourite foods. Lucky you!

  3. Hi Kellie,
    We don’t forage much, either, though mostly out of ignorance. Living the the cities, as well, I am concerned about what might of been sprayed on the dandelion greens and herbs I do recognize… Feel TERRIBLY guilty about Easter. We’re not religious, so when easter rolls around, I’ve tried to focus on the ritual of Spring and rebirth. My children used to love finding chocolate foil eggs and following serial clues to their easter baskets. But they are older now, and the conflict I feel about gorging on candy to celebrate (seemingly) every holiday meant that this year, at least, we didn’t do candy. Actually, we didn’t do much of anything, which proves your point that for many people, easter has devolved into a holiday of chocolate– Without it, there is little ritual left…

    1. Brave you opting out of the near-mandatory choc fest. I think that will be us next year. This weekend we slipped away to a friends holiday cottage on the coast, away from all mod cons, & enjoyed ourselves immensely, just reading, listening to music, walking. Out of the window we saw mire industrious folk gathering mussels and various seaweeds at low tide. I will stick to the leafier end of the spectrum! And I certainly understand your reluctance to forage in the city. Perhaps low-hanging fruit a la the comment from Lizzy is an option. I love getting free healthy stuff!

  4. connermid says:

    Lovely post, as usual – the fritters look gorgeous!
    I have an embarrassing foraging anecdote to share: a few years ago on a forest walk we filled an entire wooden crate with porcini mushrooms — or so we thought we thought. Just to be on the safe side (in case a toxic impostor had slipped in unnoticed) I took them to the local pharmacy to able to get them checked (in France, all pharmacists have to know all common mushrooms and be able to differentiate good from evil); turns out, *none* were palatable — and two were actually highly poisonous! That was the end of my foraging career. Though I can never resist the call of the late-summer hedgerows weighed down with

    1. Ooh, I’m nervous of mushrooms & pretty much stick to what I know. I have always fancied doing the yearly ‘fungi foray’ that is offered through Valvona & Crolla, a famed Italian deli in Edinburgh. Maybe this will be my year. Thank goodness for your pharmacy! PS I hope your visit from Julie went well. Must catch up soon. And hatch a plan!

  5. loulune says:

    I had a kind of illumination about the chocolate and me during this Easter 🙂 Hope to write a post about very soon. Well, the green things look yummie!

  6. charitychic says:

    These look delish! I am going to give them a try this weekend. Nettles are amazing plants, our garden is semi-wild and covered in them. Nettle souffle is a favourite in our family. They make tasty tea too!

    1. Nettles are pretty darn amazing. I haven’t made a souffle with them but dried leaves for tea, these fritters, in risotto and in a soup are favourites at this green time of year.

  7. Wow! I love the green of the post so fitting for spring. I used to go mushroom gathering with my Father a few times a year and got some wonderful mushrooms that way. I have been thinking about that a lot lately and have been really wanting to do it again. You are so right about Easter, I grew up knowing what Easter is about even though we are not religious, but I know so many people (my husband included) who grew up non-religious but still celebrating Easter but only for the Easter basket/bunny.

    1. I am lucky that in Autumn we have someone who comes into where I work and gives staff carefully wrapped bundles of chanterelles and other funghi goodies. It is a pleasure to gorge myself on mushroom dishes knowing they are safe to eat, smell so wonderful and taste divine. I recently got a dehydrator so this year I am planning on NOT gorging myself but actually dry and save these beauties for later use. Sounds a good plan but whether I can control myself is another matter! Who needs chocolate when you can have mushrooms? 😛

    2. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment. I didn’t mean for this post to slide into lament mode but it does seem I am not alone in my wistfulness about hijacked holidays. One day I will go on a proper foraging course & get beyond the delicious, but obvious. A bit scared of mushroom hunting though. You’re obviously made of braver material than I.

      1. My Dad was the brave one (I was only between the ages of 12 and 14) but he was really good about carrying a book for identifying and then testing the spores before we used them, even when we knew they were the right kind. Morels, which were one of the kinds that we picked often are pretty easy to tell apart from any other mushrooms. I would love it if I had someone at work that brought me fresh wild mushrooms that I could use though 🙂 Your post did inspire me to look up foraging in my area to see what is edible and available this time of year.

      2. Yeah, I’m spoiled with the mushroom deliveries, but I would like to go on a course so I can get some of the other mushrooms safely & for free. I’m going to get the last (I think) of wild garlic today so I can make wild garlic pesto focaccia for my nutrition group tomorrow. Recipe on blog for last year (march or April). Hope there’s still some left in the non-dog bit! I would be interested to know what you can forage near you. Let me know, and what you make with it/them. Thanks Emilia.

      3. It seems like there are some similarities in what can be foraged here. Stinging nettles for example. Quite a few varieties of mushrooms which are great as a ragout served with crispy polenta. Ferns seem to be similar to asparagus in taste. Dandelions, I used some of the leaves the other day cooked in a little olive oil with scallions, a touch of rice vinegar, soy sauce, and thai red curry paste. That was great but they can also be used in salads or cooked like most greens. We have cat tails which can be eaten but I have never tried them and am not sure how to use them as of yet. Rose hips, huckleberries, salmon berries are all growing in the lake near me and more.

      4. Sounds like you live near some lovely free and delish grub, Emilia. Great quick ideas to try too. Thanks so much for letting me (us) know what you’ve got all around you; very inspiring to all who read your comment. I will be making some rose hips cordial later in the summer as I know a great patch away from any roads and on a lovely walk. I don’t like purposeless walks so finding food along the way, bag and scissors in hand (I will probs be arrested one day:D ), helps get me out and about. I may try to make a dandelion burger too, but still a bit nervous of fiddleheads as I have heard varying reports about digestibility.

  8. Ooooh, those fritters look sensational and actually I have a fridge FULL of tender young wild garlic leaves that M&D brought down from St.Andrews for me so this is perfect timing, thank you!
    As for foraging, I don’t think you can beat the feeling of anticipation while waiting for the tide to turn, slip back, to leave huge glassy plains of wet sand with little bubbles and holes breaking the surface – time to get the large old spoon out to quickly dig, dig, dig for the cockles. The sea breeze, the excitement, the camaraderie between between fellow cocklers, the speed you have to dig, aaah, I love it but we only do it on the North Coast of Brittany. Mmm, and that reminds me, I havent booked our summer holiday yet…

    1. I love the poetic description of your French seaside foraging. I have never been to that corner of France but it sounds idyllic(except the rain I know it attracts!). Hope you were able to save aside some of your mum’s wild garlic for this little recipe.

  9. AEB says:

    I especially appreciate that this post is as much about the lamentably empty temptations of Easter today and the almost primeval joys of foraging about in the springtime as it is about a worthy recipe. You really are such an agreeable foodwriter!

    1. Thanks for your very lovely comment. I hope you stop by again soon 😀

  10. Jean-François says:

    These look absolutely amazing – I think I just found a use for some of those greens in the fridge. Thanks for sharing. Love your writing and pictures.

    1. Aw thank you. Such a sweet comment! I hope you always think that of me.

  11. A WONDERFUL post and recipe, and SNAP! I also have a Forager’s Fritters recipe that I developed for Country Kitchen magazine when I was writing for them! MIne is slightly different, but it DOES use nettles and wild garlic as it’s base foraging ingredients! This is a wonderful post and it is a delight to read……Karen

    1. Don’t tell me it was also called foragers fritters cos I thought I was being original! Ach well, not much completely original but great minds and all that. I’m mentioning you in next post. Hope you don’t mind 😀

  12. ah0098 says:

    hi kelli
    i enjoed this post

    1. Thank you. Do you do any foraging yourself?

  13. shuhan says:

    oh i just love this! i often do a fritter of sorts with some kind of seasonal vegetable, but must admit I havent been getting into foraging myself. I love wild greens, and I love the idea of it, getting food frm nature, and free at that, but I just dont know how to start, where to start looking etc. this is inspiring me to really get down to finding out more about it. on another note, love the hint of mustard/wasabi powder you added! I do that too, not powder just a spoonful of dijon somethimes, I like the kick it adds.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Vegetable fritters are not uncommon but it is immensely gratifying to get out in the fresh air and pick up some delicious and nutritious freebies to go in them. I’m not a frequent forager but when the weather is nice it is great to find a wild patch of ground and just see what’s around. I really recommend Richard Mabey’s Food for Free book, as well as his latest, Weeds. Beautifully written and illustrated guides to what’s safe and what’s not. Plus the link on my site. Be cautious, but have fun!

  14. Shannon says:

    I came over from Jean-François’ blog. I’m going to bookmark you for my weekend read! Looks like you have just what I’m looking for. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much , Sharon. Love the name of your blog!

  15. shuhan says:

    thanks for that lovely comment on my chive flower tempura! your fritters look absolutely amazing too! and like I mentioned in my reply, I love everything about it, the fact that you;re using wild plants, the way you’ve cooked it in a yummy crispy batter, and even the title (i love alliteration haha). great one!

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