Foraging sessions at Studland Bay
PUBLISHED: 10:55 23 November 2015 | UPDATED: 14:53 23 November 2015
Sue Quinn lets her taste buds take a walk on the wild side with a foraging session at Studland Bay. She joins some seriously talented foodies who know where to find collectible edibles for a feast
“I think you appreciate food more if you’ve worked for it,” Jade Scott tells me, scooping up the last of her rosehip jelly and cream in the flickering candlelight. “Getting to the source of food, learning how to find it and then cooking it - that’s what it’s all about.” She pauses to gaze across a serene Studland Bay, a watercolour of smudged pinks and purples as the sun dips below the horizon. It’s the calm after the storm.
A couple of hours earlier, we had gathered under the canopy on the edge of Middle Beach at Studland – chefs, writers, photographers, food obsessives and friends – as an angry sky cried buckets. Nature was teasing us. The torrential rain had threatened to wash out our foraged feast, a celebration of this stunning stretch of the Jurassic Coast and the abundant wild edibles available here. But Jade and her husband Dan, founders of the outdoor activity company Fore Adventure and our hosts for the evening, aren’t deterred by vile weather. In fact, it’s all part of their passion for bringing adventure and food closer together.
Our table under the canopy had been set like a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: glowing candles, strings of fairy lights, a table runner crafted from ferns, and jam jars filled with elderberries, rosemary, wild fennel and valerian. Out in the wet, Dan had cheerfully filled the brazier with logs and lit the fire, while a drenched James Fowler, UK Barman of the Year and owner of The Larder House restaurant and The Library bar in Southbourne, worked his mixology magic. His potion of vodka, sea blight (a salty sea vegetable that tastes a little like mild samphire), sweet Spanish wine and elderflower soda spiked with lemon and orange bitters, was a delicious distraction from the downpour.
Our feast was being cooked by local food hero James Golding, Chef Director of the Pig Hotel Group, and Damian Clisby, formerly of Hix Soho and now head chef at the acclaimed Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. Both chefs are, famously, produce-driven and passionate about wild, seasonal food. But today they’ve been walking-the-walk not just talking-the-talk when it comes to foraged edibles. There had been no food deliveries or sous chefs to do the legwork today – the rugged pair has been out harvesting wild ingredients our feast themselves.
With Dan’s guidance, they took kayaks out into Studland Bay and hauled in shimmering blue mackerel, snorkelled for sea vegetables and scoured the hedgerows and foreshore for berries and wild greens. “With Dan’s skill set in the outdoors, and with the help of a kayak, he’s able to take people to areas hard to reach on foot and source wild foods,” Jade says.
The couple started their business from scratch five years ago after Dan, an outdoors centre manager and Jade, an architect, decided to change their lives. “We got married, had our first daughter Molly and our perspective just shifted,” she explains. “We yearned to escape the rat race. It’s a cliché, but we fell into it.” When the lease on a small National Trust hut on Studland Beach came up, they leapt at the chance to set up their own outdoor activity business, and haven’t looked back. Fore Adventure started with just four kayaks, but now it offer a range of outdoor activities from foraging, fishing and kayaking to coasteering, bushcraft, beach school and wild camping. It’s like a real life Enid Blyton adventure – except that the adults love it just as much as the children.
“We believe that getting to grips with our environment again, encouraging people to respect it, understand it, and enjoy what’s around us every day and then hunkering down with good company to enjoy what nature’s larder has provided is one sure way to feel reconnected with nature and each other,” says Jade.
From the chefs’ point of view, the day has been a break from the day-to-day grind of a restaurant. “It’s so important that chefs get out of the kitchen and collaborate with other chefs,” Damien Clisby says, as he helps chop wood for the barbecue in the drizzle. “The idea is to see how great it is to eat food that’s been gathered from what’s around us,” adds James Golding. “The meal we have created reflects everything we have seen today – starting with the cocktails. We wanted you to see how amazing the food around us is. And then enjoy it in the rain,” he says with a wink.
By the time we sit down for our first course, the downpour has eased and attention turns from the weather to our food. Somehow Golding and Clisby have conjured up a beautiful feast in the outdoors. Woodpigeon, marinated in savoury and garlic and cooked over wood, is served with blackberries and a preserved lemon and bulgur wheat salad, sprinkled with marigold petals for starters. Our main is whole mackerel, wrapped in kelp and cooked over wood with a mouth-puckering pickled fennel, marsh samphire and sea purslane salad. By the time pudding arrives – rosehip jelly with soused apples and cream – the rain has passed and Studland Bay is calm, with the lights of Bournemouth and Poole sparkling in the distance. We all have full, happy bellies, and somehow we’re all dry.
Find out more
Fore Adventure hosts seasonal foraged feasts throughout the year, alongside its programme of outdoor activities. Dates for the feasts are available via their newsletter and tickets are limited. Bespoke events can also be booked by arrangement.
For more details visit foreadventure.co.uk. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01929 450 430.
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