Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Finding food for free

Our mortgage lender is one of those banks that has gone bankrupt (the irony). I don't understand much of the economic stuff, and I am not very good at economising, either. I have very expensive tastes. Lovely husband is constantly amazed at my unique skill - I can walk into any shop or aisle or look at any catalogue page and instantly pick out the single most expensive item with a firm "I want". Knitwear, shoes, TVs. We often check the prices to see if I have missed something with a bigger price tag! and I haven't failed once!

But one place I do economise - for pleasure more than relief - is in the kitchen. I like to make our own pizza bases and jam, hummus and biscuits, because I know what went into them. I am very fortunate to work at home, which gives me the little extra time to boil pulses or start dough in advance of dinner.

And speaking of blessings... we live in the country, and we have an energetic dog who must be walked for an hour ever day, whether it's hailing or baking. In the last three years I have thus learnt a lot about finding food for free!

At the moment there are a few things for the taking, and I thought I'd give you a quick tour. First of course are the easily recognised Blackberries (pictured above) - which are wonderful combined with windfall apples (any type - a mixture is good) in a crumble or cobbler. (They are also nice simmered gently and pressed through a sieve to make a coulis for vanilla ice-cream, cava cocktails, or cheesecake.)

Elderberries - which are just coming to an end (just! but if you hurry you'll find some clinging on!) - can be used to make a cordial full of Vitamin C. It does taste a bit like cough syrup, mind you, so what I'd suggest is... make a note of where you saw them, and return in late spring for the flowers instead!

Rosehips - the oval red berries (avoid the round ones as, with the exception of haws, the varieties I see are inedible) - supposedly make a tomato-like soup, according to Edible Wild Foods (Grub Street 2007) but are more commonly used for syrup or a crab apple jelly.
And finally, chestnuts - which deserve a post all of their own, and will get one. Before I do, take a walk and look for some chestnuts. Don't confuse them with horse chestnuts (conkers) which are rounded. Sweet chestnuts have little tufts at the top, a bit like small punks. They are ready just about now so, instead of buying them at the grocer, go out and find some!