With so many exotic ingredients available off the shelf, it’s easy for a dish to lose its connection with the place the food was produced. However, seasonal wild ingredients foraged from the local area can elevate a menu, adding complementary, exciting and fresh flavours to the dishes, as well as displaying a sense of adventure.
Chef Neil Rankin, owner and head chef of the Temper restaurants in London, has introduced foraged ingredients to his menus, with tasty results.
“As a chef it’s easy to get claustrophobic in your own kitchen. You can become very blinkered in what your suppliers give you, or what your repertoire is, and become disconnected from that which is natural,” said Rankin. “A very special thing in this country, in any country, is its natural ingredients, and it’s those sorts of things that tend to work the best.”
Ford challenged Rankin, as well as chefs in France, Germany, Italy and Spain to come up with original and innovative dishes using native, foraged ingredients, and then include the dishes in their menus. Each chef had the support of a Ford Ranger Raptor pick-up to help them source their ingredients, often from isolated hard-to-reach locations.
We followed each chef into the hills, countryside and beaches to watch them collect the illusive ingredients, with the help of a local expert, and create some spectacular dishes.
In the first of five videos, Rankin travelled to Cornwall and met up with Mike de Stroumillo to forage for bell heather, as well as coastal herbs, rock samphire and sea beans, in order to create his burnt sea dust to accompany 60-day, dry-aged, rib-eye Hereford beef.
“I naturally went for a seasoning or a rub, and then looking at it from a natural perspective I went for stuff that could be foraged and came from the natural territory of what I wanted to season. I believe that the things that grow near the cattle have some sort of flavour symmetry.”
Future videos in Ford’s Eat My Dust series will feature Paris-based chef Mattias Castro at Chardon in Arles, Eugenio Boer and his Milan-based restaurant Bu:R, Javier Alvarez, executive chef at the Zoko Group, in Spain, and Nicholas Hahn, the chef de cuisine at Restaurant Ai Pero in Andernach, Germany.
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- Salty fingers, better known as sea beans, are a salty ingredient with a crunchy texture. The slightly bitter taste can be a valuable addition to a dish and it goes great with fish and shellfish, and can even be pickled and used in Bloody Marys.
- Sea Aster, one of the most flavoursome wild edible plants found growing up to 1m high by the sea or on tidal rivers, but most prolifically on saltmarshes.
- Bell heather is flowering plant native to western and central Europe. It grows on heaths, woods and coasts with purple-pink flowers that attract all kinds of nectar-loving insects. Bell heather emits a light floral tone mixed with a heavy musky scent and has been used as an aromatic in many applications for centuries.
- Rock samphire is an edible wild plant found on southern and western coasts of Britain and Ireland. It is described as having a pleasant, hot and spicy taste and the stems, leaves and seedpods are great when pickled, while the leaves can be used fresh in salads.
- Hereford is a British breed of beef cattle from the county of Herefordshire in the U.K. Rib-eye steak is taken from the rib section of the cow and cooked with the bone still attached. Beef is aged for several weeks to allow enzymes naturally present in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, resulting in improved texture and flavour.
- Pepper dulse, otherwise known by chefs as the “truffle of the sea” is a red seaweed with hints of garlic, truffle and black pepper.
- Aromatic alexander seeds from the wild alexander plant usually sourced in open woodlands and grasslands near coastal areas.