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Fat Hen Cookery School: Recipe

The lovely Caroline at Fat Hen Cookery School has shared some of her favourite recipes for you to get foraging and creating culinary masterpieces.

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Foraging, Cooking & Exploring
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Laver seaweed & pancetta cakes with wild garlic or fennel & mussel sauce

Serves 4 as a starter

  • Small bowl of cooked laver seaweed* (enough to form into 4 fishcake sized patties)
  • 1 small onion
  • Scattering of oatmeal
  • 2 pieces of pancetta or smoked bacon
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • White breadcrumbs
  • Oil for frying
  • Knob of butter
  • Salt & pepper

For the sauce:

  • 16 mussels
  • Half a small bottle of good quality dry cider
  • Equal amount of cream
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp chopped wild garlic or wild fennel fronds

*Pick laver seaweed from the rocks.  Take home and wash very well.  This may need up to 8 washes to remove all the sand and small creatures hiding amongst the fronds.

Once washed put the laver into a saucepan and simmer on a gentle heat for 2 hours until tender but still with some texture.  You may not need to add any water to the seaweed as it will hold quite a lot of water naturally.  However, check to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan.  If it does stick add some water.

Whilst the laver is cooking trim and chop some smoked bacon, fry until crispy. Saute the onion until caramelised. Add the bacon, onion, oatmeal, butter, salt and pepper & lemon juice to the warm laver seaweed and stir until thoroughly mixed and the butter has melted.

Cool and leave in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Remove from the fridge and make the mixture into fishcake sized patties.  Dip into whisked egg followed by breadcrumbs and lay on a try until ready to fry. Fry the laver cakes until golden, place in a warm oven to keep hot.

Now make the sauce.  Get a saucepan very hot on the stove.  Throw in your cleaned mussels.  Add the cider and cook until the mussels have opened.  Remove the mussels and set aside. Now reduce down the cider to half.  Add the cream and mustard and reduce the cream by half.  Season and add the chopped fennel fronds and the reserved mussels (out of their shells) at the end of cooking.

Serve the laver cake surrounded by a couple of spoons of the sauce.

Hake wrapped in kelp & steamed on seaweed with nettle gnocchi, Alexanders & pepper dulse sauce

Serves 4

For the Hake

  • 4 sheets of kelp fresh or dried soaked in cold water for 30 mins approx. 10 cm in length.
  • 1 side of hake fillet (400g approx.)
  • Selection of seaweeds to cover the base of the pan to sit fish on e.g dulse, serrated wrack, carragheen.

Pepper dulse beurre blanc sauce

  • Makes 8 fl.oz 225 ml
  • Serve 2-3 tablespoons per person
  • 3 tablespoons vermouth or white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons poaching/steaming liquor from fish
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped shallot/red onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 6oz unsalted butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Two tablespoons of fresh pepper dulse or one of dried rehydrated in cold water.

Cut hake into 4 portions and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the hake in kelp and place on top of seaweeds in a shallow pan with about 3cm depth of water. Place on the lid and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and steam from approx ten minutes. Check the fish for firmness and turn off the heat while you make the sauce.

Put the first 4 sauce ingredients (in list above) in a stainless steel pan, heat and reduce it down to 1 tbls. Add cream and reduce till the sauce thickens then whisk in the cold diced butter one piece at a time off the heat keeping the sauce warm. Add salt and pepper to taste, pepper dulse and a squeeze of lemon juice. Keep warm.

Unwrap seaweed from fish and cover with two or three tablespoons of sauce. Served with poached alexanders and nettle gnocchi.


Alexanders stems (well peeled and cut into length approx.. 15cm long; the length of asparagus). Cut the Alexanders from the base of large plants that are just starting to come into bud but that have not fully flowered. Once the flowers open the stems become too fibrous and woody. (4 or 5 per person). The season for eating the stems runs from March – May. Boil the Alexanders in salted water for 3 mins until tender.

Nettle gnocchi 

Serves 6

  • Just over 1 kg spuds (choose a floury variety such as King Edward or Maris piper).
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • A bunch of nettles
  • 50g Parmesan
  • Salt

Wash and blanch the nettles in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, squeeze out as much excess water as you can from the nettles and chop them finely.

Boil the potatoes in their skins – until just cooked erring on the side of undercooked. Peel the skins and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer. Put the potato into a large bowl. Add the flour, egg yolks, chopped nettles, grated parmesan and salt. Bring together all the ingredients with you hands to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop and knead it bringing in plain flour to stop it sticking.

Break off small balls of dough and roll out into a long sausage shape on the worktop. Cut pieces off the ‘sausage’ all the way along. Roll each piece up the back of a fork using the back of a teaspoon. Roll it the alternate way to the knife cut to get the lines across the gnocchi.

Blanch in boiling salted water, The gnocchi are ready when they float to the top of the pan. Either sure now or if you want to use them later, put them straight into a bowl of cold water to stop them continuing to cook, drain and run through a further jug of cold water. Set aside.

If you want to store them, drain off the water and mix the gnocchi with some olive oil. You can store them like this overnight in an airtight container in the fridge.

When you want to serve the gnocchi, heat some butter and olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the gnocchi and sea each piece until golden, turning once during cooking.


  • Only pick things you have a 100% positive identification for. There are plants and fungi out there that can kill you so it’s important that you don’t take any chances.  Start with simple things like blackberries and wild garlic.
  •  Start foraging in your own back yard! You don’t have to travel miles to forage; you will find edible plants on your street, in your garden and in your local park.
  •  Do not trespass to forage for wild food. Either get the landowner’s permission or stick to public footpaths.
  • It is illegal to uproot wild plants without the landowners permission so only dig up plants if you have permission to do so or if you are the landowner of course!
  • It’s important to be careful and think about the potential problems with places you forage from. Avoid picking along busy roads or immediately next to the path on dog-walking routes.  If you pick from water courses find out how clean the water is, be aware of leptospirosis in slow flowing water bodies and cook your watercress as there may be a problem with liver fluke (which is killed by cooking).  If you forage in parks find out from the Council if any of the grassland and shrubs and treated with herbicides or other sprays.
  • Organise your foraging trips with friends and family as it’s such a good activity for all round physical and mental health. To forage together and to prepare a meal from your finds; will leave you with a profound sense of community, achievement and well being.

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Fat Hen Cookery School: Recipe

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