Based in Cornwall’s wild west, at the very tip of the county, Caroline Davey runs the Fat Hen wild cookery school and uses her nearest beach as a natural larder.
A keen cook with a background in ecology and botany, Caroline set-up Fat Hen in 2007, originally supplying local restaurants with her foraged ingredients. The name Fat Hen comes from the name of a wild edible green that was one of Britain’s staple crops about 2,000 years ago, and it still flourishes here in Cornwall. Taking people out foraging along the shoreline – one of the most productive places for wild food – Caroline typically gathers the likes of sea lettuce, pepper dulce, nettles, Alexanders and samphire. She also likes to top up her ingredients with fresh crab or fish from the local fishermen in Sennen, before returning to her country kitchen and showing people how to create gourmet dishes from their wild ingredients. “As more people open their eyes to our edible landscape, it’s not just eating the food that’s important, but the process of foraging that is changing our relationship with food and our environment,” she explains. “I love being outside foraging. Being out and having a connection with the landscape and food feels so good and so right. When you get down to the beach everything feels alright with life.”
Caroline suggested this recipe to try that incorporates all that’s good in the natural environment. Seaweed is prolific and can be used in all sorts of ways, and don’t be scared of the nettles – just wear gloves to pick them!
Just over 1 kg spuds (choose a floury variety such as King Edward or Maris piper).
300g plain flour
2 egg yolks
Bunch of nettles
1. Wash and blanch the nettles in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain, squeeze out as much excess water as you can, and chop them finely.
2. 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.
3. Add the flour, egg yolks, chopped nettles, grated parmesan and salt.
4. Bring together all the ingredients with your hands to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured worktop and knead it, bringing in plain flour to stop it sticking.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Blanch in boiling salted water. The gnocchi are ready when they float to the top of the pan.
Either serve 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 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 sear each piece until golden, turning once during cooking.
See more of Caoline’s recipes in Saltwater Kitchen Cookbook, £17.99 available from www.surfgirlbeachboutique.com
Photos: Tom Young