Foraging has been popular for some years now, and professional chefs’ enthusiasm for gathering food from wild and natural places is only increasing. On Monday 30th April, forty top chefs from across Wales flocked to a fascinating forage led by wild food expert David Harrison.

Cardiff AudiThe beautifully manicured grounds of Grade 1 listed Hensol Castle was the perfect setting for the wild food hunt.  Headline sponsor Cardiff Audi set a stunning car display of a Q3 and Q5, the perfect all-rounder for country life.  Having just last Wednesday worked with Cardiff Audi to stage a brilliant customer event showcasing Welsh chefs and Welsh food, it was great to invite the Audi brand experience team to the cheffy convention to showcase the excellence in service and product exuded in the guest experience at Hensol Castle and The Vale Resort.

It was the perfect weather for the chefs to embark upon on a flora and fauna adventure in glorious spring sunshine. Harrison is Michelin-starred chef Simon Hulstone’s personal forager and sources wild ingredients exclusively for Simon and his small team of talented chefs at The Elephant, Torquay.

Dean Cooking on the Synergy GrillToday’s event was hosted by The Vale Resort Executive Chef Dean Milburn.  Dean has been a Chefs’ Forum member for the last six years, most recently at Bristol University before venturing across the bridge to take on this fantastic role catering for the golfing glitterati and a huge 180 weddings a year at one of the biggest golfing resorts in the UK set on 650 acres.

The gastronomic gathering commenced with a canapé and fizz or Clifton Coffee reception where Dean and his team prepared a stunning array of bite-sized morsels for the culinary guests. Dean showcased the finest Welsh ingredients in Perl Las mouse mini cones with a charcoal biscuit flake and pressed pickled cucumber with brown crab mayo. Dean also created three versions of mini Walter Rose chicken thigh skewers to be cooked on the Synergy Grill, marinated in Santa Maria wasabi and sesame, lemon curry and BBQ pulled pork rub.

Claire Mansfield Synergy GrillClaire Cooking Lamb from Walter RoseDemo chef Claire Mansfield joined forces with Jack Cook of Walter Rose & Son to showcase the award-winning Synergy Grill, searing top quality Wiltshire meat to perfection. Dean Milburn also charred his mini vegetables in preparation for his cookery demo on the Vegetarian Society Approved energy-saving grill. A double draw Adande refrigerated drawer unit completed the perfect BBQ terrace equipment solution as the top drawer was used as a fridge to store Walter Rose meat and its counter top, complete with a red board made a great surface for the butchery demo.  Jack then showcased his lamb butchery skills with Claire cooking the various cJack Cook Butchery Demouts of the best end of Wiltshire lamb including the pencil fillet, rack of lamb, stuffed breast and chops.

Dean then showcased two of his signature dishes: Cherry cola glazed pork fillet and Chermoula-rubbed lamb cannon.  The visiting chefs quickly devoured the delicious plates of food and all said that they would be back to try his cooking in The Grill restaurant at The Vale resort.

Dean said:

“I don’t like to take away from the main ingredient in my cooking, in this case, stunning Wiltshire lamb cannon and beautiful pork fillet, both supDean's Lamb dishplied by Walter Rose & Son. Instead of trying to overcomplicate the dishes, I try to accentuate the flavours of the meat. It’s great having all the chefs visit today and it was lovely to be able to showcase the venue – I look forward to hosting the next one!”

The culinary experts went on a tour of Hensol Castle’s stunning grounds, learning to find and identify the abundance of edible plants, seeds, nuts, flowers and fungi that grow wild in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside. They learnt that provided you are furnished with a permission from the land owner, the only real cost of foraging is time, a valuable resource for chefs. Most foraged produce is perishable and requires picking for service daily or every other day.

Forager David Harrison told chefs:

“Once you pick something, it immediately starts to lose its peak flavour and texture. We do not store anything for that reason; we forage every day.  It’s great to see so many Welsh chefs in attendance, we found lots of species today including hogweed, water mint, cleavers, hedge mustard, lesser celandine, bittercress, nettles, cuckoo flower, hemlock water dropwort, coltsfoot, bug violets and beech leaves. I hope that foraging with the chefs today spikes and interest in foraging and encourages them to bring tForagehis old skill back into the kitchen” 

The event was a great chance for chefs to learn about foraging for their menus and the copious amount of amazing wild ingredients growing all around them.

Catherine Farinha, Chefs’ Forum Founder and event organiser concluded:

“Hensol Castle was the perfect venue to hold an unusual and absorbing day of butchery grilling and foraging.  It is great to see that the chefs are so keen on foraging and trying new cooking techniques with wild ingredients. Chefs’ Forum events provide a great opportunity for them all to meet up, touch base and share expertise and see the best products and produce available to them.”

Photography by www.fayditphotography.com