Sourced at Vinoteca

Sea beets
Purslane, a village salad ingredient in Greece
Elderberries
Rosehips
Rosehip syrup
Elderberries for liqueur, syrup and jelly

Foraging and the use of foraged goods in London restaurants is a dated concept by now, although I can’t help but thinking (and hoping not) that chefs have regarded it as yet another passing foodie fad. We chefs at Vinoteca are lucky to have the creative freedom to use any produce that might happen to come our way, and its always an exiting challenge to use unknown ingredients in dishes which highlight them, or demonstrate how nature grows its produce to be complimentary, leaving little to  the chef other than to respect those ingredients, not stuff about with them too much, and showcase their delicate flavours. Most recently we have used sloes to make sloe gin, elderberries for liqueur, ice cream, syrups and savoury jelly with terrine, and rose hips for a sweet syrup that compliments the tart pomegranate so well.

Its  easy to understand why so many professional kitchens don’t use these ingredients. As everything is gathered outdoors, it brings a little bit of the wild with it, therefore needs to be cleaned and sorted right away, something that kitchens with a tight team won’t have the time for. Our kitchen porter is not a fan of sea beets and sea purslane, which arrive with a fair amount of marsh mud, and when I recently got one of the staff to pick elderberries, whole families of tiny spiders and their mates came along for the ride.  Usually I think its a good policy that if a chef  wants to use elderberries, flowers or rose hips, they should be the one cleaning and preparing them – free elderberries became the most expensive commodity in the kitchen for a while,  all because of the hours of labour they required to become useable. Ditto for rosehips and their prickly, itchy hairs. Recommended only for the most exiteable cook!

Mushrooms are probably of the most fascinating foraged goods, but wild ones need to be picked with care, as they are more often than not riddled with maggoty tunnels if picked too late. Recently a supplier mixed different kinds of mushrooms as well. When picking for yourself this fine, but if supplying to a restaurant, any mushrooms that are even remotely on the dodgy  side, and hanging out between the edible ones possibly transferring spores and bad vibes, cannot be sold to paying customers. Then some  ingredients that are offered to restaurants of course just take the whole wild foods thing too far, which sums up my opinion of having chickweed and hedge garlic on the menu. On the other hand, I can’t wait to use green almonds, ramsoms and elderflowers again, and want to get my hands on some primroses too…

Giant puffball mushrooms

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Flowers says:

    Your blog looks wonderful. It was nice going through it.keep it up the good work. Cheers 🙂

  2. vinotecalondon says:

    Hello Almay,

    I have been most impressed by all the hard work you put into the elderberries! I haven’t had the privilege of tasting any of the finished products yet, but I hope to one day! I like the new look of your blog, nice and clean looking.

    Can you expand on why you don’t like chickweed or hedge garlic on a menu? It has gone straight over my non-chef head, but I imagine they are potentially poisonous?

    See you soon!

    Caitlin

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