“Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, all must be tasted.” Chinese Proverb
Foraging is not just a simple means to survival. Learning to forage for just a few basic things is tuning into the the local nature (including the nature of one’s soul) in a more respectful and sustainable way, that provides mankind with the ability to focus on worthwhile things in life. The ‘foliage’ carelessly passed by many on a daily basis has real treasure, can effortlessly reveals itself as a larder filled with an ocean of flavours, uses and historically guarded stories. Whilst walking, being in nature is a pleasure in itself, gathering and storing for winter from Mother Nature’s plenty, even in the towns and cities is an unforgettable experience. Autumn is the time of gifts and armed with the essential knowledge the kings of the treasures on offer are not hard to find.
The last fruit of the British autumn, the sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn, a common hedge and roadside bush that blossoms a stunning white in spring and has sharp ends to its dark, stiff, spiky branches. It has oval green leaves about 2 to 4 cm long, in which the clusters of round black-blue miniature sloe berries can be found. Green-fleshed, plum-like with a little stone in the centre, they can be a cracking ingredient not just in gin (the sloes are combined with sugar and alcohol and left to steep in a cool, dark place for several months, before being strained and rebottled), but in various savoury dishes. They can also flavour vinegar or wine. Some say, sloes are much too sharp to eat raw, and they have limited uses when cooked, but their interesting sour, can say extremely tart, taste and high pectin content means that when they are sometimes combined with other fruit in jams and jellies they encourage deeper flavour and natural setting.
“Every white will have its black, and every sweet its sour.” Thomas Percy
150 grams plain flour
75 grams grated hard cheese
100 grams soft unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
A handful of ripe sloes, pitted and chopped
Mix all the ingredients, but sloes together until a golden dough begins to form. Turn it out onto a surface and knead for about 30 seconds until smooth, then carefully knead in sloes. Roll it into a ball and cover in a piece of clingfilm. Place it in the fridge and rest for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the dough out of the fridge, gently roll on floured surface to about 2 cm thickness. Cut small circles and arrange on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake for 15–20 minutes, when they should be just beginning to turn gold at the edges. Remove from the oven, then leave to cool before eating.
“Food should not be too salty, too hot, too bitter, too sweet, too sour.” Sri Sathya Sai Baba