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. 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. “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 a recipe to try that incorporate 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!
Photos by Tom Young
Hake wrapped in kelp & steamed on seaweed with nettle gnocchi, alexanders & pepper dulse sauce
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.
• 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
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.