How you get haute cuisine from hedges

Eating & Drinking
Short read

Georgina Wilson-Powell

26 January 2017

Rose petal jam. Sour river blackberry ice cream. Lilac wine vinaigrette. Welsh pop-up restaurant 1000 Footsteps’ menus sounds like a woodland creatures’ feast from a children’s book. A remote spot in the Brecon Beacons may not seem like the obvious place for a restaurant but when the entire fine dining style menu is foraged from within a mile radius, it becomes a tale worth telling. A meal at 1000 Footsteps is a magical mystery tour into an often overlooked realm that's right under our noses, where food is free, and bountiful.

From foraging to footsteps

“Plants are like little jewels for me, it’s like treasure that’s hidden in plain view,” explains Adele Nozedar, co-founder of the restaurant and Brecon Beacons Foraging. She grew up with close relatives who foraged the fields and forest paths and at first thought everyone knew what was edible around them. It was only when she released a book, 'The Hedgerow Handbook', and got a lot of interest in her foraging walks, that she realised most people don’t know their wild onions from their wood sorrel.

“I think it’s amazing what people start to notice once they’re shown how to do it. I like it when people are standing on what I want to talk about,” she says. ”I wish there wasn’t even a word for foraging to be honest - it just was part of life a couple of generations ago and certainly wasn’t exotic. Free herbs, fruits and plants were an important part of people’s diets.”

Having lived on the top of a remote hill for a couple of decades, she moved further down the valley a couple of years ago and set out on daily walks to explore her new landscape, walking 1,000 steps in a randomly picked direction before heading home.

“I Googled it and found 1,000 footsteps is about a mile - the perfect length for a short walk,” she explains. “I started realising just how much edible stuff there was within a mile of where we were so my partner, who is a chef, and I started talking about a 1,000 footsteps menu."

  Foraging on the Brecon Beacons for 1,000 Footsteps
“Foraging is just scanning for edible stuff, it’s a really easy route into being more in tune with nature”

Loving the land

Nozedar has lived in the Brecon Beacons for over twenty years. She moved to the area ten days after visiting it for the first time, having fallen in love with the landscape and the fast-paced weather that casts its shadows across the lush Welsh hills and valleys.

“Where I lived first, on top of this hill, the River Taft used to run through the bottom of the garden. I sat there on my first visit by an enormous boulder and thought I could live here in this ancient wooded land,” she says. “You can have a relationship with a landscape that isn’t about words but about belonging - a place can feel like home instantly and you don’t know why. That feeling of being out of time I think helps you find yourself again.”

Hedgerows to haute cuisine

Having cooked for bands while running a recording studio on the top of her hill for many years (and feeding them foraged plants and berries when they weren’t looking), Nozedar and her partner started their pop-up last April. The ingredients are foraged, grown in her garden or even scrumped from neighbouring gardens and turned into dishes like Cantref wild garlic pappardelle with walnut sauce and Geranium leaf angel cake.

“Liam takes the ingredients and applied them to non-British cuisines, so he’ll be inspired by Swedish, Japanese and Moroccan dishes,” she explains. The dishes are different every time and completely dependent on what ingredients they can get that day. 

“I work on the starters and desserts. I made an amazing rose petal trifle last year. You take lots of rose petals and mix them with caster sugar in a jar and leave it in a sunny place. The heats reacts with the petals and it breaks down to form an amazing rose syrup.”

Everyone’s invited

For Nozedar, the experience of gathering food isn’t just a practical exercise, it’s an emotional one too.

“Foraging is just scanning for edible stuff, it’s a really easy route into being more in tune with nature,” she explains. “If you take a short foraging stroll and you know what you’re looking for, once you start you can’t stop. You realise how precious everything is and how much a part of it we are. Once you have the information about what these plants can do - you have a sort of relationship with them.”

“I get lots of people on my walks talking about how disconnected we are from nature. We’re not - we can’t be - everything invented has come from this planet. If we realise we are all connected then perhaps we’d feel more responsible for the environment and look after it more.”

And foraging doesn’t have to mean hours of trekking through muddy woods and over fields.

“Anyone can walk a 1,000 footsteps and discover the immediate world around them,” Nozedar says. “London is one of the best places to go foraging, with all of its park lands and interactions of plants and nationalities. With plants, the more human interaction there’s been in the area, the better variety of plants you get.”

Nozedar and her partner are gearing up for this spring and summer’s pop-up restaurant dates and have big plans for 1,000 Footsteps.

“I’d love to do a 1,000 Footsteps book about the philosophy of taking notice of where we are.”

And with that she’s off, walking home from a neighbourhood phone box that’s been turned into lending library. Who knows what she’ll pick up from the hedgerows on the way home for tea.

Make your own foraged tea

Nozedar suggests an easy recipe for those who want to forage for the first time.

"In spring, our systems need a boost after the stodgy winter months. One of the best ways I know to do this is so simple. Simply pick a couple of leaves of dandelion, nettle and sorrel and infuse into them a tea which will charge up your system with a big whack of green goodness!"

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