About three months ago I had the good fortune of going for a week long trial in Copenhagen, the trial was at Noma and its sister restaurant 108, apart from the amazing kitchen experience I had during the days I spent there one of the favourite things I did there was an early morning in Funen a small neighbouring island not far from the city. Have to say that the foraging part was a highlight in the whole experience, and have since then wanted to learn more about it, and that indeed I had a lot left to learn, after the adventure was over one thing that stuck is how one could do this exercise in a city like Paris, in a restaurant kitchen that was not Michelin starred at home even. Foraging can indeed be translated into generous plates and the ingredients that are picked up to be a true part of the dish and not merely as a garnish.
As I always say…Chaos is a wonderful thing, it allows us to live and meet with the most extraordinary of people, and a few weeks ago whilst doing a gig for a dear friend’s daughter at Paris Sud University, I met with Jacqui Shykoff who happens to be the director for plant sciences there, Jacqui is a great teacher and her enthusiasm for plant life coupled with a passion for great cooking is a rare and wonderful thing to find.
She kindly invited me to her home where we spent the whole day walking, picking up edibles and discussing ways to prepare them afterwards. My six year old daughter as always was invited, adding an extra dimension of fun to the day.
Wanted to include most of the pictures I took so as to have a collected album of the day. I am also including Jaqui’s Georgian bread recipe which was the perfect method of how foraged food can be eaten at home on a generous table with loved ones.
Recipe for Nettle Khachapuri.
Jaqui used a traditional recipe for Khachapuri, a Georgian bread and added a forager’s touch to it by adding to the cheese a generous layer of freshly picked nettle leaves (urtica dioica) before covering with a second layer of dough.
Nettles are a great way to start cooking foraged food, that are abundant and easy to spot. They do however sting hence the name Stinging Nettle , so make sure to wear gloves when picking them up. One piece of advice from Jacqui is to always pick the young stems and always stay away from anything growing by the side of the road as it would contain high levels of Lead. Taking these simple precautions will ensure that the Nettles that are picked up are safe to eat and your hands intact from any stings and rashes.
Ingredients and Method.
100 g butter
500 g yogurt ( or fromage blanc)
add 600 – 700 g of bread flour and 20 g baking powder and 10 g baking soda plus 5g of salt and knead until you have an elastic dough
oil the surface and cover and let rest for several hours.
Cut the dough in half and open the first piece into a rectangle, cover with the thorn 400g feta as well as 500g mozzarella with the washed and drained nettle leaves, be careful they still sting so wear gloves when handling. They will stop stinging once cooked.
Cover with the second layer of dough , cut holes on top as you will have a lot of steam from the cheese as well as the nettles that would need to escape.
Bake at 200 degrees centigrade for about 40 minutes.
I ate the bread whilst still warm with my daughter whilst waiting for the train in the cold after the day we had at Orsay. It made waiting a pleasure.
I recommend you bake this bread as a first time foragers adventure, perfect winter food that goes down a treat after a day walking in the woods.