Last week Z and R went on a play date with some of Z's mummy friends. There is nothing unusual about that. They tend to meet up regularly, especially during the school holidays when playgroups aren't running. What was a little peculiar was their choice of activity. They avoided museums, galleries and soft play gyms and opted instead for a bit of foraging.
We got the free food bug from watching River Cottage. Every time Hugh returned home with a trug full of berries, leaves or mushrooms, we pondered how easy it would be to do the same. We assumed that it was easier for him because he lived in the countryside. Living in inner-city Leeds, we felt like we would never be able to access nature's bountiful harvest to the same extent as Hugh could. But even living in the concrete jungle there is free food to be had.
The odd thing is, once you get your eye in there is food everywhere. Blackberries, cherries, sloes and apples hang freely in most verges and laybys. Churchyards groan with fruit. Public parks are littered with edible goodies. The odd thing is, the more you forage the more you find. Z and her friends were on a mission for cherries and cherries they found. They also found Blackcurrant bushes heavy with fruit and tonight's menu was formed.
Z cooked all of the blackcurrants in a little water the day she picked them so that they could be used in either savoury or sweet dishes later on. Today, while a couple of duck breasts were pan roasted, I made a sauce using some onions, reduced red wine and chicken stock, and finished it with some of the blackcurrant jam.
The meal was finished off with sautéed potatoes and spring greens, steamed and tossed in melted butter. The combination of the fatty, rich duck and the sweet, sharp blackcurrant sauce is one that is hard to beat. I know duck can be a bit expensive but when you can serve it with free food it becomes much easier to justify.
The rest of the jam was sweetened with honey and turned into ice lollies in the hope that this recent hot weather hangs around a bit longer. The cherries were turned into chocolate cake and cherry brandy. The cake didn't last long, but we'll have to wait until Christmas for the brandy.