In the first of a regular series of articles exploring the characters and companies doing exciting things for the Cambridge food scene, we talk wild food with Food Safari, an award winning Suffolk-based food experience company, as they look forward to bringing their foraging workshops to the green and leafy city of Cambridge on Saturday 11 May. Food Safari has got the whole spectrum of food experiences covered, from butchery to beekeeping, but learning how to forage for wild food, then prepare and cook it safely to create a tasty and inexpensive gourmet masterpiece is the ultimate foodie pastime. A huge variety of edible plants can be found at this time of year, including delicious wild garlic, and now that the spring sunshine has finally arrived, its the perfect time to discover the abundance of wild greens, nuts and fruits. Polly Robinson, founder of Food Safari, told us more...
Based in the beautiful and foodie region of East Suffolk, Food Safari runs a programme of food and drink courses and events focused on the origins of truly great food. Food Safari's courses and hands-on workshops with food and drink experts go further than a traditional cookery school, providing foodies with an unrivalled insight into "field to fork" in their local area. This year, Food Safari is branching out of Suffolk and launching new courses in London, Derbyshire, Lancashire and, of course, our beloved Cambridgeshire. Founder Polly Robinson is considered quite the local food expert herself and chatting about food in her rural cottage in Suffolk, it quickly became clear that her students are in excellent hands. To Polly, eating well is all about valuing the food that we eat, understanding where it comes from, and identifying the farms, farmers, fishermen and artisan producers at its source. Polly founded Food Safari in 2009 to provide events for adults and families which would take curious foodies like her behind the scenes to meet those producing the best, local foods and learn more about the producer to plate journey we usually take for granted. Now, 5 years on, with a packed programme of events held on farms, fishing boats, in sometimes surprising rural and urban venues, Food Safari is well-known for providing fun, educational, often life-changing food experiences to a diverse bunch of foodies across the UK.
Getting back to basics and making art out of the humble plant is hugely fashionable on the fine dining scene right now. Always a sucker for a food trend (but also happy to save a few pennies by using inventive ingredients) the more I find out about foraging, the more determined I am to make this my newest hobby. I had followed Food Safari founder Polly Robinson's fascinating field to fork exploits on Twitter for a while before I got my first taste of foraging for wild food at Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival in September last year. Local foraging expert, Vivia, led us on a short Food Safari wild food foray around the festival site at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, pointing out numerous examples of seasonal treats to be foraged at will and keeping our little group completely enthralled by her knowledge of traditional, novel, and rather entertaining uses for the plants, trees and fungi we stumbled upon. Fresh air, the great outdoors and stimulating foodie chat all in one place. I was hooked.
Eager to learn more, I was one of the first to sign up to Food Safari's debut wild food appearance in Cambridge in March, as part of the Eat Cambridge festival, which saw more than 30 wannabe foragers crammed into Hot Numbers Cafe on a rainy Wednesday evening to hear Food Safari forager, Jacky, talk us through the basics of wild food forays followed by a delicious bowl of homemade soup to inspire us all to give foraging a try ourselves. We talked dandelion leaves from Midsummer Common and marvelled at the edible quality of the abundant weed known as Sticky Willy, solemnly passing round leaves and stems, tasting as we went and committing each recipe suggestion to memory.
Fortunately for the true foodies of Cambridge, Food Safari is hopping over the border once again to share the wild food secrets to be found right here in the heart of the city. Taking place on Saturday 11 May, the introductory course will include an in-depth walking tour of the wild foods on offer in Coe Fen's diverse part-meadow, part-wetland and river bank environment. Led by local expert and Cambridge resident Jacky Sutton Adam, the foray will feature tips and tricks for identifying wild food, picking it safely and legally, and how to cook or preserve your bounty once you get home. Suitable for friends, couples, singles, budding chefs, wannabe foodies, or outdoorsy types, all that's required is an open mind, a healthy appetite and sensible shoes! With one week to go until A Taste of the Wild comes to Cambridge, I'm told that there are just a few spaces remaining for the wild food foray next Saturday starting at 10.30am at Coe Fen. If, like me, you think a gentle walk in the sunshine learning about and tasting wild foods sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning, you can book your place here.