Do you want to bring a little WILD to your Christmas table this year? Learn how to make our delicious Wild Woodland Stuffing which includes foraged ingredients; mixed woodland mushrooms, sweet chestnut, wild garlic bulbs and nettle.
Making this stuffing not only gives you a great excuse to get out in the woods in the run up to Christmas to gather some wild ingredients, but it tastes great and it will be the talk of the table.
This stuffing recipe was created by James and Lea Kendall. We are foragers and outdoor activity leaders based in North Wales. We found that using some of the wild foods that we’d been gathering all year in this stuffing was a satisfying way to celebrate our foraging journey over the past year.
The stuffing gives a strong, earthy flavour. This recipe serves 8 – 10 people, or if you’re a smaller group then there’s enough for turkey and stuffing sandwiches on Boxing Day 🙂
270g breadcrumbs (wholemeal works best)
30g dried wild mushrooms – we used penny buns (ceps), parasols and brown birch boletes
4 bulbs wild garlic, finely chopped, use fewer if you want a less strong garlic flavour
300g cooked and peeled sweet chestnuts, roughly chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
25g butter, plus extra for greasing the tray
1 tbsp olive oil
15g of fresh nettle tops or dried nettle leaves, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
- Soak dried mushrooms in 350ml boiling water for 10 minutes so they soften. Drain, keeping the liquid for later, and chop them into small pieces.
- Add a few tablespoons of the mushroom liquid to the breadcrumbs, gently mix and leave to soak for 5 minutes until flavoured.
- If using fresh nettle tops, pour boiling water over the leaves to kill the stings and leave for 5 mins before draining then chopping finely.
- Heat the butter and oil in a pan, add the leeks and garlic and cook until softened. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients to the bowl until well mixed up. Season with salt and pepper then form into balls and place onto a buttered tray or dish.
- Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and crispy on the outside.
For the ultimate wild Christmas dinner, you could serve this stuffing with roast wild pheasant or partridge.
DISCOVER MORE FORAGING
If you want to get outdoors and learn foraging for yourself then you could come on one of our popular wild food courses.
We host our courses both in the woods in North East Wales and also regularly online through zoom sessions.
Check out our upcoming events to see what wild food courses we’re hosting soon:
A DEEPER LOOK AT THE FORAGED INGREDIENTS
In our recipe we used the following species of wild mushroom; parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera), penny bun (Boletus edulis) & brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum). These were selected because it’s what we had available dried already. There’s no doubt that the parasols and penny buns have great flavour, however the birch bolete is more bland and not an essential ingredient for your own recipe.
If you don’t have a supply of dried wild mushrooms that you’d foraged back in autumn then you could always buy a pack from the local deli.
When gathering nettles (Urtica dioca) at this time of year, it’s all about beating the frosts so you don’t get withered leaves. Only pick the top four leaves of the nettle and go for the plants which are in good condition and still young. They can be found in December, especially if you look where land has been grazed or cut, so you get nettle regrowth.
Unless you have had the mystic foresight to roast and then freeze some foraged sweet chestnuts back in the autumn, you’re probably going to have to head to the shops again.
DIGGING UP WILD GARLIC BULBS – GOOD PRACTISE
If you’re thinking of digging up wild garlic (Allium ursinum) bulbs then bear in mind that you’re are actually removing the wild plant from it’s habitats, not just harvesting the leaves which renew each year. So there’s a coupe of things we need to think about here so we’re exercising good practise as foragers:
- It is the law in the UK that you need the landowner’s permission to uproot any wild plant.
- You should only dig up bulbs from a spot where you know there to be an abundance of wild garlic in the spring, that way we’re only taking a very small amount of what’s in the ground.
- If you dig up any other bulbs that are not wild garlic then they must go back where and as you found them.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning english bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) which also grow from bulbs and can often by found in amongst wild garlic at ancient woodland sites. We don’t want to be digging these up and eating them, they are poisonous.
If the bulbs you’re digging up don’t smell strongly of garlic then they’re not what you’re looking for. So, give the bulb a sniff before putting it in your basket. Bear in mind that when handling a lot of garlic your fingers will start smelling of it too so make sure you’re smelling the bulbs and not your fingers 😉