Friday, 18 December 2015

Super Solstice, Cool Yule & Natural New Year

Christmas is coming and thanks to our virtually Paleo diet (that bit is probably a lie), we hopefully won't get too fat.
We chopped down and decorated a small tree; the children gathered plenty of greenery and made a wreath for the front door.
We also harvested enough mistletoe to bring the love into our house during the Halcyon days and well into the New Year. We spread plenty around our neighbours and friends too.
I have been very industrious in my bottling of Sloe Gin, Taybury Gin, Mullberry Gin and Cherry Vodka. It all looks very stylish in neat square little bottles.
Meanwhile my wife was making mincemeat with the children and we soon had a tray filled with hot mince pies to add to the mix, this made the house smell very seasonal.
I made several bottles of Mulled Wine. This time I used 2013 Elderberry Port as a base and poured it over the Sloes that were left after bottling the Sloe Gin. I added some nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice and cloves and left it to soak for a couple of weeks. I then strained off the resultant potent brew and bottled it.
This archaic alchemical potion won't just warm the cockles of the heart, it will blow the bloody doors off it! Perfect with Mince Pies when visiting friends...

Have a Super Solstice a Cool Yule and a Happy New Year! x0x0
Now, That's a Christmas Tree!
Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
Order your copy now!
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or Amazon.
Author: Alan Gibson
ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

We Made Our Own Fliping Nutella

My daughter is a fan of Nutella and spreads it on everything, including her face sometime. Seeing as we had collected a vast amount of Hazelnuts, it seemed an obvious idea to make our own.
We Made This... Ta Da!
I made "nutella" once before and destroyed the drive cog on our blender in the process. I'm sure it was on the way out anyway...
We found several different methods but in the end, we chose one that used ingredients that we either had in the cupboards or could easily obtain locally.
Don't Burn Your Fingers and Don't Eat Too Many Before Weighing
This time we used a recipe from Oh Nuts! and everyone agreed that it tasted even better than the real thing. Plus not a drop of palm oil was used, so no need to apologise to the environment... By the time you read this, I'm sure we will be well into the making of our next batch.

Whisk and Whisk...

  • 2.5 oz roasted unsalted hazelnuts (also available from shops!)
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 oz (about 1/2 cup) plain chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp honey. We used some donated by friends of the Urbane Forager.
  • a food processor

French Foragers Honey From Friends

  1. The first step is to toast the hazelnuts.  Toasting nuts adds a depth of flavour that’s important to the finished product. It also makes it easier to remove any remaining skins. So place your nuts in a preheated 200 degree C oven, and toast them until they’re brown and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Be sure to stir them every 3-4 minutes to keep them from burning. Once they’re toasted, remove the skins then set them aside (the nuts, not the skins) until they’re no longer hot.
  2. The food processor is going to do most of the work in this recipe. Start by adding the cooled, toasted hazelnuts to the processor bowl. Turn the food processor on, and after a minute or two you’ll be left with very finely ground hazelnuts. Wonderful for sprinkling on pastries, but that’s not what we’re going for, so keep processing. After another minute, the nuts will start to clump together around the blade, and you’ll find you have a smooth paste. Add a touch of salt, and you've create a tasty hazelnut butter! But we want nutella, so turn that processor back on…
  3. Nice...
    After about 5 minutes, your hazelnuts should be processed into a liquid. Scrape down the sides and the blade and process until there are no lumps remaining. Set the hazelnuts aside while you prepare the chocolate portion of the recipe.
  4. The chocolate will need to be melted, so we used the double boiler method on the stove-top. Whichever method you choose, combine the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, and honey in a bowl.
  5. If you’re using a double boiler, put the bowl on a pan of simmering water on the stove-top, and heat it, stirring frequently, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. If you’re using the microwave, be sure to stir the mix after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating, and stop once everything is melted together.
  6. Messy Marbling
    Now you've barely done any work and the nutella’s almost finished. It’s magic! The final step is to add the warm chocolate mix to the bowl of the food processor that contains the liquefied hazelnuts.
  7. Process the mix for 1-2 minutes more, until it smooths out, loses a little graininess, and gets shiny. The more you mix, the stiffer the nutella gets, so be sure to stop while it is still nice and spreadable.
  8. We then added the mixture to clean, previously used (and we like to think), Up-cycled Nutella jars.
  9. Ta Da!
    Into Jars (Before Eating)
    Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
    Order your copy now!
    You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or Amazon.
    Author: Alan Gibson
    ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7
    Now also available for your Kindle

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Sloe TV

It is that time of year again, when we start to think about gathering Sloes. In Celtic folklore, the Blackthorn occupies a dark and possibly even sinister area concerning Samhain (the precursor to Halloween), and facing your own mortality. Certainly, once the leaves come off the trees, they can have a somewhat foreboding skeletal look about them.
You can make many interesting things out of the wood of the Blackthorn tree but the most popular use for the Sloe Berry is deliciously plummy Sloe GinYou should get your Sloe Gin started by mid November, if you want to have it ready in time for Xmas. It can make a very welcome gift, especially if you store it in decorative bottles. Lore states that you should ideally wait until the first frost, before you pick them (alternatively, sling them in the freezer). After this these highly astringent fruits apparently ripen and taste sweeter.
Obviously, the name of the Blackthorn contains a barely veiled warning, it can be a prickly business, but picking these bloomy blue/black babies brings its own reward. To make Sloe Gin, simply immerse your Sloes in Gin, add some sugar, to help bring out the juice. Leave the mixture to steep for at least a month giving the jar a regular shake (every day for the first week, then every week for the following month or so). Some people recommend piercing the sloes with a thorn first but my experimentation has shown this to be unnecessary. 
I picked mine during lunch-time walks and ferried them home each day in my sandwich box. I already knew where the bushes were because I had spotted to Blackthorn blossom in the hedgerows in March. I filled a large Kilner-jar with berries and then topped it up with gin and a little sugar. I taste it regularly, just to check, then filter off the debris before decanting it into bottles. All that is then required are some decorative labels.
To get a bit more product from your efforts, another top tip, is to reuse the gin soaked sloes by pouring red wine over them, I'm using Elderberry Port from 2013). Leaving them to soak further, produces a fortified wine, ideal for the winter months. I like experimenting, and can't see any good reason for not giving this a go. I then intend to take this a stage further by using the resultant brew to make mulled wine!

Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
Order your copy now!
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or Amazon.
Author: Alan Gibson
ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7

The best Urbane Forager images are now on Pinterest. Please follow & share.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Russet, Rufus, Red, Green and Gold

We always enjoy Autumnal walks in the New Forest and one of our favourite places to visit at this time of year is Rufus Stone.
The towering Beech trees stand like sentinels, possible witnesses to the "accidental" slaying of King William the Second (Known as Rufus for his red hair) by Sir Walter Tyrell. Hunting mistakes do seem to be a common theme in medieval regicide.
We checked out the memorial plaque but we were not here for a history lesson so much as to wander amongst the mist wreathed splendour of the forest.
Every inch of the mossy, boggy landscape beneath our feet seemed turned to bronze by the falling leaves, while those remaining on the trees shimmered in the gentle wind.
A thin dappled sunlight glimmered through after our lunch time picnic, bringing an ethereal beauty to the russet and green glow
I don't know how many miles we walked, it must have been at least five but nobody seemed to notice the distance as we wondered at the view.
The children kept pace with us for most of the time and there was very little questioning about how far we still had to go. They were kept busy working out how to jump streams and negotiate bogs.
I think we timed it just about perfectly, both with regard to the time of year and the duration/distance of the walk because everyone still seemed deeply satisfied on our return. I even had the opportunity to gather another bag-full of Sloes.
Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
Order your copy now!
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or Amazon.
Author: Alan Gibson

ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7
The best Urbane Forager images are now on Pinterest. Please follow & share.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Exciting Events

We are organising a free community walk with Clare Diaper.
The last walk we did was a huge success, so please share this info to help promote the event.
We meet at 1:30 pm Sun 29th November, at the St Denys train station (Car park of Great South Western pub).
We will walk through St Denys and over Cobden bridge into Riverside Park with the potential to carry on along the Itchen river to Mansbridge, depending on the available light.
I will be pointing out lots of fruit trees that I know in this area including Cherry, Apple, Plum, Crab Apple, Pear and even Mistletoe in my guise as the Urbane Forager.
Clare will be talking about climate change and the potential for river levels to rise as a result. The walk is free and anyone can come but it may involve some rough terrain, so people should dress appropriately and be responsible for their own safety.
If anyone would like to purchase copies of the Urbane Forager book on the day, please notify me in advance through here or on and I will bring some along.
Please put this date in your diary and come along to discover some exciting new things about our lovely city.

Another interesting event is the, Goswell and Milne Midwinter Pop Up Supper Club. This takes place on 5th Dec 7:30 pm at the Art House Cafe. Tickets for this event can be obtained here.

The best Urbane Forager images are now on Pinterest. Please follow us there too & spread the word.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Organic Fruit & Nuts For Free

Regular readers of this blog will know by now that we pick a colossal amount of Apples (as well as other fruit and nuts) from public ground around the city and all of it is available for free, but only for those willing to seek it out and collect it.
You might be tempted to think that because we harvest so much, there will be none left for everyone else who is interested, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is still a great quantity of fruit out there, waiting to be picked.
With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to show just some of the trees that we have not picked any fruit from. They are ripe and waiting to be harvested, or ready to drop on the ground and be heartily consumed by Mother Nature (which is also good). In these times of enforced austerity, where we are constantly bombarded with news of food poverty and food banks, I have been known to make bold proclamations about the democratisation of food.
Mostly what we do is explore our environment and then pick free fresh fruit and nuts because they are available and to prevent it being wasted. It is nice to be outdoors and we do have a great deal of free fun. However, despite the huge amounts that we pick, there is still far, far too much for us. This is why we want to engage and inspire other people, to do similar things. WE aim to enable anyone else to do the same for themselves; hence the open access global fruit map and free Seasonal id Sheets.
We are fortunate to have steady employment and often buy food in the shops, like everyone else but we will not be buying Apples, Pears, BlackberriesHazelnuts, Walnuts, Apple Juice etc. this Winter, because we have stacks stored away. It does surprise me when I see people crushing fresh fruit under the wheels of there large vehicles, as they queue in dense polluting traffic in order to get to the overcrowded, overpriced sterile environment of the supermarkets.
These people could be out in a field, enjoying the open air and gathering organic Fruit and Nuts for Free, but the fact that they are not, means that there is always plenty left for those who are making the effort to forage.

Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
Order your copy now!
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or Amazon.
Author: Alan Gibson
ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7

We now have our best images on Pinterest. Please follow & share.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


In the Urbane Forager's calendar October and November means it's time to gather Sweet Chestnuts. Autumn is always our favourite time for walks out in the New Forest but Chestnut trees can be found in many places within the city too and often it is easier to spot them when they fall onto the pavement. 
You can carefully remove the spiny hulls with your shoes or boots and it is always special when the shiny mahogany brown nuts pop out - you are the first person to ever witness this magical moment.
We only collect the largest, fattest of the nuts we find. We always try to find the one tree in an area, which provides the biggest nuts and they we comb the area to find and collect the cream of the crop to take home and roast. You can freeze your hoard if you wish to preserve them for later.
We pierce and roast our chestnuts over a small fire or BBQ but you can do them in an oven (always make a small cut in each shell prior to cooking or they will explode). I find that the flames help to burn the shells and pith, making them more easy to peal, which can be a really tricky job. Roast Chestnuts are the perfect accompaniment to a chilly Autumn night or to nibble while watching fireworks on Guy Fawkes night.
It is easy to make all kinds of things out of Chestnuts, even flour to bake with; clearly you need patience to peel off all the shells and pithy skin. My Mum used to cook Chestnut Tarts (like jam tarts but filled with Chestnut purée) as an Autumnal treat. This year I made a "Chestnut roasting tin" so that we could also cook them in the hot ashes of our garden fire chimney.
Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or even Amazon.
the Urbane Forager: Fruit and Nuts for Free
Author: Alan Gibson
ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Vine to Wine

While doing our walk over Peartree Green and also at the Apple Day we met John and Pixie; they mentioned that they had too many grapes growing in their Southampton garden. They wanted help harvesting their hoard of fruit before it dropped all over the garden.
They did warn me that there was a lot and so I popped over. It was only when I saw the size of the vine did I realise the scale of what was required, but I set about picking as many as I could, before having to pick the kids up, after their swimming lessons.
I managed to fill my big bucket and as the weather was nice we set about crushing and pressing the fruit that same afternoon. It was a sticky job but a very tasty one non the less.
We added Uncle Loz's white allotment grapes, while we were at it. They were a bit sweeter than the dark ones from our friend's vine.
I pasteurised several bottles and set the rest off to brew into wine, it is bubbling away merrily now but there's no way of telling what it will taste like until it has finished fermenting. I am already very pleased with my cider this year, it's definitely my best batch so far.
We also put a couple of pints of grape juice aside to turn into Grape Jelly. I haven't tried this yet but it looks very promising.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Pear and Walnut Chutney

Not the "Supermoon" - Pear Tarte Tartin
We had a surfeit of foraged Walnuts and Pears clogging up my shed and the kitchen. I was aware the Walnuts would keep but knew that the Pears would need to be used up quite soon and, no matter how delicious it is, there's only so much Chocolate Pear Upside-Down CakePear Tarte Tartin & Pear and Mulberry Crumble that can be consumed before bringing on fear of a heart attack! 
Chocolate Pear Upside-Down Cake
I made a winning Chunky Pear and Walnut Chutney back in 2011, but it was a bit too chunky for sandwiches. This time I chopped everything a bit finer and made twice the amount. It looks quite different and spreads nicely and importantly it actually does taste just as good my original attempt.
Peeled Apples, Pears and Onions
  • 1.2 Kg. Pears
  • 225g Cooking Apples
  • 400g Sugar
  • 450ml Cider Vinegar
  • 225g Onions
  • 120g Walnuts, Chopped
  • 1 Orange
  • 275g Sultanas
  • 1.5 tsp. Cinnamon (ground)
  1. Peel and core the pears and apples. Cut them and the onions into small chunks. Put the fruit and the vinegar together into a large preserving pan and stir. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer gently for 30 - 40 mins, stirring it occasionally to prevent any sticking.
  2. Meanwhile, thinly grate the zest off the outside of the orange and set this aside. Also, gently toast the walnuts in a non-stick pan over a low heat, until they become slightly paler. 
  3. Place the sultanas in a bowl and the squeeze all the juice of the orange over the sultanas and leave to soak. 
  4. After the fruit and vinegar has reduced, add the sugar, sultanas, orange juice, and zest into the preserving pan and heat gently while stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Finally, add the toasted walnuts and the cinnamon to the chutney.
  5. Simmer gently for a further 30 - 40 mins stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Spoon the chutney into pre-sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool dark place. 
This delicious chutney should be properly ready in about a month and should keep for a year. It will make a uniquely zesty, home-made, Xmas gift and will undoubtedly add a little spice to your food during the Winter months.