Guest blog: Springtime in Pembrokeshire
By Matt Powell
So, my new chapter started in early February.
From my humble beginnings operating out of a tent, then a few years of a caravan, I’ve now moved to a lovely small bungalow out in rural Pembrokeshire, between Cresselly and Martletwy. It was a lot of hard work getting the place painted and decorated in readiness for my first guests who arrived back in March, before Covid-19 arrived and the world was tipped on its head.
But finally I now have a solid base to run my foraging and food days from, so I’ll be well placed when everything with the coronavirus does calm down. I am hoping to open before too long, depending on government advice as I think I’ll be able to operate safely with very small groups. Rest assured though, I’ll only re-open when I can be confident of protecting everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Since the lockdown I have been keeping very busy preparing and starting a small permaculture garden by the bungalow. This is something I have long wanted to do, and its been brilliant to have the time and space to get started. I have some gardening knowledge, but I’m loving the learning experience of working with nature and finding ways to try and make the least impact as possible on the local environment and fragile eco system.
As well as the normal staple vegetables, I have put some wild vegetables and herbs in that are not readily available, or have become too rare to pick in the wild and I am also growing some fungi. I have created a morel bed, and I am also going to cultivate small batches of Lion mane, native oyster and hen of the woods to begin with. These cultures will take a while to set in and it will be a massive plus when the fungi actually fruit.
The fruits of my labour will eventually just add to what I am able to use and create in new dishes for my tasting menus throughout the seasons, as I now plan to remain open year round. Late autumn and winter will be interesting as the foraging day will be shorter and will focus more on the food side of things. But for those of you put off venturing outside by the shorter days and colder weather, you could just of course join me for dinner if preferred.
Right now, nature is blooming. I have been gathering wild garlic shoots and more recently the wild garlic flower pods for pickling, and soon it will be time to collect the seed pods for the wild capers.
Dandelions have been picked, pods for capers and flower heads for wine which will get turned into vinegar for a new dish, based on a savoury creation of dandelion and burdock.
When I’m not tending the garden, foraging across the land that surrounds the bungalow or working on new dishes in the kitchen, I’ve been absorbed in preparing my well-loved delicious local lamb legs. These cured and then air-dried legs are used sliced as an addition to my bread course on the foraging day dinner. Those of you who’ve tried it know just how good this stuff tastes
I just love the countryside at this time of year, the sound of the birds on their nests and the rich picking in the hedgerows are just amazing.
Wandering through my local lanes and picking fresh wild plants for steaming or for use in salads is a delight. One of my favourite quick and easy recipes to make is my hedgerow green sauce. It is basically a salsa Verde or sauce vert using the plants from the hedgerow that are close to me.
Matt's recipe for hedgerow green sauce.
- Equal amounts of wild garlic, Jack by the hedge, sorrel, and nettles.
- A dash of sea buckthorn juice (or lemon juice)
- Rapeseed oil
- A pinch of wild garlic capers (normal capers will also do)
- Sea salt and pepper
- Wash the plants well, pat dry and place all of them into a blender or food processor, add a dash of sea buckthorn juice and blitz down to a coarse puree.
- With the blender on full slowly add the oil to help break down the plants and to bring the mix into a good consistency sauce.
- Taste and add a dash more sea buckthorn juice to taste and season with salt and pepper.
- When that’s done then add a few tablespoons of wild garlic capers, don’t puree these, just mix them in.
I hope you all stay safe and well during these difficult times and I look forward to being able to welcome you to my little corner of wild and unspoiled Pembrokeshire very soon.
Learn more about Matt on his website.