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The art of foraging


30 May 2016

In the latest Contini blog, Claire, our lovely Chef de Partie at Cannonball Restaurant, tells us all about why she just loves foraging.

 

Don’t believe everything you see on TV. The chefs you see on your screens make it look so easy with beautiful plates of food put together quickly by the hands of a genius. Sorry to say, it just isn’t that simple. While it is true that excellent chefs are indeed artists, what they don’t often show you on TV is the other people who make the chef’s art a possibility.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have found my job. The historic three-storey building housing Contini Cannonball is where I’ve been proud to call my second home for the past two years. On the very top floor, you’ll find our beautiful restaurant with the most breathtaking view in the city. This is where our very own Contini artists do their best work. Our senior head chef, Marcin, is definitely gifted. He has a talent that, so far in my experience, is unrivalled and it’s thanks to him that I discovered my love for all things foraged.

Soon after I started at Cannonball, Marcin introduced me to a diamond find – a supplier called Ben, who has been very aptly nicknamed ‘Ben Forager’ because of his talent for sourcing a whole list of beautiful foraged herbs, leaves, vegetables and flowers. Thanks to Ben, I’ve discovered delicious treasures such as sweet cicely, channel wrack, scurvy grass and, my personal favourite, pink purslane. Those little leaves and micro flowers are utterly glorious in their colour and flavour, and make me proud to send out every plate of food that’s graced with them.

While working for Victor and Carina certainly has its perks, the biggest for me is the access we have to their treasured Kitchen Garden. Out in the country is one acre of beautifully cared for land where their greener than green fingered gardeners work tirelessly to grow us as many delicious vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers as we can serve. They care for a huge selection of seasonal, Scottish produce which they harvest for all three of our restaurants, meaning our ingredients literally could not be any fresher. Every Thursday they deliver a giant crate of salads such as mizuna and tendril peashoots, fruits like our vibrantly pink Victoria rhubarb, and delicate, precious little viola flowers found in an amazing range of glorious colours. Thursday is officially my favourite day of the week!

Cooking is an art form. It takes a delicate hand, a wild imagination, just the right amount of lovable insanity, and, most importantly, as wide a range of beautiful ingredients as you can possibly get your hands on. Foraging is something we should all be doing! The world is a beautiful place, full of hidden treasures that most of us are missing out on, so pay attention and discover all the delightful little things it has to offer. Take a second, when you see these things on your plate, to marvel at them like we do when we lovingly place them there.

Next time you go to a restaurant, and your plate is decorated with these magnificent little gems, try them, taste them, appreciate them, and open yourself up to a whole new world of flavours.