Wild Wales: Food from the forest

Chapter two: In which we gather fruit in the forest, make two recipes, and contemplate a move to Murmur-valley.

Our first Welsh forest adventure was to look for sloes. Sloe gin and tonic is the drink of dreams it not only tastes fantastic but looks so sophisticated – all purple and bubbles and the glint of ice. Here is the recipe we made:

Take a quantity of fat purple-black sloes – most recipes tell you to gather after the first frosts but this is unnecessary – anytime from September to October is fine (here in the UK). Wash the sloes thoroughly and prick through with a needle to release the juice. Put enough sloes in a bottle to reach one-third of the way up. For a sweet drink add four tablespoons of white sugar – we prefer a more complex taste and add two tablespoons of sugar. Next add the gin. Don’t be tempted to use cheap gin as your efforts will taste foul. We use Gordon’s. Seal tightly and shake every second day. Keep out of the light otherwise the colour fades. It needs at least three months for the flavours to mix so by Christmas your sloe gin will be perfect.SloesTheBigForest

There is a family story of a bottle of sloe gin that was left (on purpose) for seven years. It developed in to the perfect sloe liqueur so if you can wait that long (and we rarely can) it might be worth the self-control.

Our second forage in the woodland around our Welsh temporary home was for blackberry’s, there were so many and we made a delicious blackberry and apple crumble using our favourite topping recipe from a 1970’s book by Sarah Brown:

Rub 50g (2oz) of butter in to 75g (3oz) of plain wholemeal flour. Then mix in 75g (3oz) of porridge oats, a handful of seeds – sunflower or pumpkin work well, 50g (2oz) of demerara (brown) sugar and four tablespoons of sunflower oil. Sprinkle on to the dish of blackberry and apple which you have already cooked. Place in the oven at 180c/350f for 25 minutes until well browned. BlackberrysTheBigForestBlog

Blackberrys2TheBigForestBlogWhen I was a child I had a favourite second-hand book illustrated by Georg Lemann. It tells of two young bears bored with life and living on a mountainside with their father. One day they hit the old mailbox by their cottage gate and find a letter, stained and ripped, inviting them to live in a house in Murmur-valley. Father is reluctant to go but then a huge rock falls from the mountain destroying their house. He has no choice, he must join his excited sons on a journey to a place he is sure no longer exists. They have many frightening adventures but just as Father Bear and the two youngsters have given up hope they hear the sound of water in the distance. Scampering through the barren landscape they turn a corner and there is Murmur-valley and a cottage waiting for them in a secluded woodland dell – just as the letter promised.Murmer-valleyTheBigForestBlog

We often find places in Wales that remind us of Murmur-valley, high wooded hills, mountain peaks, chattering streams and a secluded cottage. We could work quite happily in the cottage in the illustration, a cosy, warm and creative space – although it might be a tight squeeze if those pesky bears had already moved in.

Illustration: Copyright Georg Lemman C 1960’s (?)

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. Ah, your trip sounds wonderful, I really enjoy reading about your nice journeys and the inspiration you gather from it and let us readers take part – now here´s a shy question concerning the fruit: sloe is the same as bramble, right?
    And your crumble recipe is very tempting, I find cake or crumble wirth any combination of apple (or pear) and berry (any kind) irresistable 😉

    • No, Sloes are quite different to brambles – I’ve just updated the post with a picture for you. They are inedible (hard and bitter) but impart the wonderful flavour to the gin. I love the fact that they are considered useless as food but housewives in days-gone-by found how to create something delicious from the bitter fruits.

      What is so good about this particular crumble recipe is that the oil gives it a solid but crumbly texture which is incomparable – do give it a go Cris it would be fantastic with pear and berrys!

      • Oh I see, thanks for the information and picture, that is good to know. Ah yes the crumble, I will try that soon. And come to think that we have entered “the time of the plum”, that also might be a yummie ingredient…now I know what I´ll do at the weekend – baking ;-)) I´ll give you feedback on how it worked and tasted 😉

  2. Oh, what a magical post! Your Murmur-valley is like my Innisfree, from a recent post–a secret spot for stillness and creativity.

    • Yes I read your lovely Innisfree post. We have a few real and also imagined spots for stillness. Very important to get away from distractions and it feeds creativity too. It says something about the book and the illustrations that Ive kept it 40 odd years.

  3. ann perrin

    Reblogged this on Ann Perrin and commented:
    I just love these people their adventures, their creativity and lifestyle

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