The 3 Q’s restaurant, Greystones
When did you first become interested in?
I’ve been working infrom the age of 15 but I’ve always been passionate about . My Mum and Gran used to have stalls at the local markets when we were young so always played a big role in our lives.
You set up Nádúr Collective in 2010 with two other chefs, Niall O’Sullivan (head chef of Merrion Row’s Bang) and David Gallagher (a representative for Artisan), which offers walks and events. How did you become interested in ?
Working front of house in the restaurant, I found I was missingso that’s when my interest in began. I was looking for something new to focus on and I started reading the Noma Cookbook by René Redzepi, which is all about wild .
At first I found it very different and very alien to me. He was using some really cool, most of which I didn’t recognise to begin with, but it made me start looking around me more. The cool thing about is that when we’re out and about many are staring us in the face but because we don’t know what we’re looking at, we don’t see what’s there. It’s a bit like bird watching. We only see a handful of birds we recognise and we lump them all into those categories but when you start studying them in more detail you start seeing a lot more variety.
One of the first things I spotted was some black seeds in against the wall with some shrubs. I tasted them and they tasted a bit like black pepper but I didn’t know what they were at the time. I went to a seminar on plants a while later and my wife recognised it as “Alexander Seed”, which can be used as a pepper substitute. I started reading “The Forager Handbook” by Miles Irving and that really opened my eyes to the possibilities.
Often when you go outyou’re looking for something in particular and find something else while you’re there and take it home to check what it is. That’s how you build up your experience.
I went to Copenhagen’s MADSymposium, which was founded by René Redzepi, to learn a bit more about wild and myself, Niall and David were inspired to start our own wild collective.
Tell us a bit about the kind of things you do at Nádúr Collective.
Since setting up we have held guidedwalks, workshops and a wild-food art installation. We’ve done walks in Kilcoole and have identified 40 different plants in that area alone. My daughter is in the Sea Scouts and we’ve also done events with them.
What are the benefits of?
In modern life we have become disconnected from thewe so it’s a great way to get back in touch. Foraging opens up a whole world of flavours you miss in everyday life. You may not like them instantly and wild can seem a little at first but you need to something 6 or 7 times before deciding if you like it.
I especially love taking older people out and teaching them something they should know but may have missed.
I also love the folklore behind, like the story we all heard as kids that dandelions make you wet the bed. There is actually some truth in it and dandelions do have a diuretic effect, especially the leaves. You can use the petals in a and the roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, which you’ll find in many health food stores.
Once I discovered, I was addicted to it right away. One of the best things about it is that it’s totally free so it’s a hobby that won’t cost you any money. In fact, within a few months of starting it, I that I was actually saving money each month.
Another great benefit offor wild is that it gets you out. It gets you away form people and gives you some headspace. It’s good for your mental and good for your physical . It’s a lifestyle thing.
It also brings you to places in your own locality that you never even knew existed. When people find out what you’re doing they’re often quite happy to let you onto their land. So it takes you away from people and also connects you with them.
You bring students fromschools out on trips and you also use to educate your own kids about . Do you think this is a good way to get kids more healthily?
It’s great for kids to see wherecomes from and it’s a good way to get fussy eaters to new things.
What are the bestto go for in Ireland?
Wildand are probably the most obvious things you’ll find. Sea buckthorn is a good one and can be in Brittas Bay, Kilcoole and Bull Island. It tastes like passion fruit and is packed with nutrients. It can be used to flavor ice cream and tastes a bit like a Solero. Initially it has a slightly metallic but it can easily be sweetened up. Another really interesting thing we find is pineappleweed, which also tastes like passion fruit.
Sea aster is another good one that’snear the coast. It’s a member of the bay leaf family. Elderflower is great and can be used in cocktails. The alexander plant is very useful – you can eat the leaf and stem and use the seeds to make pepper. It can be along roadsides and near the coast. Sea beet can be along the beach and tastes like wild .
Where are the best places to go?
The beach is a great place to start and costal areas are ideal. Because there’s just sand and grass, you can spot things more easily. It can be harder to spot things in the forest, unless you know what you’re looking for.
What kind of recipes do you use the foragedin?
Ice cream is great for showcasing the flavours of foragedbut many of the we find are also very useful for seasoning and flavouring dishes.
What are your toptips?
Learn the poisonous plants first. I didn’t and I’ve had a few lucky escapes. Learn the areas that are more likely to have poisonous plants growing, like riverbanks. Some poisonous plants look very like other plants so you need to be careful. Hemlock water dropwort can easily be confused with wild carrot, wildand wild chervil and is potentially lethal.
Don’t trust the internet – get a flower identification book. There’s a good one by Zoë Devlin called “Wildflowers of Ireland”, which is a really useful guide. The leaves of many plants are very similar so they’re not much use for identification – the flower is the best way to differentiate between plants. Richard Mabey’s “for Free” is another good resource, as is “The Foragers Handbook” by Miles Irving.
It’s also important to forage in season. Only take what you need and don’t take too much of the plant.
What is your food andphilosophy?
I’m primarily a cook, not a botanist. I love. I love real and there’s nothing more real than wild . Get in touch with seasonality and nature and get closer to the source so you can enjoy in its most natural state.
Who, in the area of food and, inspires you?
Danish chef, René Redzepi is a great inspiration. Frank Cook was also a mine of information on wild. Many of his videos can be found on You Tube.
What advice would you give to people embarking on a career in the area of health and nutrition?
Keep it interesting. Keep experimenting. Keep pushing. My interest inhas led me into areas like with wild yeasts and making . It’s great fun creating things and then changing them. Don’t narrow yourself down. Always be open to learning and meet like-minded people. Be a teacher too and pass on what you’ve learned.
Where’s the best place for people to find out about yourevents?
These days we publicise most of our events on Twitter so keep an eye on that. We have a lot of repeat customers so we see what the demand is like and organise events based around it.
Have you got anything exciting coming up?
We’d like to dowalks with a element incorporated. My wife’s from New Zealand and they have a Māori tradition called Hāngi, which involves in underground pits so something like that would be fun to try.
Find out more: https://twitter.com/NadurCollective