Gill Meller’s favourite ingredients

By
Eve O'Sullivan
Added
03 October, 2016

We asked Gill to tell us a little about his favourite, lesser-used ingredients. From seashore finds to wild rabbit, here are a few ideas about how to make the most of British seasonal ingredients.

Seaweed


People are beginning to realize how delicious and nutritious seaweeds can be; there are a handful of small companies harvesting and selling seaweed, so it’s pretty easy to get hold of. You can, of course, gather your own from the seashore. Dulse is one of my favourite and it’s easy to spot. Quite often it’ll be scattered along the high-tide line at low water, particularly after a storm, when the weight of the waves tears it from the rocks and carries it up the shore. It’s easy to recognize by its striking oxblood hue. It’s large, like massive splayed hands and fingers, and has a transparency when held up to the light. I collect it, wash it and cold smoke it for 8-12 hours. This imparts a flavour on the seaweed that is quite incredible.



Elderberries


I’ve always held the elder in high regard. I’ve been enchanted by the folklore and folk medicine that surrounds this fruiting tree; it’s linked to witches and its fruit is said to have restorative properties. It’s an incredibly productive plant. In the spring it provides us with beautiful flowers and then in the autumn we can collect its dark rich berries. In one recipe, I team up elderberries with pears, and add fresh bay, bruised juniper and lemon rind. As the pears cook, the berries give up their form, break and burst, staining the pears with their vivid red-purple juices. You could do the same thing with blackberries, too.




Rabbit


Wild rabbit is delicious, sustainable, economical and easy to cook, and in my view, at its best in autumn. Most good butchers will sell rabbit, and they should happily joint it for you as well; it’s far more flavoursome than chicken, and just as versatile. A delicate rabbit rillettes with toasted sourdough is one of my favourite things. This however, is a very simple recipe for one of the most enjoyable pasta sauces I’ve ever eaten. Cook the rabbit slowly with smoked bacon, vegetables and herbs until it’s tender enough to come away from the bone with ease. Flake the meat, then return it to the sauce. It’s as rustic as you like, and perfect for a cold winter’s night.




Mutton


We should all eat a bit more mutton. I think it’s more interesting than lamb for a variety of reasons. For one, It’s a much older animal, It’s lived through several years, and seen springs, summers, autumns and winters. Sheep of this age have produced wool year after year, and they’ve also produced many lambs. I think that’s good - it feels sustainable. They’ve also had the opportunity to develop dark, well flavoured meat that is absolutely delicious. If you can’t find mutton, you can use hogget instead. Hogget is a sheep in its second year, meaning its older than lamb but younger than mutton. It’s also wonderfully tasty.




Rye flour


Rye is a lovely type of wheat with a nutty aroma and earthy texture. In the field it looks fine with a sea green hue, a slender, delicate stem, and a small open spikelet in which sit the kernels. It’s a graceful plant, yet hardy and relatively new in relation to its earlier domesticated relatives. It’s often planted in the autumn as the ground cools, thriving through the snow and harsh winter winds. Rye is cultivated for milling into a delicious, full-flavoured unrefined flour, used predominantly for bread making. I also love to use it in cakes, pastries and biscuits as well too, though. If time is short, rye flour makes a super quick soda bread, with lots of character.


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