Foraging for Treasure
Pick an out-of-the-way spot to visit at low tide with a screwdriver and a bucket filled with seawater. Look on heavily populated rocks for closed mussels that are bigger than your thumb. Twist and pull, using the screwdriver to prise them free. About 15 mussels per person will make a good meal. Leave in seawater out of direct sun for two hours, then use a knife to rip off the weedy bits. Discard any that are open.
Heat a knob of butter in a large pot, stirring in a diced onion and two sliced garlic cloves. Add a glass of white white and a big splash of cream. After this boils for a minute or so, tip your mussels into the broth. Cover and let the seafood steam for about five minutes until the shells have opened. Serve with crusty bread.
Sloes grow on spiky blackthorn bushes in hedgerows all around the country. Our local hunting ground are the dunes between Woolacombe and Putsborough. The berries start appearing in early autumn, but tradition says they’re best collected after the first frost. Use a bag or bucket to collect your stash. You’ll need 450g of sloes for every litre of gin.
Wash your sloes thoroughly. If there hasn’t been a frost yet, you can “blet” them yourself by putting them in the freezer for a day or longer. Put sloes into a very big Kilner jar and cover with one litre of gin and 225g caster sugar. Give the jar a shake once daily for one week, then every other day for one week, then weekly for two months. Continue to let it steep for as long as you like; the flavour will deepen over time. Strain the liquid, discard the berries and decant your sloe gin into bottles