Foraging: an introduction by Ella Milburn

Foragers are opportunistic animals. You can rarely bank on a particular harvest, competing as we are with wildlife, other foragers, and – most upsettingly – the tyranny of the strimmer. This is perhaps even more true for the mushroom hunter, whose quarry can be among the most elusive of wild foods.

As such, it may not be possible to find the exact mushrooms in this recipe, but keep your wits about you and you’ll be surprised at the variety of edible fungi you can find just a stone’s throw from the city centre. I’ve used mostly honey fungus, sordid blewits and shaggy ink caps, all found in Bath’s parks and surrounding grasslands. As the weather gets colder, you’re more likely to find grey oyster mushrooms, wood blewits, velvet shanks, and the scarlet elf cup. Most wild mushrooms need cooking well before consumption so do look up the recommended cooking time for each individual species.

Marjoram is one of the UK’s loveliest wild herbs. In Bath, we’re fortunate that it grows prolifically in our lime-rich soils, and you should be able to prune a plant before the year is out and have enough to keep you going until the new growth of spring. Wild chives are also fairly common throughout the city’s parks – look out for tall, bluish-green bursts in amongst the grass.

Wild mushroom risotto with foraged herbs and roasted sweet chestnuts

With earthy wild mushrooms, roasted sweet chestnuts, and aromatic wild marjoram, this risotto makes for hearty comfort food with a wild twist that is sure to warm your bones after a cold winter’s walk. Not bad for a foraged meal. If you’re unable to locate the ingredients in the wild, you could substitute with shop-bought oregano, mushrooms and chestnuts – but what would be the fun in that?

Serves 4

• Around 20 sweet chestnuts
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• Dried mushrooms (optional)
• 50g butter
• 1 onion, chopped
• 300g Arborio rice
• 200ml white wine or prosecco
• Grated Parmesan, added to taste
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 300g wild mushrooms
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• Small handful of wild chives and a small handful of wild marjoram
• Seasonal edible flowers, as garnish – here rosemary blooms and bellflowers are used


Put the chestnuts in a baking tray into the oven at 180°C and set a timer for their removal from the oven in 30 minutes.
Prepare the vegetable stock, adding your dried wild mushrooms, if using. Heat half the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened.

Add the risotto rice to the pan, stirring constantly to coat the rice with the oil and ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Toast for around 2 minutes.

Add the wine, Parmesan rind, garlic cloves, and half the wild marjoram, and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the rice.
Begin adding the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Continue until the rice looks creamy and is al-dente in texture.
In a separate pan, fry the wild mushrooms in a glug of olive oil until tender and golden brown, and salt to taste.

Once the risotto is cooked, remove the Parmesan rind, and stir in grated Parmesan, butter, and half of the sautéed mushrooms. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Remove the chestnuts from the oven (see first stage), and peel them when cool enough to handle.

Plate up the risotto, and top with the chestnuts, chopped chives, Parmesan and wildflowers, as well as the remaining mushrooms and marjoram.

For upcoming foraging workshops, as well as wild food identification tips and recipes, follow Ella on Instagram @everydayforaging

Warning: Only harvest wild foods in areas of abundance and well away from polluted roads, and never consume any wild plant or fungi you’re not certain you’ve identified correctly. Try all wild foods in small amounts when eating for the first time to ensure they agree with you. Some wild mushrooms, including honey fungus and blewits, though edible and delicious for most, have been known to cause gastric distress in some individuals.