“This little fella’s name is B and he’s an expert at hunting truffles.” B was a dog, a cute little terrier in fact and I was in the depths of a South Downs Forest in Sussex learning how to forage for food then cook it in the most natural way possible. You may have noticed, foraging has been hot news for a fair few years now, from the world’s best restaurant Noma in Copenhagen (whose menu is based on foraged food) to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s custom-built foraging bike, people have gone crazy for wild, delicious – and most importantly free – goodies that are to be had all over the countryside, if you just know where to look.
My trip started with an overnight stay at the swish boutique Malmaison hotel in Brighton, and the next morning I donned my warmest, woolliest socks and drove from the city to the location of Hunter Gather Cook, an off-the-grid forging and cooking school set in the Sussex countryside courtesy of a Jeep Compass, the new model for UK which falls somewhere in-between the Renegade and the Cherokee or aka a Compact SUV. It’s a very easy-on-the-eye vehicle with bags of character, a chunky steering wheel (which I loved!) and a premium quality feel, it’s also one of the first cars to be awarded a coveted Euro NCAP five-star safety rating.
It tackled the winding lanes of the South Downs and then the blanket of colourful autumn leaves which covered the floor of the South Downs Forest just like a dream. The driving was responsive but solid with handy features such as Selec-Terrain controls, electronic parking brake, easily-accessible media charging and connectivity ports and essentially for chilly winter driving – heated seat and a heated steering wheel – made it the perfect choice for a day out like this.
The camp was run by Nick Weston, who was once selected as survival expert on the Channel 4 show ‘Shipwrecked’ so we instantly felt in good hands. On arrival I could easily see why he created the cooking school here, it’s beautiful and secluded spot, nestled high on the downs in a clearing surrounded by impenetrable forest. It’s a place to find quiet, solitude and a slice of the simple life and made the perfect backdrop to sourcing and then cooking our food.
With a lesson on what to pick and what to leave well alone, we collected our dinner ingredients – a varied bunch of fine, pungent, nutrient-dense and wild grown herbs, plants and vegetables such as wild marjoram, mushrooms, sorrel, and hogweed. We then spent the afternoon and evening learning how to start a campfire, taking part in a ‘cook-off’, meeting ‘B’ the truffle hunting terrier and feasting on our forest-foraged fayre. City life seemed like another world entirely.
This post was brought to you in partnership with Jeep Compass but all our views are our own.