TheTaste of London Winter Festival is coming to the Tobacco Dock (Wapping) in a matter of weeks, and after a crowd-pulling, gourmet extravaganza that was the festival this summer, the Winter Festival holds a lot of promise.
The Festival is a celebration of all the foods available in the city that never sleeps. From hot chocolate and cakes at 4am, to lobster for breakfast and gourmet bites.
There are a number of stands and exhibitors at theFestival as well as a 'cocktails at home' arena, Gu's Garden of Temptation, and a Buddha Bar lounge.
The theme for 2014 is 'Forgotten Foods'. The chefs and restaurants will be looking at ingredients, skills and techniques not commonly used today and bringing them to life at the event. Taking inspiration from previous generations they will use wild British ingredients often ignored and show visitors where to find them and how to cook them. Reflecting this theme, there is a foraging section with professionals Miles Irving and Tom Hunt.
Tom Hunt and Miles Irving are the pros. They know what it means to forage and are showing attendees at the Festival how it's done.
I had the chance if stealing a few minutes with Tom who told me that he was only heading to his local market to enjoy some wild mushrooms, which he promised to sautée and spread across a few slices of toast.
Tom recommended that first-time foragers look for food that's familiar and easily recognisable; "I wouldn't recommend eating just-foraged foods, that is not what I advocate, but beig more in touch with what you do eat."
He added that foragers should be mindful of their surroundings. "Respect and treat nature as it should be treated. Only take what you need and allow nature to keep more than what you need; there also needs to be enough for wildlife."
I also spoke with Miles, who truly is the expert when it comes to foraging. From berries on the side of the road (which do not absorb pollutants he said), to picking nettles in your nearby wood, he has an extensive knowledge of wild food as well as having worked with top chefs to develop dishes worthy of Michelin star menus.
His key point was that foragers should consult other sources. "It is essential to familiarise yourself with your local area, but also be aware if what you're eating. Some books have advised eating certain herbs and plants that aren't suitable for consumption: they are poisonous."
Miles also suggested picking what's in season. "Mushrooms are everywhere at the moment." Echoing Tom's advice he said you should pick what looks familiar.
Foraging is certainly new for the modern eater, but in Miles eyes, foraging is like breathing. "Foraging is like going back to the way we used to eat. Picking what was local, in season and readily-available."
He added that [foraging] is only natural and becoming more in touch with what is around you, is really too easy to pass up.
With that in mind he explained one of the best ways to use food right now during Autumn is picking a few berries, cooking them gently so they reduce and serving them atop some fresh pigeon.
Miles also said that local mushrooms are wonderful with some wild game.
If all this talk of food has got your mouth watering then get to the foraging stand at the Festival to enjoy both Tom and Miles' presentations and get their expert advice.
Tobacco Dock is located at the junction of Wapping Lane and Pennington Street, E1. See you there.