Born and raised on Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England Nick Weston is an expert on wild food, fishing and shooting.
In 2011 he founded Hunter Gather Cook, a cookery school that blends foraging, animal butchery, cooking and bushcraft to create high-end dishes using wild produce. Earlier this year, he published a cookbook of the same name, bringing years of knowledge together to create a wild food handbook.
Ahead of his appearance at The Big Grill in Dublin, we spoke to Nick about foraging, sustainability and the growing interest in wild food.
Have you noticed an increased interest in wild food in the last few years?
I think the interest in wild food and especially game has been growing in popularity over the last eight years, it has certainly become a lot more so in recent years. I think people want to have a better connection with where their food comes from and be able to go straight to the source or know exactly where it has come from.
READ MORE: Foraging for Irish Seaweed
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Rolled & stuffed fallow shoulders hitting the underground oven before beating sealed and covered. Loaded with basalt, hornbeam and oak, it’s sits steady at 120c for about 4-5 hours. Caveman cooking captured by @davidloftus for the HGC cookbook. #fire #smoke #umu #hangi #undergroundoven #deer #wildfood #huntergathercook
What are your favourite ingredients/methods to cook with?
Game is a big thing for us, I particularly like working with deer, we have six species in the UK and they all taste different. Being species-specific about venison is so important just as it is with beef or any other meat. We use a lot of fallow, sika and muntjac. In terms of cooking methods, I like working with a variety of fire cookery methods. I do like dirty cooking straight on hot coals but then equally I love a bit of whole-animal cookery - so, naturally, I can’t wait to tackle the whole cow we are going to cook at The Big Grill again this year!
Do you have any top tips for foraging?
Yes. Don’t die. There are some seriously poisonous plant and fungi out there so don’t eat anything unless you are 100% sure what it is. Also, practice a good level of sustainability - we are not the only wild creatures that rely on wild food.
Are there any key lessons you've learned that anyone can incorporate into their lives and kitchens?
In terms of sustainability, many of the plants we use are considered weeds by most people but have a flavour profile which is more interesting than many of the ingredients we would normally buy. Incorporating wild food into your diet every day or at least a few times a week will do wonders for the soul.
What prompted you to write your book, Hunter Gather Cook?
Our cookbook is a culmination of eight years' work in the woods mastering what it is we do and refining how it all works. We wanted to be able to deliver a cookbook that dealt with all the fire cookery techniques we used as well as all the flora and fauna we process. Educating people about wild food and how to use it is what we are most passionate about so to have the opportunity to share that through a cookbook is a privilege indeed.
READ MORE: Game Pasties
And finally, what can we expect from you at The Big Grill in Dublin next week?
Some killer food and pyromania! We spend our first day in Dublin heading out to the hills to forage all of our ingredients we will be using, although some things such as the truffles have to be found on our home turf with my dog, B. We are also doing some demos and cooking a whole cow like we did two years ago at the festival - a joyous 22 hours of bovine fire management, served with beef fat bérnaise, smoked potatoes, wild watercress and wild greens. Come get some!
Hunter Gather Cook will be at The Big Grill from Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th August.