Sunday, 29 March 2015

Horseradish Root

You may or may not know that horseradish grows in large clumps in the UK countryside, I haven't got access to it so I took route B and purchased one from a supermarket (as it's seasonal this link may or not work if viewed some time after this blog page is published. 

It looks a little like an elongated celeriac and that's where the similarity ends between the two. I wanted to make some horseradish sauce and in the process get the family to sniff the grated root, cad and bounder that I am.

Predictably it needs peeling first and this is done with ease, it's about as easy as a potato.

The peeling is the easy bit, the grating is a bit more demanding. By demanding I mean fume wise because it's not much different to grating a parsnip effort wise. It starts off ok at the thin and but builds to an intensity that will leave anyone in the room bemoaning the acrid whiff! You'll notice that there is a sort of fibrous bit that will either need discarding or more work.

Here is a shot of the return you get from a root, and you can see the large usable pile and the smaller fibrous material side by side. You simply can't peel it without having a close up smell of it. It really takes the unwary back and you can feel it through your nasal passage like a large intake of English mustard.


I made the sauce as per the supplied instructions (variation son this theme work too) and decided to try dehydrating the rest. Once done I put it in a mortar and pestle to grind into a powder, and used a little course sea salt to grind the last tougher fibres up. 

This is the sauce (which surprisingly mellows somewhat with cremé  fraiche etc added. I had recently had mackerel paté at a restaurant that had a shot of horseradish in and it really cut through the oiliness of the fish so I thought I'd try and produce my version of it.

First off two shop purchased mackerel fillets into the smoker with some Jerky Shack oak chips which give a nice rounded smokiness. 


Once done it they were then skinned and de-boned (and the dark ventral meat removed) and it was then time to gather the two ingredients that I was going to use as garlic and onion substitutes. The first was jack-by-the-hedge. I love how the leaves can be either rounded or pointed lobes... 


The other foraged ingredient was three cornered leek-Well I think it is-I had a prominent bushcraft instructor ID it but I can't recall whether it was this or not, but I know it's edible. I've included the flower (which are multiples from one stalk when fully out) and a cross section of the stems which don't exactly look three cornered if I'm honest.  

Once the greenery was chopped I added the other ingredients which were the powdered horseradish and  creme fraiché to the blitzer and pulsed it all to a well, a paté.

The finished result has a slightly more green hue to it with the verdant allium substitutions as compered to regular mackerel paté and I got my family to try and it was liked because the smokiness wasn't too ballsy. The only thing was, the horseradish powder had lost a lot of it's potency having been prepped and ground which was disappointing but you never know until you try these things. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Outdoor Adventure Manual anniversary


Upon a morning visit to Facebook I was greeted with a 'flashback' that the site provided me reminding me of the fact that I'd posted about the imminent release of a publication called The Outdoor Adventure Manual 2 years ago (4th April 2013 to be precise).

Whilst not a bushcraft publication in its entirety I was lucky enough to be asked to help write stuff for this publication which was a joint collaboration between the Scout Association and Haynes publishing (famous for the car manuals). I’ve written articles for Scouting magazine and the Cub supplement (whilst it lasted for)  for around 18 months/ 2 years (it started by accident) and whilst on a visit to Gilwell HQ to see one of the magazine editors I was approached by The Scout Association's Creative and Brand Advisor Chris James, had a meeting with him and I was on board with several other scouters!
Chris asked me if I could recommend any other potential writers, I said ‘What about if I could get some professional outdoor instructors on board to write?’, Chris meant scouters but left it with me. A little bit of networking later, including email, face to face, the Bushcraft Show and Facebook (a positive use of a much maligned media) and the following were on board:
Pablo ( )-Tracking
Paul Kirtley (  – Knife sharpening and usage
Joe O’Leary ( – Water
Tristan Gooley ( ) Natural navigation
Dale Collett ( )- Bowdrill
Kevan Palmer/ Jason Ingamells ( Dutch oven usage
Fraser Christian ( –Countryside  and coastal foraging
Scouter Terry Longhurst also asked Jon Mac spooncarver, kuksa maker and all round woodworking clever chap ( ) if he would do a ‘How to’ on spoon carving too. The Scout Association also asked the Red Cross to do a big piece on first aid. I also did the draft illustrations for Tristan's and Joe's articles and started a Facebook page for the publication that is still getting likes today..

It started out with Haynes wanting articles into Chris in a very short window, and then once it was all gathered there was a large period of relative inactivity until Haynes suddenly asked that all the articles were proof read. I volunteered and on one occasion I sent an email back having checked one lot as another email load came in! This short editing window did mean that there were some recommendations made that couldn't be acted upon due to the timeline.

 Despite some faults I felt that a book knocked up with all contributors in relative isolation didn't come out too badly and it  had several positive plaudits at the time. I’ve already thanked the guest contributors but I feel obliged to thank them again…every one of them to a man readily agreed to contribute to this project and it’s very satisfying to know that they all feel comfortable aligning their name to the Scouting brand.

I managed to get an article in the John Lewis internal weekly magazine and my local paper (with a potential audience of 100,000+). I've also included a basic shot of the two articles that I've mentioned. 

And here's a picture that Jon Mac posted on his Facebook page and I just had to share it. He was so pleased to be included in the above book that he asked his postie to pose for a picture with it! How refreshing. Have a look at his blog . Bushcraft & Survival Skills also reviewed the book in a past issue too, once in the in the news section and also in the book review section and I thought the review was very fair.

I think this book has pushed the outdoor agenda more than any other Scouting publication and to my mind the next step is a book called 'Scoutcraft' in which the outdoors focus is skills and (bush)crafts that B-P would recognise.

And whilst on the subject of Scouting, if you are a bushcrafter, why not volunteer with your local group with the occasional outdoor activity? A lot of groups have loads of kit, a place to have fires (do you?) and a willing audience, even simple stuff like charcloth leaves them spellbound.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Spring greens tonic

I guess most folk are roughly the same when it comes to Spring's arrival, even though there can be cold and horrid days a fair way in to the new year I personally feel that once we get past February then all is good.

Even on the cold days it's fantastic to see new shoots appearing, early blossom and  maybe tapping a birch tree for sap. I've taken advantage of a few young and tender shoots to make a few spring tonic variations detailed below. Check that you are OK consuming the ingredients listed...

The first one was just nettle tips and cleavers (with added ginger) in apple juice.

For this one I grated the ginger ginger once peeled.

Roughly chop the greens and then blitz with the ginger.

Add the apple juice and a spoon of runny honey the the sludge which will have a greeny grassy aroma. This one was chugged down with the greens mixed in.

One for the family to have a taste of. This was a slightly bigger amount of of cleavers, nettles and ground ivy.

The ginger was thrown in roughly chopped at the blitzing stage and honey added too. Look at that vibrant colour...What's not to like?! You may notice that this drink has been sieved.

This is what I sieved out. Again, what's not to like...

I decided to try and incorporate the sieved greens into a bannock (rudimentary bread). Whilst being a decent bread once pan cooked, the magic of the apple juice, honey and ginger additions is that they hide the spinach like taste of the greens. I'm not a fan of plain spinach so I didn't finish it, but the 'spinach' and ginger tastes suggest that this could be pimped into a basic Asian curried flat bread with a few additions.

For this one it's all the usual suspects plus the addition of chickweed which is one of my favourite salad ingredients (it reminds me of lambs lettuce). I decided on a shot of the bubbly sludge instead of the drink. 

And the final one. This is more of the above but it's bulked out with some finely blitzed porridge oats which were previously soaked in apple juice the night before. This made a lighter coloured and filling breakfast smoothie.

Try them, the equivalent green healthy drink in the chilled department will set you back a few pounds and some pence.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mobile phone first aid app

Professional bushcraft instructor Paul Kirtley recently posted a link from REAL First Aid (this links is are to their Facebook pages) to social media so I can't take credit for discovering this information, but felt it was important to share.

It concerns an individual helping you if you are injured or ill and the ability for them to access your mobile phone to further the help process. The piece quite rightly points out that having in case of emergency or ICE numbers on your mobile phone is totally irrelevant if you lock your phone.

 This includes me and this oversight hit me like a ton of bricks and this is why I am sharing this fact that Paul has flagged up from REAL First Aid. It is already a feature on iPhones and activation of it can be found here, and for Android users like me it is available as a quick and easy download from hereSo how does it work and what does it look like and do?

Once you download the app it sets the phone up so that it throws up a pre-screen before the numbers can be accessed to pop in the code. If you look at the left hand picture you'll see a small medical ID screen icon appears just under the time, which accesses the medical app and therefore any details contained in it. The right hand side picture shows part of the information page which includes name, date of birth, organ donation status, address (although it doesn't quite get mine correct and an vary by as much as 12 house numbers), height, weight, blood type, medical conditions, allergies and reactions, medications and medical notes.

Just out the the right hand side picture in the top corner are three tabs to edit, call the emergency services and to upgrade to a premium app. I don't know how much it is but I've included alternative contact numbers in the medical conditions section, and as i'm in rude health I don't feel a fancier app is needed but maybe someone with some medical history would want to consider this. The only down side for me is that I use my mobile as an alarm when I get up early for work and it's another screen to get past to silence it!

I must just finish by reiterating that credit must go to Paul for flagging this REAL First Aid information up. if you are interested the link also posted a useful mobile phone information page on the REAL First Aid website.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Woodlife Trails taster day

With one course already delivered this year, Woodlife Trails held an 'open day' for the general public to swing by and get a taste of what's on offer.


With the posters up and the kettle on we sat around under the chute and waited for the general public to swing by. We had one guy who cycled for two hours to see what Woodlife Trails were all about but the morning was a bit slow to warm up visitor wise.

I volunteered to head off to the car park to direct some punters our way, but got delayed because Richard's slow risen Dutch oven bread was happening and is worth a small sub section of pictures... 


A liberal base covering of semolina in a hot Dutchie, followed by the slow risen dough in the centre. 


Just over twenty minutes later it was time to take it out...Only for it to have to sit to develop it's brioche coloured crust...Then we got to taste it and then I headed off to meet and greet.


I'd only been walking for about three minutes before I noticed a tarp flapping through the trees. I thought if individuals were playing around with this sort of kit that they'd be up for a visit to the camp...I was right. These two chaps had traveled from London with their families and said that they'd be over once they had all met up. I offered to take one over to show them the location and then return him to wait for the other family members which I did.

The two guys spoke with a foreign accent and I know he liked what he saw because he spoke in their mother tongue to his friend with wide eyes, moving hands and an animated tone. Their family had arrived from the car and as I walked they explained the camp to the kids because I heard them cheer. It was a good feeling and they stayed all afternoon trying stuff.


So up went their tarp with some instruction, spoons got carved, kit came out, conversations were had... 

I'd bought along a couple of bannock doughs (as I usually do) and knocked out a curried one (heavy on the cardamon seed) and mixed with natural yogurt which I'd planned to have with a pouched curry, and a more traditional one with sultanas in. I handed most of them around the team and the punters to have a try.


And more kit, technique and talk, and then more conversation and a quick coffee break...

Before JP got his bow drill set out for the waiting audience. A winner every time! I had a tarp and pole plus paracord in a bag to demo a tarp tent and let any visitors make a paracord something or other...Not really needed this time as there was plenty going on (no tracking walks needed either). Details of forthcoming course can be found on the Woodlife Trails website here. Several wild camps are held in conjunction with the National Trust and this was the weekend recommended to most of the visitors and can be found on the NT website.

And so that they don't go to waste, I've included a small gallery of unused shots below...