Friday, 28 March 2014

Yukhoe - Korean Venison Tartare 육회


This Korean version of steak tartare was originally made with horse meat and more recently with beef. For best results the meat needs to be absolutely as fresh as possible. At Hunter Gather Cook this dish is made with venison fillet within a couple of hours of it coming off the deer so we have the perfect opportunity to make the finest of dishes.


10 Wild Garlic Leaves
1 Bunch of Three Cornered Leek
16 Edible Wild Flowers to Garnish ( Dog Violet, Wild Garlic Flowers, Three Cornered Leek, Primrose, Cuckoo Flower)
4 Sorrel Leaves


1 pound / 450g Venison Fillet
2 Pears
4 small egg yolks or 4 quails eggs
2 tablespoon pine nuts

Seasoning Mixture:

4 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon clear honey
3 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli powder

Wild mies en plas

Firstly the Venison Fillet should be put in the freeze for 1 ½ to 2 hours, this hardens it up slightly making cutting it thinly a lot easier.

For the seasoning mixture add the soy, honey, sesame oil, sesame seed, pepper and chilli powder to a bowl. Next very finely chop the Wild Garlic and Three Cornered Leek and add to the bowl. Stir well to combine and set to one side.

Yukhoe seasoning mixture
Fill another bowl with a cup of water and add a teaspoon of salt to it. This will keep your pears from browning whilst preparing the rest of the dish. Peel and julien the pear cutting it into matchstick sized pieces and place in the bowl of salted water until ready to plate up.

Take the partially frozen venison fillet and slice it in the same way as the pears. You want lots of tiny matchsticks of venison. Add the sliced venison to the seasoning mixture and stir well.

Making sure the venison fillet is free of any fat and sinue
To plate up make a bed of the pear sticks, take a serving of the venison and seasoning and place on top of the pears making a small indent in the top of the venison. Carefully place the egg yolk on top of the venison. If using a quails egg the top should be cut off and the egg put in the same place ready to be poured over when served.

Garnish around the stack with whatever edible wild flowers you have found, the sorrel and serve!

Yukhoe - The finished article

Monday, 24 March 2014

Snugpak Jungle Hammock – Review

Working as I do in the middle of the woods and often spending several days out in the sticks, comfortable, lightweight, sleeping arrangements are quite important to me.

Last year I started using a hammock to save weight rather than lugging around a tent. The hammock I was using was basically a heavy weight, canvas, oversize job that was very nice and comfortable but only fractionally smaller and lighter packed down than the tent I used to use. I started checking out the some light weight versions using parachute material but was surprised to see the likes of hammocks by Hennessy coming in at over £120!

In instead opted for the Snugpak Jungle Hammock from at under 35 quid it was a steal and appeared to have many of the same materials and a similar set up including the integral mosquito net I wanted after being eaten alive last year.

Compared with the with the old hammock it was quite a different beast, weighing in at less than 800 grams and a full 1.2 kilos less, it packed down to a quarter of the size. At this point I was wondering how sturdy it could actually be being that lightweight, nonetheless I was looking forward the end of my working day and to trying out my new bed.

Setting it up was a pretty simple and quick affair or at least it would have been if I hadn’t had a few wild cocktails with dinner. For suspending the hammock you have two lengths of 550 paracord knotted at increments making it quick to get the right tension when tying it to the tree. The hammock itself had steel carabineers at each end so simply clipped up to the paracord secured to the tree. Setting the bug net was a little trickier than the actual hammock as you need to get the tension just so. Too little and the net will sag on to you when in the hammock and too tight and I’d imagine it may tear the net when you get it. Would suggest setting it up with a loose tension with your adjustment knot accessible once in the hammock. That way you can get in to the hammock then adjust the tension to perfection. If you don’t want to use the bug net you can simply flip the hammock over and use it without.

There was plenty of space in there when I got in, I’m 6”3 and I reckon it could comfortably fit someone a fair bit taller and heavier than me. On the technical specs it says that it can take 180 kilos, which would be a very hefty individual. It was really comfortable to with enough room to curl up. It was a pretty cold night and I woke to frost on the field just outside the wood. I was pretty chilly but I put that down to the quality of my sleeping bag rather than the hammock. I’d suggest on any cold night using a roll mat or extra sleeping bag to keep the cold off your back, however in the summer having a cooling breeze on your back can be pretty nice.

Overall I’d say the Jungle Hammock is a massive improvement on my previous one and I’d recommend it anyone wanting to travel lighter and stay comfortable. I’ll certainly be getting a lot more use out of it this year at Hunter Gather Cook . Happy Camping!

Fine Wild Food Feast - 22nd March

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Pyro Piston - Ancient Technology, 21st Century Reliability


Fire Pistons have been around for thousands of years and have been used by many tribes in the Pacific Islands and South East Asia. Evidence suggests that tribes that used blowpipes as a weapon originally came up with the idea. Of course we in the West like to claim these things for ourselves and our first mention of this type of tool came in 1745 when Abbe Augustin Ruffo “invented” it.  Some time after that in the early 1800’s it was patented and remained an incredibly popular house hold fire lighting device until some bright spark, Gustaf Erik Pasch invented the safety match in the mid 1800’s. The fire piston is also said to be the inspiration for Rudolf Diesels creation of the Diesel Engine in 1892.

How it works:

The fire piston works by rapidly compressing gas around the tinder at the end of the plunger. If this is done correctly the gas will heat up sharply to around 260°C. This is enough to ignite the tinder, and transfer it to a larger set of tinder for fire lighting. This is best demonstrated by Dustin in the video below.

How to:

Step One: Get a little of the lubricant on your finger and smear it on the washer. Push the piston in and out a couple of times. If it’s well lubricated, the piston will spring back due the compression created.

Step Two: Take a little tinder and press it into the tinder cup ensuring it sits firmly within the cup and if not touching the washer. If it is not in properly it will interfere with the washer meaning you’ll loose much needed compression.

Step Three: Insert the piston into the piston body about 1cm. Place the piston on a solid surface. Strike downwards with force then quickly remove the piston to reveal the glowing ember.

Step Four: Transfer the ember to larger pieces of tinder and gently blow until you get flames.

Moving Forward:

Dustin James at Bushcraft Tools has bought this ancient design right up to date with the Pyro Piston. Dustin’s idea came from his work with the Shelter Box charity which provide emergency shelter, supplies and support for communities around the world hit by disaster and humanitarian crisis. He wanted to make a sure-fire way of creating fire time and time again in these areas.  After years of research, development and many incarnations of his creation we are left with probably the best fire piston on the market.

Pyro Piston Review:

The Pyro Piston comes with everything you need to get a burning ember to light your fire. The kit includes a 1 Pyro-Piston, Built-in 64mm Firesteel, Charcloth, Lubricant  and Spare rubber washers. It weighs in at 80g and is 117mm long by 22mm wide.

The clever thing about the Pyro Piston is the way everything is incorporated into its design. One end of the two piece piston unscrews to reveal a small area where the lubricant is kept, the opposite end has a similar sized water proof compartment for keeping tinder. If that wasn’t enough there is a fire steel cleverly placed in the centre of the piston which can be found by unscrewing the tinder cup. I love this bit of design, to have two ways of making a fire in one device essentially giving you twice the chance to light a fire in the wilderness.

I hear Dustin has some pretty sweet upgrades in development too so keep an eye on him!


Monday, 10 March 2014

The Great Hunter Gather Cook Tree House Kickstarter - Get Involved!

We want to build a 30ft Tree house HQ and off-grid kitchen where we run our Foraging, butchery & cookery courses...TO THE TREES!!
The aim of this project is to construct a 9.5m x 4.3m tree house perched 8 ft off the ground between two oak trees as our new off-grid HQ. The tree house itself will be split into two working areas, effectively doubling the workspace we have at the moment, whilst retaining the same footprint in the woods. Upstairs will be primarily used as a dining area with our big oak table for hosting banquets as well as house a wild cocktail bar and be somewhere to accommodate our lovely course attendees on HGC overnighters. We want our guests to be able look out through the leaves and across the forest floor, whilst supping on an Elderflower martini and tucking into a variety of foraged canapés that they have been working on throughout the day.

A sketch of the proposed Hunter Gather Cook Tree House HQ.
A sketch of the proposed Hunter Gather Cook Tree House HQ.
Downstairs will be a hive of culinary activity, before its hoisted upstairs for feasting! We are also building a fully functioning off-grid, wood fired kitchen which will have virtually every wood fired kitchen appliance you can think of, from open fire pits, underground ovens, clay ovens and hot & cold smokers, all of which have been central to our outdoor cookery over the years. Downstairs will also allow us to carry out our butchery courses under cover, from hanging deer from the rafters to jointing rabbits on our prep tables next to the kitchen unit.
There will be a huge amount of natural materials included in the build: oak & hazel banisters and railings, large chestnut support posts, even our tables will be hewn out of Oak from the wood. The aim is to try to make the tree house blend into its surrounding environment and become part of the wood itself using as many sustainable materials as possible.

HGC Starter: Pigeon Carpaccio with Elderberries & Wild Horseradish.
HGC Starter: Pigeon Carpaccio with Elderberries & Wild Horseradish.
When we say tree house, it won’t be in the traditional sense- there won’t be any walls, but we will be having a custom hunter green, pvc coated polyester canopy made especially for the tree house which will also have large clear panels to let in more light and look up at the trees housing our new HQ.

The existing Hunter Gather Cook HQ in amongst the bluebells.
The existing Hunter Gather Cook HQ in amongst the bluebells.
Hunter Gather Cook was established in March 2011 with the construction of the original HQ. Nick’s vision was to create a ‘Hunter-Gatherer’ school that blended a mixture of foraging, animal butchery, outdoor cookery techniques and elements of bushcraft with an emphasis in living comfortably in the great outdoors and creating high-end dishes using wild produce. Hunter Gather Cook runs a huge range of seasonal and specialist courses from deer in day and mushroom hunting to home brewing and wild cocktails- they received glowing reviews for their workshops at Wilderness Festival in 2013. Private courses, overnighters, stag & hen do’s and wild banquets are also a regular feature on the menu at Hunter Gather Cook, with the main aim of delivering truly unique adventures in Wild food. Nick and Hunter Gather Cook also work with Element, the biggest skatebrand in the world, and are actively involved with their advocate program teaching wilderness skills on skatecamps across Europe and consulting on all things wild.
Below is a short film showing a little bit about the ethos of Hunter Gather Cook, a few subtle notes on sustainable mushroom picking and the joys of food for free. Ladies & Gentlemen...this is what we do!
Nick Weston.
Nick began his outdoor education early, growing up as a somewhat feral child on Ashdown Forest in Sussex, with a background in Archaeology, cheffing, set design and bushcraft. In 2009, he decided to quit London after 5 years and build a tree house from recycled and natural materials deep in the Sussex countryside. The aim was to simplify his life and live off the land as a 21st Century hunter-gatherer. The book about his experience ‘The Tree house Diaries: How to live wild in the woods” was published in 2010 and his experience formed the foundation of what was to become Hunter Gather Cook, the finest foraging and cookery school in the UK.

The Book: High rise rustic living...
The Book: High rise rustic living...
Why Kickstarter?
We chose to use Kickstarter because we wanted real people to be directly involved in getting our Tree house HQ off the ground (!) and be part of the journey. For us, tree houses are a symbol of inspiration and adventure; they have the ability to transport us back to the days of our youth where anything seemed possible. Whether you had a hideaway in amongst the leaves as a child or not, we want to share this experience with you so you can see firsthand the tangible results of your support and passion to create a place to educate, inspire and celebrate our wonderful wild ingredients and the landscape that created them.

Wild food: Pan-fried saddle o'Rabbit with spring greens.
Wild food: Pan-fried saddle o'Rabbit with spring greens.
What will the money be used for?
Tier 1: £5000
Bespoke metal J-brackets constructed at our local forge- these will be the main attachments of the tree house to the oak trees. They are designed to be as low impact as possible causing minimal stress to the host trees. The main beams then slot into the j-brackets and because the structure is perched between the two oaks, the brackets will allow the trees to move and flex freely, again limiting the stress on the host trees.

Heavy Metal: Bespoke Treehouse J-brackets made from 1/2 inch thick steel.
Heavy Metal: Bespoke Treehouse J-brackets made from 1/2 inch thick steel.
Tree house frame, decking, railings and stairs:
Brand new timber will form the frame and decking as well as the stairs and railings. Natural materials including birch, hazel and oak will form the handrails and banisters that surround the upstairs of the tree house.
Chestnut support posts:
We will be outsourcing 14x15ft chestnut support posts which will stripped and raised to support the tree house frame the whole way around, they will also form the uprights of the railings. A nice, natural touch!
Tree house canopy:
The ‘roof’ of the tree house made from pvc coated polyester fabric, with 4 large clear ‘windows’ allowing for more light upstairs and a nice view of the host trees above. The fabric we have chosen is in hunter green to blend in better to the surrounding woodland and is much more durable than canvas. The canopy will be sheltering 1000’s of future Hunter-Gatherer’s for the next decade!
Having all the wood is one thing, we just need all the fixings to bolt, screw and secure everything together!
Kitchen Hardware:
The L-shaped kitchen unit will be constructed using natural materials from the wood. Our previous kitchen unit was made using a base of Sussex sandstone which we dug out from a nearby quarry, all of it will be constructed using the same materials and techniques, the hardware will consist of an Argentinian style adjustable grill for the fire pit and a custom built smoker to sit beside the new clay oven made from a 55 gallon steel drum.
Tier 2: IN EXCESS OF £5000
More than £5000? We'll be splitting extra funding between pimping the Hunter Gather Cook Tree house and developing a project we're working on called ROOST, which is aiming to unite the treehouses of the world.
Treehouse Extras:
  • A zipline.
  • Small crane/hoist for winching up goods into the trees.
  • Drop down canvas sides that fix to the canopy to enclose upstairs.
  • solar powered festoon lighting.
About Roost.

Wouldn't it be great if we could bring together the world's treehouses? From father and son end-of-the-garden hideaways to epic five star canopy retreats to indigenous tribal communities and artistic architects tree-top wonders.
This is Roost's mission: To get more people into trees
How? 1. By mapping, sharing and profiling the world's treehouses. 250+ roosts mapped. 
2. By curating education and tourism experiences and events in trees around the world
Why? To indulge our imaginations. To inspire more off-the-ground arboreal architects. To re-connect children and big children with nature. 
Roost? To rest or sleep on or as if on a perch.

So now you've what we want to do why not get behind us an donate at Hunter Gather Cook Tree House Kickstarter

Thanks for reading

Monday, 24 February 2014

Wild Garlic, Smoked Bacon and Parsnip Tagliatelle

So with spring coming round super early this year I thought I’d get the year going with a Wild Garlic recipe. Now the floods have subsided you’ll find it sprouting out beside the riverbanks with abundance. The smell of it in the wild to me is always evocative of the end of winter and start of spring, but be sure not to use too much as the smell on the breath is more evocative of someone with stinky garlic breath!

Wild Garlic sprouting after the floods.

This leads me on to one thing that I’d like to touch on before moving on to the recipe. I think it is important in foraging to only pick what you need. When faced with huge swathes of wild garlic in front of you it would be easy to get carried away and just pick carrier bags full of the stuff, most of which will never get used and will eventually just end up stinking your house out! As a rule of thumb I would say replacing 1 clove of garlic with 4 wild garlic leaves is about right.

Archie the foraging dog finds his target.

On to the recipe! I have been cooking this recipe since around 2001 and as far as I can remember it originated from one of Jamie Olivers early cook books. The addition of wild garlic instead of regular garlic adds an extra depth of flavour and I’d recommend wherever possible buying locally smoked bacon from your nearest farm shop or even direct from the smokery. The bacon I used was from the Wealden Smokery so if you are local to Sussex you won’t find better!

Wild Garlic Shoots

Wild Garlic, Bacon and Parsnip tagliatelle
Serves 4

8 Wild Garlic leaves finely chopped

Ingredients and Prep:
Handful of Rosemary, destalked, leaves finely chopped
100g Butter cut into 4 knobs
600g Parsnips, peeled halved and very thinly sliced lengthways
12 Slices of smoked streaky bacon roughly chopped up
200g Grated parmesan
500g dried tagliatelle
Salt and Pepper

Fry the bacon and rosemary with one of the knobs of butter in the largest frying pan or wok you have. After 3 or 4 minutes add another knob of butter, the wild garlic and parsnips stirring occasionally to ensure nothing burns in the pan. At the same time put the tagliatelle on as instructed on the packet.

Once the pasta is al dente strain it out reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the pasta, parmesan and rest of the butter to the bacon and parsnips and give it a good stir. If it looks like it’s a little stodgy then loosen with a little of the reserved cooking water. Season and Serve!

Wild Garlic, Smoked Bacon and Parsnip Tagliatelle

Monday, 27 January 2014

Micro Head Torch Shoot-Out: Petzel E+Lite Vs Fenix HL10

 The Stats

Petzel E+Lite
Fenix HL10
Max Output
26 Lumens
70 Lumens
Max Runtime: High
50 mins
Max Runtime: Mid
2h 45mins
Max Runtime: Low
Max Distance
Impact Resistance
Water Resistance
-1m IP67
-2m IPX-8
L40mm x W32mm x H23mm
L69.5mm x W29.2mm x H28.2mm
2 x CR2032 (included)
1 x AAA (included)
10 Year Guarantee
24 months free repair, limited lifetime warranty
Degree Tilt
360 degrees
100 degrees
4 x LEDs (3 White +1 Red)
1 x Cree XP-E LED
Number of Modes

First Impressions:

My first impression of the Petzel E+Lite which was purchased from was “is this some kind of toy!” It’s absolutely tiny only a little bigger than my thumb, at only 26g and almost entirely made of plastic it doesn’t feel in anyway substantial. 

Just a smidge bigger than my thumb!

Being as small at it is has some pluses and some minuses for me. On the plus side I always like to pack light but try to cover as many eventualities as possible so the e+lite is great in that respect. On the minus side being that small means I will undoubted at some point in the torches life lose it, probably somewhere at the bottom of my bag but if it drop on to the forest floor even a small leaf could hide it from my sight forever more. The other thing I noticed is that is doesn’t appear to have the usual headband you expect with most head torches, this has been replaced with a retractable reel of what looks basically like cheese wire,  but on closer inspection seems pretty strong  and not uncomfortable to wear,  when you consider this torch is designed to be mainly used as an emergency head lamp its fine. All the 5 functions are easy to see immediately on the front of the torch, it has a low, high and strobing white beam and a solid and strobing red beam too. As well as the off setting it also has
a lock setting to ensure it doesn’t turn on whilst sitting lost at the bottom of your rucksack. The tilt function on it is the best I’ve seem with a little ball joint at the bottom giving the torch the possibility of pointing it in any angle or direction needed.

On to the Fenix HL10 which I got from, first impressions are this is a much meatier torch and although still pretty tiny it weighs in at twice that of the e+lite. It has a “normal” style elastic headband that is as comfortable as you’d expect and is easily adjusted by a toggle at the back.  The torch itself sits in a plastic case attached to the headband, this case pops open and allows you to remove the lamp section and use it as a stand-alone normal flashlight which is pretty smart. 

The Fenix out of is casing

The flashlight section is made of adonsied aluminium and feels very rugged despite its diminutive size. It can also stand up on it end on a flat surface which I’m sure I’ll find a use for, just not sure what yet! Once clipped back in to the plastic case it is able to rotate 100 degrees up and down, which is all you would really hope for in a head torch. The button set up on the Fenix isn’t as immediately as obvious as the Petzel, it has one rubber button on the top of the lamp which you need to hold down for two to three seconds before the torch will turn on after that tapping the button with cycle through it’s low, medium and high settings. Holding the button for a further few seconds will turn it off.

The Field Test

For this test I worked two consecutive days at the Hunter Gather Cook School, both days run in almost exactly the same format  (stag dos) and both days will require me to work for around 3 hours in our off grid kitchen in the dark. Rather than using the Oil Lamps I usually work by I just used one of the head torches each day.

Standard start to the day at HGC

The first torch up was the Petzel which fared pretty well, the red light setting is great to switch to if you are having a conversation with someone you don’t want to blind, the main and even the economy settings worked well for the sort of jobs I was getting up to in the kitchen but were perhaps a little lacking when it came to foraging for ingredients out in the woods. Comfort wise my initial scepticism about the cheese cutter style head band were unfounded and once on the torch was so light and comfortable I found myself forgetting it was even there! Also the retractable style of the band meant that it could be warn on the wrist, which adds some extra versatility. Towards the end of the day there was a noticeable drain on the battery with there being little difference to the eco and standard modes. I’d say overall it performed excellently and for most people who will only be requiring a little time and light to set up camp until their fires are going it will be perfect. Considering that this head torch is designed to be an emergency back up, it actually out performs what it says it can do on the tin.

Getting down to some serious Fallow Carpaccio

The second day was a chance for the Fenix HL10 to shine and it really did! The initial 70 Lumens were just what I needed to badger away in the kitchen and woods to my hearts content. The lamp has an auto dim function when on high power and dims after a few minutes on full power.  I think if it had been left on full for the whole period perhaps the batteries might not have made it all the way through the day. Like the Petzel it did dim as the day came to a close but this is a fairly long test for a micro head torch so to be expected. The dimmest setting was fine to switch to when talking to our guests but I found the way the button set up worked to be a little less simple that the petzel although perfectly usable.  Overall it performed excellently which leaves me with a pretty close call as to which one I would choose as the winner……

Manning the kettles

The Results

And the winner is…...The Petzel E+Lite. The Petzel just scrapes the win due to it’s tiny size and massive versatility. It’s a great little all rounder and as I said previously it out performs expectations of just an emergency back up. This would be great for anyone who expects light weight and medium to light use. Only thing I will say for both of these torch is that carrying a spare set of batteries would be a good idea should you have to use them for an extended period.