NORTH East chef James Burton was one of the talented few to make it to the finals of the prestigious BBC2 cooking show, MasterChef: The Professionals last month, presided over by Michelin- starred Michel Roux Jr.
The 33-year-old forager and private chef, who lives close to the village of Wall, near Hexham in Northumberland, made it to the final four from an initial 40 competitors. James has his own business, Vallum Cooking, and sells his home-made preserves, cordials and chutneys at Hexham farmers’ market, of which he is a director.
A big fan of the great outdoors, James has been shooting since he was young, cultivates a vegetable garden and forages for everything from wild mushrooms to sorrel, yarrow and bog myrtle to flavour his dishes.
Here’s one of James’s recipes for Journal readers, typically using foraged finds. It makes a light starter that he says can easily be made larger and had as a simple supper.
But James does warn that foragers need to exercise caution when they’re out picking, and if they are unsure, then just don’t pick it.
He adds: “Picking wild products must be done carefully and thoughtfully. There are inherent dangers. If you are unsure, then don’t pick.”
For his recipe, he says: “Use watercress or cress; the sorrel adds a lemony zing, but the dish can survive without it.”
Ingredients (Serves 4)
150g goat’s curd, (available in supermarkets)
150ml-200ml double cream
Salt and pepper
1 frozen bread roll
30g unsalted butter
Bunch of hairy bittercress (use cress or watercress if you can’t find any). Grows as a garden weed
7 ivy-leaved toadflax & flowers if any (grows on walls)
5 small wild sorrel leaves
1 green tomato
1 long shallot
60ml rapeseed oil
20ml white wine vinegar
Small teaspoon English mustard
Pinch of dark soft brown sugar
Make sure curds and cream are well chilled. Place curds in food processor, whizz until well combined with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Then while whizzing slowly, add the cream. Transfer to a bowl or tub and place in fridge.
Peel shallot, slice into very thin rings, dehydrate at 53C for around five hours or until crisp. (You can use an electric oven on very low).
Slice the frozen roll very thinly, use a slicer if you have one. Butter a silicon mat, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne (use sparingly). Lay the slices of roll on to mat, butter another mat and lay on top. Place on a tray, and put another tray on top, bake in a medium oven for 15-20 mins until slightly golden and crisp. When done, remove to a cooling rack.
To make the dressing, place vinegar, sugar and mustard in a beaker and whiz with a hand blender. Slowly add the rapeseed oil, until incorporated. Add a little hot water if you need to thin it down.
Cut the green tomato into eighths, remove any seeds. Place in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and a teaspoon of dressing.
Wash the hairy bittercress, sorrel and ivy-leaved toadflax. Place on kitchen paper.
To plate, make quenelle of goat mousse, place in middle of plate. Place green tomato around the plate, put the leaves in a haphazard fashion around and over. Do same with the crisp shallot rings. Either place the crisp bread on the plate or serve separately. Spoon a small amount of dressing over the plate.