Or maybe it was because a lot of people were talking about wild garlic on Twitter (well @audreygillan and @everythingbut mostly) and my garden is teeming with the stuff.
Nevertheless, there is definitely something exciting about spring and when the ramson shoots appear around our cherry tree and start to broaden into pungent leaves of green, I do get slightly hysterical, grabbing fistfuls to smell and shovel in my gob. I kid you not. And this is regardless of the fact that our cats often spray their business in that area. Over the seasons though, I have to say that I don't really utilise our crop as much as I should. In the past I've snipped some into salads, scrambled eggs or steamed and wilted very quickly and used as accompaniment for salmon or chicken but more often than not I've given the stuff away to friends. With the intention of using this alturuistic act to bribe them for goods, services, favours etc at a later date. But like I said I got thoroughly stuck in yesterday making wild garlic pesto, soup (with nettles) and bread so as a further act of goodwill I thought I'd post the recipes. Being the kind of guy I am and all.*
Wild Garlic Pesto
A simple recipe and an absolute humdinger, an assault on the senses and quite frankly one that will make your breath stink so make sure your partner also indulges. My son Fin was watching me with eager eyes whilst I was blitzing this up in the food processor, constantly asking "what was are you doing?" and "can I have some?". I warned him that it might be a bit too strong for a little boy to taste but Fin was insistant. Cue minute tip of teaspoon being placed into his mouth followed by much spitting and wailing and running around. Like I said I did warn him. Strangely enough though when heated through with some pasta, the intensity of the pesto did temper somewhat and Fin managed his bowlful with no qualms at all.
1 large bunch of wild garlic, washed
1 small bunch of curly parsley, washed
60gms pine nuts, toasted
60gms parmesan cheese
150mls olive oil (I mixed half extra virgin, half normal)
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients into a food processor apart from the olive oil and blitz for a minute or two then slowly pour in the olive oil until blended. Use for pasta, mash, dipping etc etc
Wild Garlic and Nettle Soup
I got the inspiration for this vivid, fresh tasting, vitamin packed soup from the aforementioned @everythingbut (real name Claire) who also runs Shacklewell Nights supper club and writes Green Onions but changed a couple of ingredients with what I had to hand. Interestingly, did you know that after they've been picked, nettles do actually lose their sting before cooking? It's all to do with the fact that the flow of formic acid comes from the main stem of the plant, pluck the leaf off and the 'sting' dries up. So after washing you can use the leaves raw. Best leave the nettles overnight to test this theory though. In fact, don't hold me to this, I am giving you all this guff because some bloke from Cool Earth once told me I could do it. (And I did, just check my reaction on the video in this link). But I don't want to be held responsible for any incidents or get any phone calls from people saying "Dabby, I'th justh sbent ten hoursth upth the hosthpital coth of you, you bathsted".
2 onions, finely sliced
2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
3 potatoes, small dice
1 bay leaf
1 large carrier bag of wild garlic, washed
1 large carrier bag of young nettles, leaves picked and washed (wearing rubber gloves!)
2 litres water
pinch of nutmeg
a dollop or two of mascarpone
salt and pepper
large knob of butter
In a large stock pot, melt the butter and gently fry the onion and celery until soft, then add the potato and bay leaf and continue to heat and stir for a further 10 minutes or so. Pour in the water and bring to the boil and then add the nettle leaves. Bring back to a gentle simmer for 5 more minutes until the nettles have wilted and then throw in the wild garlic, which will wilt almost immediately. Take off the heat and blitz in a blender. Place back in the pot to reheat, stirring though the nutmeg, mascarpone and season to taste. Claire's suggestion of serving with grated boiled egg worked really well with this soup.
Wild Garlic Bread
Very simple. Just follow Dan Lepard's Easy Loaf recipe and at the stage when you have to pat the dough into an oval shape before rolling, just smear some of the wild garlic pesto over the surface. It helps to make some wild garlic pesto before this stage of course but this bread tastes amazing. No more frozen bagettes to be slammed into the oven 10 minutes before serving up your lasagne from now on. Yes this is slow food but also wild food. Luuurve food in fact......grrrowl.