As the sun starts to warm the earth after the chilly winter months the countryside is abundant with new shoots and herbs. Amongst these you may well find wild garlic especially in the danker more sheltered spots in woods, forests and roadside verges or banks. A visit to Cornwall over Easter included an afternoon foraging and with the pungent aroma of garlic everywhere we returned to our guests house with a basketful of light green leaves. The leaves are perfect for pounding into a pesto like sauce and storing for later use in risottos, pasta dishes, breads or omelettes.
Back to the kitchen to pick through the leaves and remove any dirt or bugs and so cooking could begin in earnest.
Once washed you can blend the leaves into a puree and this can either be used immediately or will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (recipe below). This versatile paste can be added to soups and stews or used as a sauce on poached eggs, stirred into scrambled eggs or a creamy risotto. Or add a few toasted and chopped pine nuts and grated Parmesan for a simple and delicious garlic pesto.
Wild garlic puree
A large bunch wild garlic leaves, rinsed and dried
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Place the leaves in a food processor with a little oil and blend until smooth, adding enough oil to make a pesto like sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and use at once or store in the fridge in a sealed container. Use as required. This will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Smoked salmon poached egg and garlic toasts
2 free-range eggs
2 slices wholemeal toast
100 g smoked salmon
2 tablespoons wild garlic puree
a few rocket leaves, to serve
Cook the eggs. Place a pan of water on to boil with a tablespoon of white vinegar added to it. Once simmering, swirl the water with a spoon and gently crack the eggs into the water. Simmer very gently for 3 minutes until cooked but still soft in the middle.
Meanwhile, spread the toast with butter and top with slices of smoked salmon. As soon as the eggs are cooked pop one onto each toast and spoon on the garlic puree. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve at once with a little rocket.
Clam and panchetta linguine with wild garlic puree
1 kg baby clams, scrubbed
a splash white wine
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125 g pancetta, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
grated zest and juice 1 lemon
a pinch red chilli flakes
2-4 tablespoons garlic puree
200 g linguine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Place the clams in a large saucepan with a splash of wine and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until all the shells have opened (discard any that remain closed). Drain the clams reserving the stock, passing the liquid trough a fine sieve to remove any grit, keep warm. Remove the clams from the shells if wished.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the pancetta for 3-4 minutes until browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the heat and fry the onion, garlic, lemon zest, chilli flakes and a little pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the clams and garlic paste.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain well and return to the pan. Stir in the clam mixture, pancetta, a little of the reserved cooking liquid and parsley. Stir over the heat for a minute or so, taste and add a little lemon juice and salt if necessary. Serve at once with a little extra puree if wished.