At the weekend we went on a very short but fruitful walk with Paul, Natalie and their small person, Iris. Fin assumed the role of big brother as soon as we left the house, cajoling and leading Iris like an experienced shepherd and using his best pleading voice (with a pleasing hint of authority) when she failed to move at the required speed.
At the appointed spot we shook open our paper bags and filled them with handfuls of spring's first wild garlic leaves. Not yet enough leaves to fill the air with the green scent of wild garlic at full throttle, but our hands smelt good enough to eat. As we picked our way back along the rutted track Natalie noticed that there were tiny shoots all along the tractor furrow, thousands of them waiting for a burst of sun to swell into plants. They turned out to be wild garlic shoots, a whole larder full of potential. I guess they would have made an amazing salad, but we left them in the hope that our next visit would yield armfuls of the stuff for soups, salads and omelettes, without worrying that we had not enough for another delicious garlicky dish the next day.
If you live even remotely near some countryside you'll be able to find some wild garlic. Once you know what you're looking for it will leap out of banks and woodland walks just begging you to pick a few leaves and add them to your supper. For those of you that aren't sure what to look for, check out this wikipedia page and avoid eating the mildly poisonous lily of the valley....
We had ours four ways; wild garlic burgers with wild garlic pesto, liver with wild garlic, and a superfood dip combining parsley, tahini, wild garlic and lemon that was about a thousand times better than downing a vitamin pill. Parsley, Wild Garlic and Tahini dip recipe to follow in a couple of days........
I'll give you the other recipes below - except for the liver, that's just too simple - chop some lambs liver into small cubes and some wild garlic leaves into a chiffonade (small strips), get a frying pan (skillet) really hot, pour in a little oil, throw in the liver and stir until it looks about 30 seconds off being cooked (3-4 minutes), season with salt and pepper, add the wild garlic leaves and a knob of butter, cooking for a further 30 seconds to wilt the garlic. Serve with squash or roasted carrot mash and a big pile of watercress or rocket. Yum!
Wild Garlic Burgers with Wild Garlic Pesto (serves 2)
We ate these burgers with a knife and fork, rather than as a burger in a bap - sometimes though I use larger spinach leaves and put them either side of the burger with a nice fat slice of beefsteak tomato (in the summer) or alternatively sandwich the burger between two griddled portobello mushrooms (a perfect chance to add more garlic, by crushing a clove and smearing it on before you griddle). They are rich, so accompany with something green, crisp and palate cleansing.
Wild Garlic Burgers (makes four small ones)
2 large handfuls of lean organic beef mince (probably about 300-400 g)
6 large or 10 small wild garlic leaves
2 good pinches of sea salt and a grind of black pepper
1 ripe avocado
washed and dried baby spinach leaves
Wild Garlic Pesto (see recipe below)
Thoroughly wash garlic leaves and chop finely. Smoosh everything together in a bowl and form into four patties. I make mine about 1 1/2 cm (1/2 inch) thick because they spring up again when they cook and don't need so long in the pan.
Fry, barbeque or griddle until they are done the way you like (we like our very pink in the middle and that takes about 2-3 mins either side. Drain on kitchen paper while you arrange the leaves.
To assemble. Place a few spinach leaves on the plates in a circle a little bigger than the burger - one circle per burger. Slice the avocado and arrange this on the leaves. Place a burger on each pile and drizzle with pesto (but resist spattering the plates with it as I did, just hand it round at the table...)
Wild Garlic Pesto
8 large wild garlic leaves, thoroughly washed
3oz (85g) basil leaves
1 1/2 oz (40g) raw pine nuts
1 1/2 oz (40g) Parmesan or Gran Padano cheese
large pinch sea salt and grind of pepper
100ml veg oil
Put everything except the oil into a food processor and blend for a minute. Then add most of the oil and blend again, scraping down occasionally, until you have a smooth paste. Add the rest of the oil if you think it needs it and a little more if necessary - you are looking for a soft paste, on the runny side. Scrape into a jar and keep for up to a week in the fridge (if you can resist it that long)
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