Sunburned last week then sat in with the fire on watching the snow fall this but the water butt is full again and I can live with a tan line or two. As I’m no foraging expert, the years foraging for me begins with wild garlic or Ramson’s as we like to call them.
So this week with everyone off school and work we went on our first forage walk of the year, not too different from most walks we go on just a few more things to carry and a focus that keeps my tummy rumbling the whole way round. Even if we were just taking a stroll, the wild garlic still plays a major roll filling the air with their pungent perfume so that you feel you must be near an Italian restaurant.
I had a specific shopping list this time and unlike much else from the wild larder, Ramson’s always deliver. Until the fruit starts to appear later in the year there is little else that is available in such quantities and there is no special equipment just a bag, a hand to pick and most importantly an eye for which leaves may be growing in a dog toilet.
So we return with muddy boots, tales of mice and sheep attacks and carrier bags full, the pungent garlic aroma filling the house so that anything other than cooking is impossible. Whether you want them just to add to salads or to be the main attraction there are a million and one recipes for them, I like to add them cut finely into mayonnaise or butter or simply shredded onto poached eggs. Here is a few I like from people who know better.
Wild Garlic Pesto
# 100g freshly picked wild garlic leaves
# 50g shallot, spring onions or leeks
# 50g shelled walnuts
# 200 ml olive oil, sunflower oil or rapeseed oil
# 50-60g mature hard cheese (Quick’s goats cheese , Parmesan or similar hard, mature cheese), finely grated
# ½ – 1 teaspoon sea salt
# ½ teaspoon sugar
Place in food processor along with walnuts, shallot and 150 ml oil. Blitz for about a minute until the everything is finely chopped up. Fold in the grated cheese, salt and sugar Fill into clean sterilised jars to within 5-7 cm of the top of jar. Make sure you press down firmly with the back of a spoon to remove any pockets of air (trapped air can cause contamination) allowing sufficient room to swirl the remaining oil over the top of the pesto to seal the surface.
Nettle and wild garlic soup
Nettle soup in all its variations is a springtime favourite at River Cottage. Wild garlic goes very well with this other easily-foraged ingredient. Just don’t forget to take rubber gloves on your nettle hunt. Serves six.
1 carrier bag full of nettles
(ideally young leaves)
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
1 small celeriac (about 350g peeled weight), cut into cubes
1 large garlic clove, crushed (optional)
1 litre good-quality chicken
(or vegetable) stock
Salt and ground black pepper
1 pinch freshly grated
3 tbsp cooked rice (or 3 rice cakes)
2 tbsp wild garlic leaves, chopped
A little cream or some crème fraîche
2-3 tbsp wild garlic leaves, finely chopped
Pick over the nettles and wash them well. Discard only the tougher stalks, because the soup will be liquidised. Melt the butter in a large pan and sweat the onion, celery, leek, celeriac and garlic, if using, until soft but not brown – about 10 to 15 minutes.
Now add the stock and pile in the nettles, pushing them down to submerge. Bring to the boil and simmer, partially covered, for five to 10 minutes until the nettles are tender. Season with salt and pepper, and with nutmeg, if you wish.
Purée the soup in a liquidiser along with the cooked rice (or rice cakes) – the quantity is such that you will probably have to do this in two batches. Return the puréed soup to a clean pan, stir in the wild garlic leaves and reheat, but do not let it boil. Check the seasoning, then serve, garnishing each bowl with a swirl of cream and a generous sprinkle of chopped wild garlic leaves.
HFW, Guardian recipes