A "5 ways with" series
Hot on the heals of daffodils comes wild garlic. Its unmistakable scent is permeating many of Somerset’s footpaths. Ask gardeners in this part of the country and most will not have a kind word to say about a plant they regard as a weed. But we think it’s only a weed if you don’t know just how many culinary delights await.
The season for picking wild garlic at its best is relatively short- 4 weeks if you are lucky and can start as early as mid-February (this year) or as late as the end of March.
Unlikely its better known, commercially grown, name sake, you do NOT eat the bulbs but the leaves (and later on the flowers, although they are not to everybody’s taste). You are looking for dark green shoots no longer than 6 inches. We would always recommend the leaves.
As an ingredient it is extremely versatile- think spinach just with more taste. You will notice pesto is not one of our 5 ways - a bit too samey for us. So here are our 5 ways with wild garlic:
Wild garlic puffy parcels. We find a young goat’s cheese compliments the flavour of wild garlic really well. Add some extra lemon zest for a bit of a kick.
Wild Garlic pasta. Even the kids won’t be put off by the fact they are green! In fact our 12 year old would happily eat three portions after a match. To make pasta takes a bit (!) of practice but is immensely satisfying. Our “make your own pasta” workshops book up quickly and kids love it. You will first need to make a wild garlic puree using a food processor. Make sure to use pasta (OO) flour. It might be more expensive but you will definitely notice the difference. A vegan version works perfectly well but we prefer the vegetarian option with fresh free range eggs.
Wild Garlic veloute. Whatever your recipe says, double the amount of wild garlic. This rich soup really needs quite a lot of cream, preferably crème fraiche. A traditional veloute would have egg yolks as well but this makes it slightly too heavy for our taste. Wild garlic is quite a delicate flavour so do not over power it with other spices. Possibly just a soupcon of turmeric.
Wild Garlic and forest mushrooms Arancinis. Our take on this Italian classic. Add your wild garlic at the end of the cooking to maximise flavour. Dehydrate a lot of leaves, crumble them and add to the breadcrumbs for the breading stage. As the rice is already cooked be gentle when you fry your Arancinis- about 3 minutes should do it.
For our final offering you will need a dehydrator- definitely one of my favourite kitchen gadgets! Wild garlic sea salt is one of the few ways to be able to enjoy this very ephemeral ingredients all year round. Use unbleached sea salt- who needs chemicals? The process takes around 12 hours (no need to stand watching - watching paint dry is faster) and will give you 12 months of pleasure. Think salmon and lamb. A dribble of olive oil, rub the sea salt on the skin- think massage. Salivate.