The clocks going forward on Easter Sunday seemed to mark the moment that the UK and Ireland came out of hibernation. After the Christmas decorations came down, it took a while to get out of the dark days where both light and locally grown produce are scarce and I think this is part of the reason that we get so excited about the arrival of one of the first notable locally grown seasonal delights: Wild garlic.
From the end of March, you can start to smell wild garlic leaves in the hedgerows. I’m luckily enough to live near mounds of the stuff and whether cycling down the lane or going for a run around the paths at the end of my garden, there’s always a little hint in the air that it’s growing nearby. Yes, the season is short and I imagine that only a fraction of this luscious green leaf is used, even though it’s so prevalent in the woodland all over the UK and Ireland. So in order to use what we have on our doorstep, I urge you to get out there and harvest some of this years crop.
The great thing is, it can be chopped up or ripped apart and used in so many recipes. Adding it to a stir-fry, or putting it in butter when frying prawns or a chicken breast is lovely. Pep up a salad with wild garlic or throw it on your mushrooms: Wild garlic mushrooms on toast is an absolute winner! But it is in pesto that I absolutely adore it. Just substitute basil with wild garlic and you have a seasonal treat that you can add to so many savoury dishes. Another great thing about it is that it will last for up to a month in the fridge so you can appreciate it even after the season is over. Here’s my recipe.
Wild Garlic Pesto
A Large Fistful of Washed Wild Garlic Leaves
40g Toasted Pine Nuts
40g Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Zest of ¼ of a Lemon
Enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to bind the ingredients together
Put all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until course. Do not over blitz as the pesto will become too smooth, Yu can use a pestle and mortar if you have the patience.
Put in a sterilised airtight container and cover with extra virgin olive oil
It’s great drizzled over new potatoes once they’re harvested, served with any type of pasta or drizzled over pan fired white fish or chicken, but I love to add it to gnocchi, and here’s how:
Par boil some gnocchi for a minute or so, drain the water and add it to a pre-heated pan with a generous nob of butter. Sprinkle in some panko breadcrumbs and when both the gnocchi and the breadcrumbs start to go brown, mix in a generous amount of pesto so that the gnocchi is coated with it. Once spooned into a bowl, top with oven-crisped parma ham for a salty kick. This is great as a starter with lightly steamed asparagus draped over the top once it’s back in season.
But what about the wine choice? Well, wild garlic packs a real tang but isn’t as hot as raw garlic cloves and I have a few beauties that are great partners with it.
The tang of Italian white wines are the perfect accompaniment to the rounded bite of wild garlic and the salty parmesan. One fantastic example is Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Grecco di Tufo 2014. The wine is made from an ancient grape from the Campagna region of Southern Italy. This particular wine comes from a small vineyard near the town of Atripalda. There’s a minerality to the nose that hints at the dry yet full taste of this wine. It has a beautiful tang that compliments the wild garlic and is so deliciously spring-like it’s perfect for this time of year. This fabulous wine is currently £10 a bottle.
Another Italian gem is exclusive to Waitrose. It’s the La Monetta Gavi del Comune di Gavi 2015. It’s made from the Cortese grape variety and is both refreshing and elegant at the same time. It’s citrusy, appley and pear like allure with a hint of creaminess is truly wonderful with the texture of gnocchi and velvety wild garlic pesto. It’s currently a bargain as it’s down from £10.79 to £7.29 so give it a whirl and see what you think.
But if you really want to bring out the pine-nuttiness (I just made that word up by the way, you can’t go wrong with Asda’s Extra Special Domaine de la Levée Chablis 2014. It’s a classy drop and if you love the yoghurt tang of young Chablis, you will love this wine. It’s freshness and delicate flavour is great in the spring sunshine with a bowl of wild garlic gnocchi. Also, if you decided to drizzle the pesto on white fish or prawns, this Chablis made with grapes selected from a selection of villages in the Chablis area will come into it’s own. It’s currently £11 a bottle.
So however you enjoy your wild garlic, or indeed your wine – Embrace the season and enjoy!