To celebrate the first days of spring this weekend, I picked big handfuls of wild garlic from the nearby woodland, which is carpeted a deep emerald green this time of year. With the distinctive scent of garlic in the air, you know that spring has really arrived.
Wild garlic pesto is not for the faint-hearted; it’s powerfully pungent and assertive, in a raw onion kind of way. It works best with the obvious pasta pairing, or with new potatoes and green beans or peas, or on toast with a soft cheese. A recent discovery was that it’s a perfect partner to the somewhat bland but still delicious home-made gnocchi (I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe in his book Veg).
I’ve used walnuts here but you can use any kind of nuts really, such as hazelnuts, cashew nuts or pine nuts. The same goes for the cheese; occasionally I’ve made it with plain old Cheddar but the stronger the better, flavour wise, although the wild garlic does tend to dominate whatever you throw at it.
Wild garlic by itself is also great stuffed into roast chicken; just bung in a couple of handfuls when you put the bird in the oven and then eat it as another vegetable with the meal. Or use it in a quiche; wild garlic and feta cheese is one of my favourite fillings. The garlic only needs chopping and then wilting slightly before you put it in the pastry shell.
50g wild garlic, washed, dried and roughly chopped
50g parmesan or hard strong sheep’s or goat’s cheese, finely grated
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
50 ml olive oil to cover
Finely chop or whizz the nuts in a food processor, before adding the wild garlic. Stir in the parmesan, lemon juice and salt, and just enough oil to make a thick paste. The pesto will keep in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks covered with a layer of oil.