Essential ingredients: wild garlic

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With Storm Katie behind us, it seems that spring has finally arrived, bringing with it a host of new seasonal ingredients. Here our Head Chef Stewart Turner brings wild garlic into the kitchen and Demetri Walters MW proposes possible vinous pairings.

On the table: When wild garlic makes its first appearance in the kitchen in mid-February, I know that spring is just around the corner, bringing with it the start of a new seasonal calendar. Gone are the roots and squashes that have kept us going through the winter and in come some of the truly great seasonal treats: Jersey Royals, English asparagus, morels and the aforementioned wild garlic.

The season for wild garlic leaves is short – they’re gone by June – but they are one of the most abundant wild foods and the ideal starting point for a novice forager. Likely to be found in any wooded glade where the ground is moist, the broad green leaves give off a lovely garlicky aroma. As the season progresses little white buds appear which will eventually flower, marking the season’s end, although both the buds and flower are edible (the latter is beautiful when fried in a tempura batter).

Part of the onion family, wild garlic is intense and fiery when raw. Although not as harsh as bulb garlic, they come into their own when cooked: wilt like you would spinach, allowing the leaves to take a little colour, and you have a fantastic green that works with just about anything.

Here are a couple of recipes that we always have on in the wild garlic season, a pesto that is fantastic to have in the fridge as a backup sauce for grilled meats and fish, or with some fresh pasta; and a lamb dish that combines three of our great seasonal treats for a sumptuous Easter Sunday lunch. Depending on the weather, we may even have some English asparagus to serve alongside: fingers crossed that spring has finally sprung.

In the glass: Stewart’s delicious wild garlic recipes, whilst illustrating all that’s best of spring’s bounty, are full-flavoured and mouth-coating in their richness. Therefore, with the wild garlic pesto I would experiment with all manner of fresh, delicately-fruited white wines, from Vermentino to Albariño. The roast rump of lamb, Jersey Royal fondants, morels and wild garlic is a rich, hearty dish, and one that requires a corresponding level of acidity and tannic structure in an accompanying red wine. Burgundy, Barolo, Rioja, as well as many new world counterparts, fit the bill, though I would resist the temptation to employ a very full-bodied, fruity, oaky red wine. Quiet delicacy will provide the perfect foil here.

Wild garlic pesto
  • 100g wild garlic leaves
  • 40g pine nuts – toasted
  • 200ml olive oil
  • ½ lemon – zest only
  • 50g parmesan – grated
  • Salt and pepper

Pick and wash the wild garlic leaves. Wilt half in a splash of olive oil and place on a plate to cool. Roughly chop the cooked leaves and then place in a blender with the remaining garlic leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon zest and grated parmesan. Blend to a nice smooth paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roast rump of lamb, Jersey Royal fondants, morels and wild garlicServes 6
  • 6 x 200g lamb rumps
  • Olive oil
  • Thyme & rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic – smashed
  • 120g fresh morels
  • 300g wild garlic
  • 50g butter

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Season the lamb rumps with salt and pepper. Place a heavy based frying pan over a high heat, add a good glug of olive oil and seal the lamb rumps for a couple of minutes on each side until nicely browned. When nearly finished add the thyme, rosemary, garlic and a good knob of butter. Baste the rumps with the foaming butter and place in a roasting tray. Pour over the butter, garlic and herbs. Transfer to the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Remove from the oven and place the lamb on a plate in a warm place to rest.

Return the sealing pan to the stove and add another splash of olive oil. Fry the morels over a medium heat until they start to brown. Add the wild garlic leaves and a good knob of butter. Fry until the garlic has wilted and started to brown.

Transfer to a serving dish and carve the rested lamb on top. Serve alongside the Jersey Royals and a good dollop of the wild garlic pesto.

Jersey Royal fondants

  • 500g Jersey Royals
  • 2 cloves of garlic – smashed
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley – chopped

Slice the butter evenly and lay over the bottom of a heavy based pan. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on top of the butter. Add enough water to just cover then add the garlic, thyme and bay. Cook over a medium heat until the potatoes are tender and the water has evaporated.

The layer of butter will start to brown the potatoes and take on a lovely nutty flavour. Once coloured, turn off the heat and allow the potatoes to sit in the butter for a few minutes. Drain and discard the garlic, thyme and bay. Serve sprinkled with some freshly chopped parsley.

Experiment with food and wine pairing at one of our food-focused wine events.