Pairing wild garlic with wine
Author: Stewart Turner
Spring has finally arrived, bringing with it a host of new seasonal ingredients. Here, we take a look at one of the UK’s most abundant wild foods, and the wines to pair with it: wild garlic.
When wild garlic makes its first appearance in mid-February, we 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 kept us going through winter, and in come some of the true seasonal greats: Jersey Royals, asparagus, and of course – wild garlic.
The season for wild garlic leaves is short – they’re gone by June. But they are one of the UK’s most abundant wild foods. When in season, it’s very likely that you’ll find it growing in dense clumps in any woodland or forest where the ground is moist.
Part of the onion family, wild garlic leaves are intense and fiery when raw. Although not as harsh as bulb garlic, they come into their own when cooked, wilted down as you would spinach – although they provide a potent punch to salads and sandwiches when left raw, too. But what best to pair them with?
The key when matching wild garlic with wine is to balance the complex potency of the leaves. Some intensity in the glass is needed to match wild garlic’s burst of flavour – very light, delicate wines are likely to be pushed into the background. Textural, fruit-forward wines with full flavours should be the go-to for popular dishes like wild garlic pesto; think a bone-dry Riesling from Alsace, a fresh Albariño, or a mouth-coating Vermentino.
Here is a recipe where we combine wild garlic, lamb and morels – three great seasonal treats – for a sumptuous Easter Sunday lunch. Depending on the weather, we may even have some English asparagus to serve alongside. This 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 and many new world counterparts would fit the bill. I would resist the temptation to employ a very full-bodied, fruity, oaky red wine. Quiet delicacy will provide the perfect foil here.
Roast rump of lamb, Jersey Royal fondants, morels and wild garlic
To serve six
- 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.