A walk on the wild side
I like to take make the most of seasonal gluts when they become available, Wild Garlic (Ransoms) are a case in point. The season only runs from March through to May so I try to take advantage whilst I can and make some Wild Garlic Pesto for the freezer to see us through the summer months.
I’ll make a couple of batches of this over the next month or so and freeze individual portions in small freezer bags or disposable plastic cups. Just label and date them clearly – they should be good for 6 months.
As it happens I came across some Wild Garlic when I was at the Broadstairs Spring Food Festival over Easter. There was a stall doing brisk business selling bunches of the stuff, but I have to say the thought of travelling back to London via train and tube for 3 hours carrying such a pungent cargo put me off buying any. I rectified this over the weekend however and picked up a few bunches from the Venn Street Market in Clapham.
Of course it would be preferable to flaunt your foodie credentials and forage your own Wild Garlic, but whilst the woods of Kent where I grew up are teaming with the stuff, here in suburban London Wandsworth Common is the closest thing we have to nature and I’m not sure if offers quite the same gastronomic possibilities!
That being said I have occasionally seen commis chefs (I assume from Chez Bruce which overlooks the Common) foraging for berries in the Common’s hedgerows, so maybe I shouldn’t be quite so flippant.
I might be a bit of a wimp, but pure Wild Garlic pesto is a bit too much for me. I like to cut the recipe in a ratio of 2/3 Wild Garlic to a 1/3 mix of Parsley and Basil, I think it makes the finished flavour a little more rounded, but feel free to use 100% Wild Garlic.
I add a couple of extra garlic cloves to my recipe, not because the flavour really needs any more garlic, but I find I miss the “heat” of raw garlic cloves otherwise, but leave them out if you wish. I used walnuts in this recipe as I had them to hand, but I’ve used both pine nuts and hazelnuts to good effect previously.
This can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for regular pesto – stirred through Pasta, spread on bruschetta, served as a condiment with grilled fish and meat – I think it goes particularly well with lamb cooked on the BBQ. On this occasion we actually enjoyed this as a sauce to accompany a simply roasted duck, recipe to follow.
Enjoy…and keep the breath mints to hand!
Prep time: 5 mins
2 Bunches Wild Garlic
1 Small bunch Curly-leaf Parsley
1 Small bunch Basil
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
50g Shelled Walnuts
Olive oil as required
Salt and freshly ground Pepper
Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a few mins, watch them carefully and be sure not to let them catch or blacken – they can turn in a moment. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
Zest the lemon and add to a food processor along with the juice of half the lemon.
Roughly chop the wild garlic, stalks and all and add to the food processor along with the leaves of the parsley and basil, crushed garlic cloves, walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and a good glug of olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Blend to a thick paste slowly adding more olive oil until your reach the desired consistency.
A note on blending olive oil:
There is a lot of discussion in cookbooks and online about whether using Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a food processor or blender creates a bitter taste in your finished product. I’m no Heston and science is not my forte so I can’t pretend to understand the processes at work, but to be on the safe side I stick to a rule of using regular Olive oil when blending and using Extra Virgin in a Pestle and Mortar. I like to make traditional Basil Pesto in a Pestle and Mortar, but because of the quantities involved here I blend with regular Olive Oil.
Tweak the seasoning to your taste, adding a little more lemon juice to perk up the flavour if necessary.
Serve as desired or freeze in batches if not using immediately, it will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.