Wild Garlic


In case you haven’t heard, spring has officially sprung. Daffodils and tulips are flowering, trees are covered in blossom and Easter is just around the corner. I love this time of year. I feel so refreshed when the sun starts to show its face again; everything is green and new and I want to be outside as much as possible. 

Something that is synonymous with spring, especially in the food world is Wild Garlic. If you go in to any forest or wooded area you are highly likely to stumble across a bountiful crop of wild garlic. It grows rampantly in shady places from March until May, flowering around mid April. As far as foraging goes it’s a fairly easy one to spot and you will certainly smell it before you see it. The leaves are broad and richly coloured with dainty white, star shaped flowers. I am no expert in foraging and I’d never given wild food a second thought until a couple of years ago except for the obligatory late-summer blackberry picking. If you are interested in going out to pick some wild garlic for yourself, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you are looking for. Wild Garlic is easy to identify because it is so pungent but I still recommend looking at various different sources online and checking out your local library for a book on foraging. Wild Garlic is sometimes mistaken for Lily of the Valley which is extremely toxic, so again, be certain of what you are picking. Another few things to remember when foraging for wild food is to be respectful of the environment. Never, ever pull the plant up by its root. Only take the leaves and flowers. Don’t take too much from one spot and remember that this is natures larder. It doesn’t belong to you or anyone else, so don’t take advantage of it or be selfish.

Wild Garlic can be used in so many thing in the kitchen in exactly the same way you would use regular bulb garlic. If you are stirring it into a dish in lieu of normal garlic, I recommend treating it as you would any other fresh herb. Finely chop and stir in at the very end of cooking so that the beautiful flavour is not lost. Wild Garlic can also be used to make a butter, by chopping and mixing in to salted butter. Some people use it in a salad and you can also make a lovely soup with it. 

I like to make wild garlic pesto firstly because we are big pesto fans in this house and secondly because it’s damn good. Making Pesto with wild garlic turns it from a “what the hell do I do with this” ingredient to a “what can I not do with this” ingredient. A couple of things I like to do with it are simply stir it into cooked spaghetti and use a basic white dough to make cheese and pesto swirls.


Wild Garlic Pesto

Ingredients 

  • 300g Wild Garlic
  • 100g grated Parmesan
  • 150g olive oil
  • 100g pine nuts 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

  1. Thoroughly wash the wild garlic and inspect it to make sure you haven’t picked up any non-edible greens or stowaways (bugs). Use a clean tea towel to dry the leaves gently. Then roughly chop the garlic.
  2. Firstly put the pine nuts in your food processor with the oil and salt and blend.
  3. Then add the wild garlic, a handful at a time. Finish with the the lemon juice. 
  4. Keep blending until it reaches your desired smoothness. I prefer mine a little chunky.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days. You can also freeze this for up to one month.





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Duqqa

Originating in Egypt, this delicious blend of nuts and spices is my new favourite thing to put on pretty much everything. Traditionally it is eaten as a condiment with bread or vegetables being first dipped into olive oil, and then in to Duqqa. 

The name Duqqa (or Dukkah as it is sometimes spelt) derives from the Arabic word for “to pound” as it is made by dry roasting and then smashing together sesame seeds, hazelnuts and a mx of whole spices. It isn’t fine like a spice, but it’s ground into an almost mealy texture halfway between couscous and Polenta. There are many versions of Duqqa sold in street markets in Egypt, and of course every family has their own recipe handed down through generations. I like mine earthy and strongly nutty with good heat from black peppercorns, but I also like a sweeter Duqqa with cinnamon for sprinkling over porridge.


Ingredients:

  • 200g hazelnuts, shelled, skinned and roughly chopped.
  • 100g of flaked almonds
  • 200g sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Method

  1. Firstly toast the nuts and the seeds in a heav bottomed frying pan, over a low heat. Keep them moving so they don’t burn. Watch out for flying sesame seeds and remove from the heat when the nuts and seeds are nicely golden all over.
  2. Toast the whole spices and grind. I used an electric spice grinder for this and pulsed it until the spices were ground but not too finely. Place the spices in a mixing bowl.
  3. Next grind the nuts and seeds. I grind a third of the mixture to a similar texture to the spices, the next third to a slightly coarser texture and the final portion I pound by hand in the pestle and mortar to give a less uniform consistency.
  4. Mix all of the ingredients together with a little salt, tasting as you go.


This is just the way I like to make Duqqa. If you prefer yours spicier or less spicy, more fragrant or more sweet, experiment with different whole spices and dried herbs. Lots of variations include dried mint, dried marjoram and thyme as well as cinnamon and cardamom.

I like to use Duqqa as a garnish on soups such as Carrot and Lentil. It goes very well on hoummous and you can sprinkle it over salads for a different flavour dimension. To make a sweet Duqqa, I reduce the amount of cumin, leave out the coriander and black pepper, reduce the chilli by a little and add lots of cinnamon, a little nutmeg and all spice. It’s really good on porridge and yoghurt.