Spring is finally here, and I’m back blogging. I don’t deal very well with winter, so decided to take a break from this little corner of the web; I wasn’t feeling very inspired and B. ended up cooking for most of the season. But now I am back and full of ideas – and, most importantly, feeling excited about food again.
When produce that has been absent for so many months comes back into season, it really does feel like I’m welcoming back old friends. I was so happy to get hold of some purple sprouting broccoli (finally!) and wild garlic this week – two signs that spring has finally sprung.
I had great plans to experiment with PSB this year, but because the season is so short, when it came down to it I had to have purple sprouting broccoli with cream (courtesy of Nigel Slater). Possibly my favourite dish ever, I have now had it three times in two weeks!
As well as having a fantastic mild garlic aroma, ramsons (as wild garlic is also known) adds great colour and vibrancy to many dishes, including soups, omelettes and salads.
After last year’s risotto, I decided to try something new with my wild garlic, even if it was still on the Italian theme. Pesto is so simple and seems to be a popular way to use up wild garlic, so I decided to give it a go myself and branch out from the classic basil variety I usually knock up.
I warn you now, this stuff is potent – you and your house will smell of garlic but it is totally worth it. I added some basil leaves to temper the flavour, and used a grassy tasting good-quality olive oil.
The resulting pesto was, as you would expect, very garlicky, and had quite a kick to it. I stirred it into gnocchi and these little potato dumplings were the perfect partner, adding substance while allowing the wild garlic flavours to sing. I found this pesto to be a fantastic alternative to basil, plus I didn’t get the usual indigestion I have following a particularly garlicky meal – bonus!
There was enough pesto leftover to turn into a fish stuffing the following day. To bulk it out I added a bunch of fresh parsley and coriander, capers and a couple of anchovy fillets to turn it into a pesto/salsa verde filling for mackerel. The flavours were a perfect foil for the oily fish; it was a fantastic spring lunch served with potato salad and fresh bread rolls.
All in all, this is a fantastic, simple sauce that heralds the arrival of a new season. Goodbye winter, hello spring!
Wild garlic pesto
90g wild garlic leaves, washed and roughly chopped
2 big handfuls of basil leaves
20g pine nuts, toasted
65g Parmesan, grated
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. Pound the wild garlic leaves and basil in a pestle and mortar (or in a food processor). Add the pine nuts, Parmesan and continue to pound/process.
2. Pour in enough olive oil to make a fairly loose consistency but not completely runny and season with sea salt and black pepper.