George Ryle, Garden Café Head Chef
Nothing marks the coming of spring like wild garlic. Fresh shoots of deep green forcing their way up and out into the world ready to be swiped by giddy chefs and home cooks alike. Its flavour is unique and it possesses rare versatility. It’s good cooked, raw, blitzed, or gently wilted at the last minute to fragrance a dish. It screams spring time and I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to use it with wild abandon.
Probably the hardest part of this recipe is actually finding some wild garlic. As the name suggests it is a wild plant, probably actually a weed, and is therefore not stocked in supermarkets. A good greengrocer might have it but your best bet is to get out there and find some. For those who live in the countryside this may be easier, however there is hope for those in London (I can’t speak for other cities, although I’m sure it can be found). I know an excellent spot in Nunhead Cemetery and in fact cemeteries seem to be the best spot to find them. In the countryside you want to look in wooded areas and or close to a river or stream. Keep your eyes peeled and more importantly your nose alert as it will probably be the smell that best directs you to the bounty!
You will need a blender for this.
200g Wild garlic (washed thoroughly)
25g pine nuts
20g whole almonds
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
The first thing to do here is to heat your oven to 160c, lay both the pine nuts and the almonds on a tray and put them in the oven for about 5 minutes to toast lightly. Remove after 5 minutes and set aside to cool.
Wild garlic is quite fibrous so you will want to give it a rough chop with a very sharp knife. Then put it into your blender along with two tablespoons of olive oil and blitz until all the leaves are broken down but not so it is completely smooth. Then add the nuts and blitz again. I like it when the nuts in a pesto are quite coarse, although of course this is up to your personal preference. Tip everything into a bowl and then grate in the parmesan and the lemon zest, along with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice. Stir all together and taste. Add salt as necessary and then you are ready to use it however you please. I would suggest stirring it through some pasta. Voila!