Wild Garlic Pesto and Roast Potatoes
The punchy smell of wild garlic on a slightly wet and miserable day cannot fail to make you think of British Spring time. The weather here can always be relied on to be unreliable. One day will be grey and the rain will pour down, whereas the next will be beautiful and sunny. Huge swaths of wild garlic, also known as ransoms, appear suddenly in April and lasting until June, probably opting to appear on the one spring day when the weather does what it is supposed to.
You might think that wild garlic would only grow in the most rural and idyllic country landscapes but it grows in damp woodland, at the bases of hedges and along side streams, all of which can be found in most built up cities. It’s probably not the best plan to pick wild garlic growing on the verge of a busy road as it will have taken in the car exhausts, but I imagine you will be able to find it in a local park, as I did, or growing on a public footpath, or even in your garden.
Once you come across some, I think you’ll fall in love with wild garlic too. The leaves have a more subtle garlic flavour than bulb garlic and they seem to taste fresher and sweeter. They are fantastic cut up in sauces or salads, and make a wonderful addition to mayonnaise. I picked a whole load and made mine into wild garlic pesto. If you’re planning on picking wild garlic, it’s fairly easy to recognise it as it has such a strong garlic fragrance, but it’s always best to check photos or illustrations before you start picking, just to be safe. It’s also recommended that you don’t completely decimate one plant in order to get your wild garlic fix. Try to pick a few leaves from one place, and then move on to somewhere else. Also, try to avoid picking where pesticides and insecticides, and obviously, wash your wild garlic thoroughly when you get home.
Wild garlic pesto
a handful of pinenuts
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
two large handfuls of wild garlic leaves, washed and chopped
a large handful of basil leaves, washed and chopped
a large handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
First of all, you need to warm your pinenuts. You don’t want to brown them at all, just warm them through to release their flavour. Either place them onto a baking tray and pop under the grill for a couple of minutes, or place them into a dry pan and move them about on a high heat, again for just a few minutes.
Because I only have a tiny pestle and mortar, I gave in to technology and used a food processor to make my pesto but if you are better equipped, then feel free to make it by hand. You want the warmed pinenuts to be pounded to a powder. Use a mortar and pestle for this if you have one or like me, use the slightly unconventional method of bashing pinenuts on a plate, with the end of rolling pin. It doesn’t matter if there are a few pinenut chunks at this stage so there’s no need to be too obsessive with this.
Next, pound the wild garlic leaves, together with a little pinch of salt and the basil leaves in your mortar and pestle, or if you’re using a food processor, then just pulse, scraping the container down if everything gets stuck.
Gently stir in the pinenuts and half of the grated parmesan to the wild garlic and basil puree. Gradually add the olive oil, stirring to incorporate it and add just enough to loosen it to an oozy sauce. Taste your pesto and season it. Feel free to add a little more chopped wild garlic if you want it a little punchy. Add the rest of the cheese, a little more oil and season again. Pesto is very variable so have it exactly how you like. Add more pepper, more salt, more parmesan, more wild garlic or more oil depending on whether you like a thicker or oozier or more savoury or stronger tasting sauce. The pesto keeps well in the fridge for a week or so
This pesto is amazing on cooked pasta, seasoned with a little more parmesan. It would be fantastic on chicken, or with fish or with vegetables or even mixed into bread dough. I used it to flavour some potatoes to go along side a nice roast chicken.
Wild garlic pesto roasted potatoes
Four medium potatoes (each abut 175g or 6oz)
Two tablespoon of wild garlic pesto
Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan oven)/ 190°C/ 375 Fahrenheit/ gas mark 5.
First of all, you need to boil the potatoes. Try to get a variety suitable for roasting like Maris Piper or King Edward. Peel them and chop them into evenly sized chunks and place into a large saucepan filled with cold water. Add a little salt to the water, place it onto a high heat and bring to the boil, cooking for seven to eight minutes. For the perfect roast potato, you want the potatoes boiled until they have only just softened. The soft edges on the potatoes will take up all the pesto flavour and will turn really crisp in the hot oven. To give even more surface for the pesto to go onto and to turn deliciously crispy, once you have strained the cooked potatoes, tip them back into the saucepan, hold on the saucepan lid and shake. This shaking will rough the potato edges to give lovely crispness.
Add the pesto to the potatoes whilst they are still warm so that all the wild garlic flavour goes into the potato flesh. You can allow the potatoes to cool at this stage if you want to make them ahead of time.
When you’re ready to cook the potatoes, place them into a roasting tin and roast in the preheated oven for forty-five to sixty minutes, or until golden and crispy. The potatoes will need to be moved around in the roasting pan about half way through their cooking so that they cook evenly.