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More thoughts on Wild Garlic (and garlic madness).

Well, it is still that time of year isn’t it? See my earlier post about Ramsoms here when that time of year had just started. The hedges and shady woods around the country are still absolutely frothing with the stuff. Now, rather beautifully, they have produced their pretty white flowers making the plants more visible to the untrained eye.

I’d like to say that I’ve noticed a change in the flavour as the plants develop, but I can’t. I thought it would be one of those things that might change. They are beginning to look a little tired and past their best at the moment though. About a month ago they were very bright green & juicy, their leaves a little shorter, so I think really there’s only 1 or 2 weeks left in the season before they pack up for another year. It depends slightly where they’re growing. At this time of year in sunnier spots, the leaves will be more wilted, starting to yellow even. So look for shadier and shorter leaves. They get tougher as they grow.

I ate an unopened flower bulb the other day (well, I thought I’d find out, as you do), and if you thought Wild Garlic was mild, think again, the flowers pack a punch! They look fantastic as a garnish as well.

 The brilliant Mark Hix wrote an article last week in The Independent on Lamb with Wild Garlic Sauce, there’s a link here. A great meat if ever there were one to serve with it. I’ve always found garlic & lamb a fine combination. One of my favourite dishes is a leg of lamb, roasted, having tucked ½ garlic cloves & rosemary into little incisions all over the leg, (it looks great when you bring it to the table as well). So it’s no surprise that this fantastic sauce works so well.  It’s quite grassy in flavour and certainly garlicky.

Here’s the pot of sauce I made last week, still tasting great. I made it with olive oil not rapeseed as Mark suggests (we had no other oil).

That's not pesto!

I’ve since tried freezing it as I made a lot and that worked extremely well, a great way of extending the season. I’m going to try it in ice-cube trays, ready to use all year & melt into all sorts of dishes (pasta, new potatoes, asparagus). It seems a shame not to enjoy it more, but that’s part of the joy of seasonal eating isn’t it?

We had the sauce tossed with warm new Cornish potatoes, asparagus & bacon lardons for a quick & simple dinner last night. The potatoes flecked with green looked like mint sauce which was very confusing!

I think the madness refers to my obsession with the stuff (can you get garlic madness?). I tend to eat very seasonal ingredients until I’m truly bored of them and swear blind that I won’t eat them next year. Somehow my boredom doesn’t last for a whole year.

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I wrote this a few week’s ago, so asparagus probably isn’t around any more (in fact it’s all gone from our shops, unless you want Peruvian) But I think it’s pretty adaptable to most firm vegetables (beans, peas, artichokes, fennel, cauliflower even)

While I’m at it I’ll start  the debate. Is it a true salad? Some would say no, I think so, even if it is warm:

A quick and easy dinner, a variation on a theme really. There’s a fair bit of asparagus about still (though not for long I think) I’m eating it when I can! I tend to forget how lucky I am living in the UK with this fantastic range of food, and how exciting the ingredients are as they change with the seasons. Late spring/early summer is one of my favourite times. New potatoes, asparagus, the first of the broad beans and peas, fantastic!

This is a salad that dresses itself.  The oil and tomatoes, as you stir them together, break up a bit & coat the warm potatoes. So you don’t need to make a salad dressing, maybe a squirt of lemon juice if you like, to add a bit of tartness.  You get this lovely, earthy, slightly burnt, bbq flavour from the tomatoes that complements the asparagus and potatoes. You don’t need hundreds of ingredients for this dish either. Simple food, making the best of the season. Serves well on its own, or would go well with some grilled fish or chicken, and obviously to make it vegetarian just leave out the bacon.

For 2 :

1 Bunch of asparagus

A couple of handfuls of new potatoes, scrubbed (ideally Jersey’s or local)

3-4 tbsp bacon lardons

4 Large, ripe tomatoes

A small handful of parsley, chives or any nice fresh soft herb, roughly chopped.

Good olive oil

Salt & pepper

  • Turn your grill to “hotter-than-the-sun” setting
  • If the spuds are large cut them in 1/2 and then drop them into a pan of cold water with a little salt. Bring to the boil & simmer until just tender. Drain, & keep to one side.
  • While they are cooking, put a pan of lightly salted water on to boil.
  • In a small frying pan gently fry the bacon lardons until browned. Leave to one side.
  • While the bacon’s cooking, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus. Drop them into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain & run cold water over them to stop them cooking & to keep the colour vibrant.
  • Cut the tomatoes in 1/2, lay on a baking tray, dribble with olive oil, salt & pepper & put them under your (hopefully) incredibly hot grill. Roast them like crazy until they start to blacken a little. If the grill’s not hot enough they’ll just turn soft & mushy before they colour, and it’s the colour that really adds the flavour. Take them out before they turn to charcoal, but you want them nicely browned, a little blackened in places.
  • Pop all the ingredients in a suitable salad bowl & stir gently.
  • Check the seasoning & adjust if necessary (now’s the time for your optional lemon juice) serve & enjoy.

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