Thursday, 8 May 2008


I was in Valvona's a couple of weeks ago when I spotted bags of wild garlic. If I'm perfectly honest, aside from them bringing back childhood memories of summers spent in France playing in the woods, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd do with them and so I left them where they were. However, they played on my mind ever since so I returned last week to buy some. Of course, on that occassion they didn't have any and so I thought I had missed my chance this year. That is until yesterday when I popped in to buy a wee panettone to munch on the way home - there they were again. So this time I grabbed two lots and wandered home in the sunshine, taking surreptitious sniffs at their glorious garlicky fragrance all the way...

Wild garlic leaves - or ramsons - are long and glossy and look similar to that of Lily of the Valley, though eating the poisonous latter isn't to be recommended as this can apparantly lead to death. Lovely. So the moral of the story is: if in doubt, rub the leaves. If your fingers smell of garlic, you're safe.

After giving the matter of what to do with them some thought and a touch of research the obvious choice was to make a pesto. If like me you adore anything garlicky and a have a wee penchant for a good homemade pesto, you will love love love this. In fact to be prefectly frank, even if you have a general fondness for garlic you'd do well to get yourself out of the house and track down some of these wild leaves because this pesto is good enough to eat on it's own with a spoon. Although I'm not sure your loved ones will thank you for it afterwards.

Serves 2 garlic lovers or 4 lightweights

(I'm afraid these are more of my vague measurements - adjust to taste)
50g wild garlic leaves
a tiny wee sprinkle of Maldon sea salt
50g pine nuts (or however much you fancy)
inch lump of parmesan, chopped into bits (ditto)
a good slug of olive oil (ditto)

Give the leaves a good rinse and dry (a salad spinner is useful here), and cut away the thickest part of the stalks.

Chop the leaves up fairly finely and put them in a pestle and mortar. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of Maldon (don't over do it or the pesto will be horribly salty - just enough so that the tiny crystals grind into the leaves), and pound away with the pestle until the leaves start to mush a bit and your olfactory senses are given a right old treat.

Add the pine nuts and parmesan and continue to pound and grind until the mixture resembles pesto - add the olive oil as you go along and taste test all the while.

If you decide to make this - and I really hope you do - this is the point at which you swoon and wish you'd made more.

This pesto was to accompany simply baked trout fillets (or really, the trout accompanied the pesto...), but I needed to make something else to go alongside it. As the pesto utilised the garlic leaves in their raw form, I thought it would be nice to make something which involves cooking them, and that's when I thought of dolmades. I'm not the biggest fan of dolmades normally, mainly because of the texture of the vines leaves which are traditionally used to wrap them - they can sometimes be a little chewy and stringy. I thought the delicate texture of the wild garlic leaves would be a perfect substitute and the mild flavour when cooked would lend itself well to these little parcels.

Now, at this point I think it's important to say that if you're planning a quick fuss free dinner, dolmades is not the way to go. They're a bit fiddly. However, they were delicious, went superbly with the trout and pesto and I'll definitely make them again. Just not when I'm falling over with hunger.

Serves 2 - 3

16 good sized wild garlic leaves, washed
100g bulgar wheat
200g good vegetable stock
2 shallots
8-10 olives
8-10 sun dried tomatoes
handful fresh mint
handful fresh parsley
squeeze lemon juice
slug olive oil
1 teaspoon harissa

Rinse the bulgar wheat and place in a bowl, pour over the stock and cover. Leave for 30 minutes.

Blanch the wild garlic leaves in boiling water and refresh immediately in a bowl of iced water. Set aside.

When the bulgar wheat is tender, strain off any remaining stock if necessary.

Finely shop the shallot and gently cook in a little olive oil until translucent. Chop the olives, sun dried tomatoes, mint and parsley and add to the bulgar wheat along with the shallots.

Add a squeeze of lemon, a slug of olive oil and season to taste. Loosen the teaspoon of harissa with a little hot water (about a tablespoon) and add to the mixture. Mix well.

Take two wild garlic leaves and lay shiny side down, slightly over lapping. Straighten off the stalk ends.

Place a spoonful of the bulgar wheat mixture in the middle of the leaves at the stalk end and fold over once, tucking the sides in as tightly as you can. Roll up into a neat sausage-shaped parcel, ensuring that there are no gaps. Repeat this process until you have eight.

Place the dolmades in a steamer (I very slightly oiled the bottom of mine so that they wouldn't stick), and steam for 15-20 minutes.

These would also be good with a little crumbled feta or halloumi added to the bulgar wheat.

A heady and aromatic dinner - needless to say, I apologise in advance to anyone who will have the misfortune to find themselves in close conversation with me tomorrow.


Carine said...

Hi Carine-
love your recipes! You know, when I started whats cooking (my blog)it was to talk about only my love of food and cooking/baking-somehow I morphed it into something totally different!

Jennie Landels said...

Def going to try the pesto.... and one day I might be brave enough to try the... how do you say them... dolmades!

Love the sound of the garlic leaves... if I wasn't working tomorrow I would be trotting down to V&C so fast!!

Cheers lovely! Have a great weekend!

Gemma said...

Hi Carine,

Have finally gotten around to reading your blog and it's fab! I found wild garlic in V&C this time last year and used it loads as well. I haven't managed much cooking in the past few months but just getting back to it now so looking forward to checking back here often.

Gemma x

Anonymous said...

The smell rising from the Mortar and Pestle must be incredible.

A keeper, for sure.

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