Updated: Apr 24, 2020
One for the foragers, this easy blitz of foraged ramsoms is perfect with pasta
I have an enduring love for wild garlic - or ramsoms - as I think learning to spot it and use it upgrades you to level 2 forager and it gives you a certain smugness to pass other empty-handed people on a spring time walk, as you nonchalantly dangle your bag of green-leaved treasure by your side. And its uses are many and varied - I've kept some back (after the blanching stage - see below) of the load we foraged this morning to add into a pea and asparagus soup, just to give it a subtle hint of garlicky goodness without the overpowering nature of its more bulbous cousin.
First things first - how to identify it. You'll find it on the woodland floor growing near bluebells and wood anemones. Be careful not to mistake its broad leaves with those of less edible plants and please don't only rely on just my description to identify it. There are plenty of online guides and books to help you. But when you think you've found it there are three easy ways of checking you have the right plant: 1) Look for the delicate white flowers (shown in main photo) - they'll be poking out at the centre of a clump of leaves. Pick them for garnishing your finished dishes and also because... 2) the stalks of the flower stems (not so much the leaves) are triangular in shape - see the photo above. 3) Smell them - as soon as you pick them you should get an overwhelming whiff of garlic or chive.
So, to make the pesto... it helps to have a food processor for this one and as with most things Larder Then Life, if you don't have some of the ingredients feel free to swap things in - in this case, I used the nuts I had in the pantry. You might actually have pine kernels which would be great, but I do like the very definite nutty taste of hazelnuts and walnuts.
Roughly 100g (or one full sandwich bag) of wild garlic leaves
1 small garlic clove
10 or so basil leaves
1 tbsp/10g grated parmesan
4 dessert spoons of good quality olive oil
1/2 tsp salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
The only faffy bit is blanching the ramsom leaves. Of course you washed them, didn't you? But more than that, blanching them in boiling water definitely makes sure they're clean of any undesirables and seals in and sort of brightens their colour and flavour. Get a large pot of water boiling and prepare a bowl of iced water for instant dunking. The leaves need to be in the boiling water for no longer than 15 seconds and then put straight into the iced water.
At this point they look a bit like cooked spinach. Pull them out of the iced water and set aside any that you might like to use in another recipe. As I said before I'm going to use some of the home-grown asparagus that is a bit weedy to make a soup out of and add this in - but also you could chop it into tomato pasta sauces, white sauces, add it to bread or scones or homemade pasta.
Once it's drained slightly get in there with your hands and give it a good squeeze to get as much excess water out as possible. I had about a solid handful left at this stage - smaller than a tennis ball, much larger than a golf/squash ball. Pop it in the bowl of your food processor and then add in all the other ingredients too.
Here's a good squiz at the amounts if you're more of a visual person than a weigher (like me - it pained me to weigh and measure everything for the ingredients list, but I know something like pesto can send people into a tizzy... "how much oil!?" "do I grate the cheese?!" etc). So pre-blitzing it should look a bit like this (left).
I like to keep mine looking fairly chunky, so I don't blitz it to a smooth paste. Also, as I'm storing this batch in the fridge I haven't added as much olive oil as I might if I was serving it immediately. In fact, I've put the finished pesto into a small Tupperware tub and pressed it down firmly with the back of a spoon. Then, to seal it and help it stay fresh for longer, I've poured some good olive oil on top before putting the lid on. It should stay fresh in the fridge for a week at least - or you could freeze it.
Here's a nice pic of it all blitzed up to show you how crunchy I have it. Totally up to you though.
To make it into a snazzy Italian-style lunch pop some spaghetti onto boil and when it's almost done scoop some of the cooking water out of the pan and set aside. Then drain the spaghetti when it's cooked and slide it back into the hot pan, off the heat though. Add your pesto - the amount we've just made is easily enough for two, if not a little too much - and sluice in some of the cooking water and a good slug of olive oil too. Stir or toss together - it won't cover the noodles as easily as shop-bought stuff unless you've blitzed it really fine, but persevere! I find pulling it up with kitchen tongs again and again does the job. And then season, add some parmesan shavings or grate it on and enjoy with a glass of rosé in the garden.
Mostly my own work but I was inspired by the recipe from The Pig that they recently sent round - they bothered toasting their hazelnuts though and used things like walnut oil etc which I don't have so I did my usual thing of glancing through their recipe and then ignoring it and making my own up.
This went brilliantly well with the new rosé my husband has started stocking at the shop - Aix. It's a light and fresh rosé from Provence with enough fruitiness to it to stand up to the garlic and nuts. Bliss.