Tag Archives: foraging

Wild Garlic Pesto

3 Apr

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Wild Garlic Pesto is one of life’s absolute joys. You go out to the woods, pick a handful or two of wild garlic leaves (you’ll know them by their scent) and then come home and whizz them up with some cheese, nuts and oil. And you have just transformed your dull pasta dish.

If you’ve not made it before, you might not believe the pungency of the pesto comes from just those leaves, and that no real garlic has been added.

Anyway, if you’ve just come in from a walk down the woods, armed with your bag of leaves, here is your recipe. If you’re looking for precise quantities and directions, go elsewhere, and probably don’t forage.

Ingredients

  • several handfuls of wild garlic leaves, rinsed well (you know that wild garlic grows below dog-pee level don’t you?)
  • about 100g unsalted nuts (I’ve used walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pinenuts, and a bag of mixed nuts… all are good)
  • about 100g cheese. Parmesan would be traditional, but you can mix it up with another hard cheese, or try a soft goats cheese to mix it up a bit
  • a good glug of oil – I use a mix of light olive oil and sunflower oil, but feel free to use your favourite oil (but probably not expensive extra virgin olive oil as the flavour will just get slapped by the wild garlic)
  • a wee squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Get your food processor out from whatever cupboard you keep it in. You can try making this with a liquidiser, or a nutri-bullet or one of those hand held soup zizzers. Or even one of those mini choppers. But you’ll probably kill the motor in anything other than a proper food processor with a big blade.

Roughly chop the cheese, and the wild garlic leaves. Feel free to roughly chop the nuts too, but you don’t really need to.

Throw everything in the bowl of the processor and press the button.

Keep adding more oil till you get the consistency you like. And taste it to see if you like the balance of flavours. Add more of what you fancy.

Pop in a jar and feel smug.

If you are making industrial quantities of the stuff, get yourself one of those silicone big ice cube trays, and freeze big cubes of the pesto. Once the cubes are frozen you can pop them out into a freezer bag and keep them all year. Then just nuke one in the microwave and through into a bowl of pasta to feel smug all over again.

Valley vodka

5 Jul

So, it’s been ages since I made any flavoured alcohol.  But what would be a nicer reminder of the heady summer days (yes both days) than some elderflower vodka?

I can’t believe I haven’t thought of making this before.  I love infusing alcohols with different flavours and have used blackcurrants, plums, damsons, sloes and cranberries before.  And lemons and oranges, and all manner of spices.

Anyway, back to midsummer flavours.

I don’t usually go back to the valley mid-week but yesterday had arranged to go back (on a Monday night) to finish off the elderflower fizz process (straining and bottling). When I got back it was still gorgeous warm sunshine, and I headed straight down to the garden, to pick some sweet smelling flowers.  There are still plenty in bloom in the valley.

I stuffed the flower-heads into a 1.5l kilner jar, and filled the jar up with vodka.  The jar will be shoogled every day for a week or two.  Then I’ll strain it, and add some sugar syrup, to make a liqueur.

I’ll report back with a taste test.

Elderflowers

27 Jun

I love elderflowers.

I love their mop headed look.

I love their sweet, heady scent.

And I love the gentle flavour, which can be captured so easily in a bottle.  A bottle of elderflower cordial or elderflower fizz is a perfect reminder of midsummer. Elderflower vinegar makes a delicious salad dressing.  And gooseberry and elderflower sorbet is a perfect ending to a dinner party.  Or a delicious amuse bouche.

More on the other recipes later.  This last weekend was all about the elderflower vinegar (if only because I had very little time, as I was working most of the weekend).

Elderflower vinegar

First go pick your elderflowers – try to pick them on a sunny morning, but certainly not in the rain.  You’ll need about 5 elderflower heads for every 300ml of white wine vinegar.  So, pick as many as you need, but no more – you want the elders to produce elderberries later in the year for other treats.

So, this is the easiest recipe in the world.  Pour the vinegar into a heavy bottomed pan.  Add the elderflowers (after you’ve picked them over to make sure there are no bugs or nasties).

Warm the vinegar.  Don’t let it actually boil, but get it steamyhot.  Use a wooden spoon to press the flowers down into the vinegar from time to time as it’ heating up.

Leave the vinegar and flowers in the pan till it’s all cooled down.

Strain through muslin. And bottle (the easiest is to put it back in the vinegar bottles it came out of).  Make pretty labels if you’re giving it away.

This is wonderful made into a dressing with olive oil, honey and mustard.  And garlic, black pepper, herbs, lemon juice and whatever else you fancy (or have in the cupboard).

I used the lovely Aspall’s organic white wine, but it would also be lovely made with cider vinegar.

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