Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Wild Garlic Pesto

Lamb and barley soup with wild garlic pesto
Wild garlic is a fine harbinger of spring and definitely an unmistakable find if you're wandering happy and aimless in the woods in celebration - or relief - that winter is gone for another year. It loves damp shade - so an ideal plant - and pushes through ground cover and creates a sort of cloud of garlic perfume. Quite a surprise on a first encounter! The leaves grow to a foot or more and the flowers are quintessential spring - pretty bright white stars shine amidst the dark, they are a great garnish on a salad.

I got a big bunch in the veg bag last week and I really fancied trying my hand at pesto. I have a friend who is very enthusiastic about food, loves eating great stuff though it must be said is not the world's finest cook. The one thing she does make better than anyone else I know is pesto - she finds a perfect balance of basil, nuts and cheese and serves it generously on hot pasta. Love it. Her mastery means I have never actually made pesto in any form - it's so great, why would I? But she left London a while ago and I've not eaten pesto since. A vague hankering was beginning to niggle.

I had a few pine nuts and a few more walnuts and a fine hunk of Parmesan and that seemed as good a start as any. I lightly toasted the nuts but I think you could use all walnuts and skip that step entirely. It is a very easy thing to make - chuck it all in the blender and whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Add oil. This makes quite a decent quantity, too much for us to eat in one sitting, but it keeps very well in the fridge for a couple of weeks so long as the top is covered with a thin layer of oil.

Wild Garlic Pesto

If you don't have the time/inclination to forage wild garlic is sold at lots of farmers markets and the occasional fruit and vegetable shop at this time of year

Large bunch wild garlic
20g pine nuts, lightly toasted
30g walnuts, lightly crushed and toasted
50g finely grated Parmesan
100ml olive oil

Wash the wild garlic and rip the leaves into smaller pieces and put into a blender jug. Whizz to make a paste. Add the nuts and cheese and whizz again to combine. Season with salt and pepper, add about half the olive oil and whizz once more. Keep adding the oil and whizzing till you have the consistency you want. Tip the finished pesto into an airtight jar or tub, cover with a thin film of olive oil and refrigerate.

I loved having this in the fridge for a week - I used it first to dollop into a rich lamb and barley broth, then a few days later into a less successful vegetable soup. I loved it best however on Sunday night mixed into hot spaghetti with extra Parmesan grated on top. Brilliant supper ready in ten.

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