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Wild Garlic & Chorizo Potato Gratin

Wild Garlic and Chorizo Potato Gratin

Wild Garlic and Chorizo Potato Gratin

Hello, hello, hello! How are you all today? I have had a day where I felt positively useless, and unproductive, despite all my efforts to the contrary, so there was nothing for it but to crack out some potatoes and make something comforting, to soothe my addled brain, and start again.

Earlier this week I re-enacted a near annual tradition. I met a bald man from Essex in a random part of town to make an illicit exchange. Something that I have that I am willing to part with, for something fragrant. He had in his hand a heavy grey plastic bag with green muddy tentacles peeking out. His name is Danny (Food Urchin), and he has brought me some wild garlic. Hurrah!

The tradition is thus. Danny has a garden full of wild garlic, and when I am in town in the season, I meet him and get a plant. In exchange he gets something random. In fact, that is how I first met Danny. I wandered to Borough Market to meet a strange man with a wild garlic plant, and it was him. Not so strange at all, and now a friend, if a wild garlic yielding one. This year, I gave him some of my Japanese SPF130 (yes!), for he is ginger, and is as a-feared of the sun as I am with my pale Irish skin.

Wild garlic is glorious. Ample and clumsy and generous, it has a fragrant sourness, and is pungent with garlic aroma. It loves cream and all things dairy, which really suits my mood today. While I sat freaking out about my to do list, it was peering out at me from its grey sarcophagus, tentacles waving (ok, maybe not) on my kitchen floor. I must plant it (with the hope of having lots more in my garden next year, it likes to take over), but before then, I want to use some.

Today, I needed something decadent but also perky, so as I stare at my wild garlic plant, hoping that it will reveal the secrets of the universe I think – got it! – wild garlic and chorizo potato gratin. Done. [Read more]

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Crab Claws with Wild Garlic & Chipotle

Crab claws are very common on restaurant menus by the sea in Ireland, but I rarely see them here. Perhaps this is because I don’t spend enough time by the sea here (I don’t), or perhaps we just love them more in Ireland. Either way I bet many of you don’t cook them much at home? I don’t either. I don’t know why that is.

At the market at the weekend, the fish stall had 1 kg of crab claws just sitting there, and I thought, oooh, I bet they would be lovely in a wild garlic butter sauce! They were, they were really good, but not just because of the wild garlic but also because of the robust smokey and warm undertones provided by some chipotle that I had brought back from the US with me on my recent trip there (you can get it very easily online here too).

They look like a lot of work, both to cook and to eat, and they are a little bit for both. I had to prep them a little bit to get rid of random broken bits of claw stuck on the end, but it took minutes and wasn’t too gruesome. To eat, you can suck the meat out or tease it out with a fork, I prefer to smash it with my crab claw pincer things. A nutcracker would do the job very well too.

If you can’t deal with the crab claws, and it’s ok if that’s the case, I think this sauce would be terrific with scallops and prawns too.

Crab Claws with Wild Garlic & Chipotle

Serves 2 as a starter or more to graze

600g crab claws, raw
50g butter
2 tbsp chopped wild garlic
1 tbsp chipotle, roughly chopped
100 ml white wine

Reduce the white wine by about a third in a hot shallow pan.
Add the butter, the wild garlic and the chipotle.
When the butter has melted add the crab claws and cook for 6 – 8 minutes over a medium heat until cooked through.
Season to taste.
Serve warm with good sliced bread to mop up the delicious sauce.

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Edible Wild Flowers: Three Cornered Leek/Wild Onion

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Waterford - Wild Onion from the car park!

I always have my eyes peeled and my nose finely tuned to the colours, shapes and scents in country hedgerows. A dangerous occupation when there’s lots of silage and manure about, but, worth it for the times that you get an onion-y whiff, and then glimpse beautiful white flowers that taste somewhere between a spring onion and wild garlic.

I love wild garlic and use it a lot when it’s in season. It’s incredibly pungent (usually), and is something that I cook, or at least blanche before using. Three cornered leek (sometimes called wild onion and officially called Allium triquetrum) is more delicate, and slender, like a feminine version, with slimmer, angular, less shouty leaves and petite flowers. Perfect in salads, the flowers also make a gorgeous garnish.

Glandore

On a walk to the beach in Glandore last week, I turned a corner and hit the most intense onion smell and smiled, knowing that I would be greeted by beautiful white flowers, looking like swanlike snowdrops. They are also common in London, I did a cheeky midnight forage in someones abandoned front garden in Islington recently that was carpeted with these gorgeous elegant blooms.

What to do with them? So much. Perfect in salads or as garnishes, it is worth making a small effort and blitzing the green leaves with some oil and drizzling on potato soup, with some flowers scattered around it. It makes a great pesto, a little less abrasive than one made using ransoms. I find it hard to resist simply eating the flowers on the way home.

 

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Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast

Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast

Seasonal eating is all the more fun and exciting, when you can forage and get the food for free. The ultimate bargain, and usually something that’s quite hard to find to buy. Wild Garlic is the perfect example of this. I’ve not had time to go to any food markets, and had no idea where I could forage it. I’ve looked around the local parks to no avail, and tried on twitter, coaxing friends and followers to reveal their secret stash with the promise that I would not tell anyone. I got some tips  but there was no time to investigate. I was resigned to a wild garlic free week, when fellow blooger Danny (@fooodurchin on twitter and blogging at food urchin) revealed that his garden was teeming with it, and offered to bring me in my very own wild garlic plant.

Excitement! I couldn’t wait. I popped down to Borough to meet him, we had a great chat, and I left with a large blossoming and lovely plant. I couldn’t resist devouring a leaf or two there and then, although I am not sure I would advise this as it’s a little astringent raw. I enjoyed it but will not be responsible for this should you try it.

Wild Garlic Plant

What to do with it? Well, to start try and keep it alive, so far so good. The flowers are delicious and gorgeous in salads, the leaves great in pestos and mayonnaise, soups and salads. I had a vegetarian friend over for dinner and thought it might be nice to start with something quick and light, that could be done in minutes and free up time for chatting and wine, the most important part of the evening after all!

Wild Garlic can be a little sour, so I wanted to balance it with something sweet, and smooth out the flavour with something light. I decided on tomatoes and cream cheese with a little chilli to lift the flavours. So, I blanched about eight wild garlic leaves for 20 seconds or so, rosted some nice tomatoes from Borough market with a little balsamic vinegar for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, chopped a dried red chilli very finely, and mixed these with about 4 tablespoons of cream cheese. I griddled some good fresh bread, lightly brushed with some olive oil and liberally spread the veggie pate. It was fragrant and light and a nice little stop gap. I’ll be adding it to my repertoire for future quick dishes!