It’s practically impossible to get away from wild garlic around here at this time of year: restaurants in Alsace, Switzerland and the Black Forest all come up with dishes that feature the garlicky green leaves, in soups or Spätzle, sauces, risottos…and pestos. And if you can’t find your own in a damp corner of a forest, there’s even a Bärlauchmarkt (wild garlic market) held outside the Matthäuskirche in Basel this coming Saturday (https://www.matthaeusmarkt.ch/saisonmarkt/) where you’ll find Bärlauch galore.
Here comes a recipe for a wonderful, green, garlicky dip (call it pesto if you like, and if you dare risk offending Ligurian basil pesto purists). You can trade walnuts or blanched almonds for the pine nuts, and you can toast them or not, as you wish (just be careful not to burn them – sooooooooooooo annoying). Another idea is to exchange soft fresh goat’s cheese for the suggested cheeses, which gives a softer, slightly tamer result – be aware that wild garlic packs quite a feisty punch, guaranteed to keep vampires at bay.
Spread the pesto on bruschette (toasted country-type bread to you and me), float it on top of soups, serve it with pasta or pies, or stir it into a risotto or pilaff. Wonderful too with ‘lamburgers’ made from well-trimmed lamb shoulder, or with a pinkly roasted rack of lamb.
Makes about 300ml – a generous cupful
50g pine nuts (or blanched almonds or walnuts)
125g wild garlic leaves (about 60 leaves) to give 100g after de-stalking
1 tsp salt
100ml (4-5 tbsp) olive oil
50g freshly grated Parmesan, Grana Padano, Pecorino or Sbrinz (or soft fresh goat’s cheese)
juice of ½ a lemon
- If you want toasty nuts, put them in a small tin/pan and toast in a 200C oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden – take care they don’t burn! (You can also do this in a small, heavy pan, but you’ll find they don’t brown quite so evenly, and the risk of burning is higher)
- Transfer nuts to food processor and let cool a little, then process till the texture of fine breadcrumbs
- Cut away stalks from wild garlic leaves, wash leaves and drain well (or spin them dry in a salad spinner)
- Chop the leaves roughly and add to the food processor with salt, grated cheese and lemon juice
- Process till very finely chopped
- With the motor still running pour the olive oil in a steady stream through the hole in the lid until emulsified
- Sharpen with the lemon juice
- Tip pesto into a bowl, or into airtight jars for a longer wait
More on wild garlic here and a recipe for asparagus soup with wild garlic