How To Cook With Wild Garlic

Nothing adds flavour quite like wild garlic at this time of year. In season until mid-June, from pesto with a twist to wild garlic yoghurt, here some of our favourite chefs show you how to use it.
By Heather Steele /

Lucy Carr-Ellison & Jemima Jones

Wild By Tart

Why do you love wild garlic?

The first shoots of wild garlic emerge from the wetter areas of the woodland floor in the early spring, before the trees above have had a chance to shade out everything that grows beneath. By May, the shaded woodland floor is a shifting patchwork quilt of white wild garlic flowers and bluebells. The delicate newer leaves are the ones to pick – carefully so as not dislodge the whole plant.

Where do you buy your wild garlic?

We buy from Parkway Green in Camden Town, but you should be able to find it at your local greengrocers and Natoora.

What's the best way to cook it?

We love making marinades from it and whizzing it into pesto (which keep well in the fridge), or adding the freshly chopped leaves to spring soups, pastas, stews, salads and sandwiches. It’s also great whizzed into butter and kept in the freezer. To make a tasty marinade for white fish on the BBQ, blitz two handfuls of wild garlic, one of handful parsley, one handful of basil, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 3 spring onions, 100ml of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of red chilli together in a blender. Score the fish and slather on the marinade. Allow it to marinate for a couple of hours before hitting the hot grill.

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Andrew Clarke

Acme Fire Cult

Where’s the best place to find wild garlic?

Growing up in Kent meant I had a good choice of woodland nearby so I could harvest the green leaves and white flowers. From the beginning of April until the beginning of June, the woods would fill with a heady aroma. Hunting and finding your own fresh garlic is best. Damp woodlands are the best places to hunt them down, but my closest spot these days is a north London cemetery. Otherwise, your local grocers should sell it.

And what’s the best way to prepare it?

Once picked, it stores well wrapped in kitchen roll in an airtight container in the fridge. There’s so much you can do with wild garlic: it’s really versatile. You can roughly chop leaves and fold them through salads or tortillas and omelettes; finely chop it into crushed or roasted baby potatoes; wrap them up with fish in steamed parcels; or use it to replace soft herbs or spinach. The flowers make attractive garnishes for spring dishes and later in the season, when the petals fall from the plant, you have the bulbils, which chefs often refer to as ‘ramson capers’. Preserve these in a pickling vinegar or brine for use throughout the year.

Have you got a favourite recipe?

I love making wild garlic, feta and hazelnut pesto. It’s great served as a dip for vegetables, or as a sauce for grilled fish or meat. Blend 400g of wild garlic leaves, 4 tbsp of feta, 2 tbsp of roasted hazelnuts 1 tbsp of crème fraiche (or greek yoghurt), 100ml of olive oil and half a lemon in a food processor, then season to taste. You could leave out the feta and serve with a ball of burrata instead – just drizzle the oil over for a striking finish.

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Ivan Tisdall-Downes

Native

How can you identify wild garlic in the wild?

You’ll probably smell it before you see it. Then, depending on the time of year, you’ll spot their beautiful dainty white petals (there are six petals on each flower) and their deep green, spear shaped leaves towards the end of the season. Just remember to only ever take one fifth of the plant – leave the majority to bloom, flower and continue for years to come. You can never be too careful when foraging, so never be complacent, and always double-check each plant is wild garlic, as there are similar ones which are poisonous. These do not smell like garlic, so they are easily identifiable.

Where can you buy it?  

You can buy it online via Abel & Cole plus at smaller, local farm shops and farmers’ markets.

Tell us the best way to prepare it…

Give it a good rinse in cold water and brush off any dirt, and make sure you use the vibrant, green and healthy-looking leaves, not the wilted ones.

And any favourite wild garlic recipes you can recommend?

Wild garlic pesto is one way to enjoy the fresh, powerful flavours – at Native we use a mixture of nettles, wild garlic, hazelnuts, rapeseed oil and a hard cheese from Neal's Yard Dairy. It’s a quick and delicious way to enjoy with pasta or a bruschetta for lunch. A potato salad made with finely shredded wild garlic leaves and plenty of creamy butter is a great addition to any BBQ.

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Patrick Powell

Allegra

If you wanted to pick your own wild garlic, where in London would you suggest?

Try Springfield Park which is just north of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hackney Marshes. Otherwise, try the Hoxton Fruit & Veg Shop – it has everything.

Can you eat it raw?

It’s too strong to eat raw, so gently soften it in a pan to mellow the flavour. I like to blitz it through leek and potato soup right at the end with loads of black pepper. Serve it with a poached egg on top.

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Inspired? Here Are Six Recipes To Try At Home…

Fresh Pasta With Asparagus & Wild Garlic

Serves
2
Total Time
20 Minutes
Ingredients
1 shallot, finely diced
4 spears of asparagus
200g of fresh pasta
1 handful of wild garlic
100g of frozen peas
50g of hard cheese such as spenwood, manchego or parmesan
Handful of pitted olives, halved (optional)
Method
Step 1
Prepare the asparagus by cutting the spears vertically into long, thin strips with a sharp knife, vegetable peeler or a mandolin.
Step 2
Set a sauté pan over a medium heat and add a little olive oil. Add the shallot and sweat for 2 minutes. Once softened, add the asparagus strips and season with salt & pepper. Continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
Step 3
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drop in the pasta and swirl around with a wooden spoon to stop it from sticking. When the pasta is nearly done but still has some bite, lift it from the water with tongs and transfer to the sauté pan with the softened shallots and asparagus. Do not discard the pasta cooking water.
Step 4
Toss the pasta together with the asparagus and shallot, adding a handful of cheese, the wild garlic and peas.
Step 5
Return the sauté pan to a low-medium heat. Add a ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water and a handful of cheese, tossing the pan as you go over a low heat so the sauce does not split. Repeat until all the cheese has melted and you have a glossy sauce. Once you are happy with the consistency, divide the pasta between two serving plates. Top with a final sprinkling of cheese or chopped olives and enjoy.

Salt Cod Fritters with Wild Garlic Alioli

Serves
4
Total Time
1 Hour 15 Minutes
Ingredients
350g of salt cod, washed well
1 large potato, pricked several times with a fork
100g of coarse salt
550ml of milk
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1 squeeze of orange juice
2 eggs, beaten
40g of cold diced unsalted butter
50g of plain flour, sifted
Sea salt and pepper
2 litres of vegetable oil, for frying
For the alioli:
1 handful of chopped wild garlic leaves
1 large free-range egg yolk
100ml of vegetable oil 100ml of extra virgin olive oil
½ clove of garlic, peeled, very finely chopped
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
White wine vinegar, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt & pepper
Method
Step 1
Start by making the alioli. Place the yolk in a mixing bowl along with the mustard and the garlic. Begin whisking and slowly add the oils to emulsify with the yolk. As the oils incorporate into the yolk, you can speed up the process. When all the oil has been added, season with salt and pepper and add some lemon juice and vinegar to taste.
Step 2
Put the orange juice in a pan and reduce to a sticky glaze. Whisk it into the alioli and reserve.
Step 3
Heat an oven to 200ºC. Sprinkle the coarse salt on a baking tray and place the potato on top. Cook until the potato is soft and tender and then remove from the oven. When cool remove the skin.
Step 4
Place the cod in a medium saucepan and cover with the milk; add the garlic, bay and rosemary. Bring the milk to the boil and then turn off the heat immediately and leave the fish to finish cooking in the residual heat and cool down.
Step 5
To make the choux paste bring the butter and 150ml of cold water to the boil and then add the flour. Stir well until a dough forms and comes away from the pan’s sides. Remove from the heat and cool down for five minutes. Slowly add the eggs and beat in well to make a smooth, shiny paste.
Step 6
Remove the cod from the milk and flake into small pieces into a bowl. Add the potato, the choux paste, orange juice and seasoning. Mix all very well and then shape into small balls or croquette shapes. Transfer to the fridge to firm up.
Step 7
Heat the vegetable oil up in a fryer to 180ºC or in a saucepan until a small piece of bread fizzles on contact.
Step 8
Fry the fritters in batches so as not to cool the oil down too quickly and cook until golden brown. Drain well on kitchen towel and serve with the alioli on the side.

Wild Garlic Risotto With Lemon & Ricotta

Serves
4
Total Time
1 Hour
Ingredients
300g of Riso Gallo carnaroli rice
90g of grana padano cheese, grated
100g of onion, finely chopped
40g of unsalted butter
1litre of vegetable or chicken stock
100ml of dry white wine
250g of wild garlic
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
100g of ricotta cheese
1 lemon
Salt & pepper
Method
Step 1
Start with the wild garlic purée. Rinse and pat dry the wild garlic, discarding the very large and bulky, stalks. Once dry, quickly blanch in salted boiling water the garlic until soft. This will take no longer than 1 minute. Now blitz the garlic in a food processor adding a bit of the cooking water if necessary. You are looking for a purée/paste consistency so be careful with the liquid and don’t stress too much if the paste is grainy – that is the beauty of a rustic recipe.
Step 2
Gently fry the chopped onion in a small pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 10-15 minutes on low heat, until well golden and caramelised. Keep to one side.
Step 3
In a large casserole, start to toast the rice on a low heat with a pinch of salt, without adding oil or fat. Keep stirring the rice, so the rice does not catch on the bottom of the pan or burn. When the rice is very hot, pour the white wine in. Let the alcohol evaporate, set the cooking time to 15 minutes and add the simmering stock a ladle at a time, little by little. Stir the rice occasionally and keep cooking.
Step 4
Halfway through the cooking, add the caramelised onion to the rice and wild garlic purée and keep stirring. At this stage you want to check if the ricotta is too watery, as it could mess with the texture of the risotto. Get rid of the water by draining it with a colander. Once the cooking time of the risotto is up, if you’re happy with the texture remove it from the heat.
Step 5
The last step is called ‘mantecatura’ – with the right movements you can make the risotto creamier and increase its natural ooziness. Add the grated grana padano cheese and butter to the rice and stir with energy to incorporate extra air until the risotto is nice and creamy. Season to taste and add a splash of lemon juice.
Step 6
Plate the hot risotto and top with lemon zest, with chunks of fresh ricotta on optional a few basil leaves.

Lamb With Wild Garlic Yogurt & Flatbreads

Serves
4
Total Time
30 Minutes
Ingredients
For the flatbreads:
50g of hard cheese, grated
500g of self-raising flour
500g of yoghurt
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
20g of wild garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp of cumin seeds
For the lamb:
500g of leftover roast lamb
Few sprigs of rosemary
1 tbsp of olive oil
For the garlic yogurt:
50g of olive oil
15g of wild garlic
350g of yoghurt
1 tsp of salt
Method
Step 1
In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients for the yoghurt flatbreads until it just comes together. Make into about 250g balls and squish out with your hands until they roughly fill the base of a medium-sized frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a hot pan and gently fry for 8-10 minutes on each side.
Step 2
Pull the lamb apart and add to a frying pan along with the olive oil and rosemary sprigs. Fry until the edges start to go crispy and caramelised.
Step 3
Meanwhile add the wild garlic, olive oil, salt and 50g of yoghurt to a blender and blitz until smooth. Mix through the remaining yoghurt and put in a dish to serve.
Step 4
Serve in the middle of the table ready for everyone to tuck in and share.
EDWIN LADD PHOTOGRAPHY

Wild Garlic Crumbed Salmon

Serves
4-6
Total Time
1 Hour 20 Minutes
Ingredients
For the salmon marinade:
3 tbsp of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Few grinds of sea salt
Few grinds of coarse black pepper
For the salmon:
6 salmon fillets, skin on, deboned & descaled
2 tbsp of crème fraîche
1 tsp of English mustard
For the wild garlic crumb:
50g of panko breadcrumbs
50g of melted unsalted butter
50g of large wild garlic leaves, stalks removed
For the wild garlic crème fraiche:
250g of crème fraiche
50g of wild garlic leaves
1 lemon, juice & zest
100ml of olive oil Salt
Method
Step 1
Start by marinating the salmon. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly ground salt and pepper. Gently toss the salmon fillets through the marinade and leave refrigerated for 1 hour.
Step 2
While the salmon is marinating, prepare the wild garlic crumb. Blitz the breadcrumbs in a food processor until fine, add in the wild garlic and blitz until they have completely broken down for form a green crumb. Transfer the crumb into a wide bowl (wide enough for 1 salmon fillet to lay flat at a time), pour in the melted butter, and gently fold through. Shake the bowl so that the crumb mixture is even and flat.
Step 3
Once the salmon has had 1 hour of marinating, remove from the fridge, and preheat your oven to 200°C. Brush a large baking tray with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to grease and leave aside.
Step 4
Combine the smaller amount of crème fraîche with the English mustard. Lay the marinated salmon fillets on a tray or plate (flat side down) and brush the top of the fillets with the crème fraîche and mustard mixture.
Step 5
Using clean hands pick up a fillet of salmon and dip the coated side into the wild garlic crumb so that the flesh side is pressed into the crumb. Lay the fillet (on the flat, uncoated side), on your greased baking tray so that the crumb is facing upwards. Repeat until all 6 fillets are crumbed.
Step 6
Bake the salmon in your preheated oven for 8 minutes.
Step 7
While the salmon is baking, prepare the wild garlic crème fraiche. Using a food processor or liquidiser, blitz down the wild garlic, olive oil and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the crème fraiche to create a marbled dip.
Step 8
Serve the baked wild garlic crumbed salmon with new potatoes and spring green vegetables.

Fennel Sausage, Courgette, Pea & Wild Garlic Fusilli

Serves
4
Total Time
45 Minutes
Ingredients
3 tbsp of olive oil
400g of fennel sausage
1 pinch of chilli flakes
1 yellow & 1 green courgette, thinly sliced on a mandolin or by hand
8 wild garlic leaves, thinly shredded
200g of crème fraîche
50g of parmesan, grated
1 large handful of frozen peas
2 egg yolks
¼ tsp of salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
340g of ZENB fusilli
Method
Step 1
Begin by squeezing the sausage meat out of its skin and break it up into clumps and clusters. Heat the oil in frying pan over a high heat, and fry off the sausage meat with the chilli flakes until well caramelised, crisp and golden.
Step 2
Next, add the courgettes and fry off for a minute or so until slightly softened, and then add the peas.
Step 3
Cook the fusilli according to the packet instructions (I like an al dente texture).
Step 4
In a bowl, mix together the crème fraîche, egg yolks, parmesan and tablespoon or two of pasta water.
Step 5
Add to the sausage mixture, along with the cooked pasta and wild garlic. Stir through gently until the pasta is evenly coated in the glossy, silky sauce.
Step 6
Season with salt and plenty of black pepper.
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