Easter is a time for new beginnings. New season fruit and vegetables come to fruition and menus take on a fresher outlook after months of earthy root vegetables. Many of you will associate this time of the year with roast lamb, chocolate eggs and maybe even the start of the asparagus season, but for me it’s the time when a maybe lesser known – and even used – ingredient makes its brief appearance: wild garlic.
This amazing vegetable has a lifespan of just six weeks and April is the perfect time to enjoy it as this is the month when it starts to flower. You can eat all parts of wild garlic (flowers, leaves, stems and bulb) and the shoots are delicious, simply thrown into a salad, or the leaves wilted in a frying pan with some olive oil in much the same way as you would cook and eat spinach.
It’s perfect in dishes where you would usually use garlic, such as soups, pasta sauces, mushrooms on toast, in focaccia bread and even ice cream! This spring we will be using wild garlic in some of our dishes on the menu at Benji’s on the first floor.
Wild garlic is the sexier version of traditional garlic bulbs that you find in the supermarket and it has a more delicate flavour. Plus it is easy to forage as it grows in woodlands, shady lanes and some hedgerows. I have some growing under one of the trees in my garden.
One of my favourite ways to cook and eat wild garlic is with roast lamb, which is the quintessential Easter Sunday lunch. I cook a saddle of new season lamb, stuffed with sautéed wild garlic leaves, spinach and mushrooms or, if you are serving your roast with mash potatoes as well as roasted, you can chop up the leaves and stems and mix into the mash.
Garnish with the wild garlic flowers and you will have a side dish that will take centre stage at your Easter feast, after all, this vegetable is only around for a short while so it is worth giving it its 15 minutes of fame!
- Nick’s top tip
Place wild garlic leaves between two sheets of cling film. Microwave for about 30 seconds and you will have made a garlic leaf crisp which is perfect as a garnish.