Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wild Garlic: the green growth and sunshine of springtime in Ireland

The month of April has been wonderful here in Dingle. The sun has been shining. Nature has erupted in a growth spurt of green. I can hardly remember the grey, dark days of winter.

One of the best things about living in the countryside in the spring is watching nature come alive. You can't help but feel a thrill when you see the first buds on the trees and green leaves where there had only been barren grey...

What I hadn't realised until recently was just how much you can find to eat if you forage for it at this time of the year. Last year, I met many foraging enthusiasts who have taught me to see nature in an entirely new way: as a living larder on my doorstep.

So, when I was driving through a wooded area on Friday and spotted this:

I practically ground my car to a screeching halt.
Was it what I thought it was? I hurried into the woods to find out.

The closer I got, the more excited I became. Was it really what I hoped it was?

My nose was already telling me that my hunch was right. I'd found one of my favourite springtime foods: wild garlic.

I think wild garlic is the essence of springtime. It has such a fresh and delicate flavour, a flavour that is closer to chives than it is to the more pungent garlic you can buy in the shops.
If you are keen to forage for it, all you need to know is that it grows in woodlands, often among bluebells and that you can identify it by its garlic-like smell, its long leaves and its pretty white flowers.

As I gathered a bunch, I was already deciding how I'd cook it for that night's dinner. Combining it with some unsalted butter, crunchy sea salt and the freshest of fish seemed like a simple dish that would maximise its subtle flavour.

For the simplest and most delicious of springtime suppers for two, here's what I used:

70g unsalted flour
40g wild garlic
Sea salt

2 whole sole
Baby new potatoes

Green beans
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Half a lemon

  • I chopped the wild garlic and mixed it with the butter in a bowl, seasoning with sea salt.

  • I melted half of the garlic butter in a hot pan, adding a little bit of sunflower oil to stop it burning and cooked the sole in the melted butter (approx 3 mins each side).

  • I served the simply cooked fish with some boiled baby potatoes and lemony green beans. (Nigella Lawson suggests boiling beans in salted water and once they are tender straining them and transferring them to a saucepan with some butter and half a lemon that has been cut into segments. Stir until the butter has melted and the lemon segments have disintegrated slightly. Lemony goodness that sets the fish off to perfection!)

    Serve the buttered fish with the potatoes and lemony green beans with some of the extra wild garlic butter alongside.

    Pour yourself a glass of wine and savour the simple flavours of springtime.

    What a wonderful time of year it is.
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