WILD garlic can be found in abundance in the Wye Valley and is used in a variety of dishes from soups to salads. KATH SKELLON turned to cooking expert Katherine Marland for some tips on cooking with the aromatic herb.
WILD garlic is better known as ‘Ramsom’ or ‘Stinking Jenny’ and can be found in abundance in the Wye Valley.
The unmistakable aroma of garlic is rife at this time of year and the pungent smell is hard to avoid.
Every spring the aromatic herb with star-like flowers creates a white and green carpet of leaves that can be found in woodlands and used raw or cooked, in salads, soups. Its the leaves of wild garlic that are widely used and milder than garlic bought in shops, although the bulbs, along with the flowers, are edible, but are much smaller in quantity.
Monmouthshire has several garlic hot spots which include the Wye Valley at Tintern and woodland on the slopes of the Skirrid, near Abergavenny, which has hosted two Wild Garlic Festivals in recent years.
Gemma Bode, Gwent Wildlife Trust Conservation Manager, said wild garlic is an ancient woodland indicator species which means it can only found in some of the oldest and best deciduous woodlands that have survived since at least the 1600’s in Gwent.
She said: “A word of caution though, as the plant can easily be mistaken for that of the less common plant lily of the valley.”
Advice for those foraging for wild garlic is if you are unsure of what you’ve found then the smell will clarify if it is garlic. Do not pick from nature reserves or trample on other species and do not uproot unless you have permission from the landowner.
Katherine Marland, founder of the Devauden-based Kather’s Kitchen, offered her expert tips on how to prepare and cook dishes using wild garlic.
Mrs Marland, 40, offers a broad range of cookery courses as well as cookery demonstrations, corporate events, a sell-out pop-up restaurant and a recipe blog.
The former Pampered Chef consultant, who set up her catering business in 2012, said garlic is prolific at this time of year.
Mrs Marland said wild garlic is considered to have a number of health benefits including antibiotic and antiseptic properties and a capacity to lower high blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
“Wild garlic pesto is quick and easy to make and tastes sensational with some fresh tagliatelle and a grating of parmesan.
“Wild garlic leaves can be chopped over salads, added to omelettes and sauces or layered with potatoes to make a lovely, garlicky gratin dauphinois.”
“Wild garlic soup is delicious and looks beautiful garnished with wild garlic flowers. The leaves and flowers can also be used as a seasonal alternative to garlic cloves.”
Kather’s Kitchen’s Wild Garlic and Mushroom Tartlets With Wild Garlic Pesto
Makes 6 shallow (starter size) tartlets / 4 deep (main course size) tartlets
100g wild garlic leaves
50g Parmesan, grated
50g pine nuts or hazelnuts, toasted
salt & freshly ground black pepper
175g plain flour
115g salted, cold butter, diced
2 tsp milk
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
30g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
75g wild garlic leaves (stalks removed)
a knob of butter
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
100g ripe Camembert cheese
1 egg yolk
100ml double cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto, blitz the wild garlic leaves, Parmesan and pine nuts in a food processor until roughly chopped. With the blade still turning, slowly add the oil until the required consistency is achieved – thicker is better for this recipe. Add lemon juice and plenty of seasoning to taste. Transfer to the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to develop.
For the pastry cases, place the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (working quickly so the butter doesn’t melt). Add the egg
and milk then stir, using a cutlery knife, until the dough binds together. Add the thyme leaves and Parmesan then knead briefly on a floured surface.
(Alternatively, blitz all the pastry ingredients in a food processor until they come together then knead briefly on a floured surface.) Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry thinly on a lightly floured surface and use it to line 6 loose-bottomed, shallow (2cm high) individual tart tins or 4 deep (3 cm high) individual tart tins, easing the pastry down into the corners to prevent
shrinking. Chill the pastry cases in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas mark 5
Prick the pastry bases all over with a fork and bake blind (by lining the pastry cases with baking parchment and filling with baking beans) for 10 minutes. Remove the baking parchment and baking beans then return the
pastry cases to the oven for a further 2-3 minutes until the base is cooked through.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180C / Gas mark 4
Melt the butter in a pan then cook the sliced mushrooms over a medium heat until softened and starting to brown. Allow to cool then strain away the cooking liquid to prevent the tartlet filling becoming too watery. Beat
together the eggs, extra egg yolk and cream. Cut the Camembert into small pieces and stir into the cream mixture. Gather up the wild garlic leaves into a cluster and slice finely then add the shredded leaves to the cream mixture, followed by the cooked mushrooms. Season to taste then divide the mixture
between the tart cases.
Bake for 10-15 minutes (shallow tartlets) or 15-20 minutes (deep tartlets) until the mixture is set and the tartlets are turning golden brown on top.
Serve warm with a spoonful of wild garlic pesto on top and garnished with a wild garlic flower.
If making in advance, reduce the cooking time slightly, cool then chill. The tartlets can then be reheated at 130C for 10 minutes.
Day courses at Kather’s Kitchen start from £75 and include lunch and afternoon tea. For details visit www.katherskitchen.co.uk