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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Wild Garlic and The Ethical Chef

One of the reasons I like Farmers Markets is that they change with the seasons in a way not reflected by Supemarkets and that there is often something new to be explored. And so it was on Sunday when we made one of our regular visits to Riverside in Cardiff.

Some stalls will always be on the agenda, If we missed out on Usk or Undy then Riverside will have Phillip Beaven and Ty Mawr Organics for vegetables, Teifi Cheeses and Cig Lodor for meat, but it is the others, some new, that can absolutely make the trip and often my day.

May is often heralded as Asparagus Month, and I love the delicate spears and make as much use of them as I can during their all-too-brief 6 week season and the months of waiting for them to come around makes the treat even better. Not for me the airlifted Peruvian or Kenyan produce available in the depths of Winter, keeping seasonal and local means a reduction in carbon footprint, air miles and a much better taste than geo-crops, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “ripped untimely from the womb”. (Bet that’s the first time Macbeth has appeared in a food blog unless it's a tortured reference to unwanted guests at the banquet).

For me though the true taste of Spring is Wild Garlic, the softer yet still strongly Allium taste of this herb is a pleasure and it combines well with the Asparagus as well as being a great ingredient in its own right.

The Cardiff Herb Company had a great basket of Wild Garlic, picked that morning at CHC headquarters in Cowbridge, and drew my immediate attention, not just the broad leaved, starry flowered variety – known as Ransoms in Ireland - but also the Three Cornered Leek so easily mistaken for Harebells and known as Snowbells in Ireland.

Victoria Welles started the Cardiff Herb Company last year and has a range of herbs and herbal teas on sale as well as some of the most robust potted herbs that I have seen. In addition to two big bunches of Wild Garlic I managed to buy a small Vietnamese Coriander plant, essential for Asian dishes later in the year and an intriguing Chocolate Mint that should add an additional depth to a Chocolate Mousse.

The robust nature of the plants was no surprise as for the last three years Victoria has run growing, unsurprisingly vegetables and herbs in plugs to get gardeners started.

Though the Mint and Coriander offered promises for the future the Wild Garlic offered almost immediate gratification.

Whenever I have Wild Garlic, my mind turns to Denis Cotter the driving force behind Café Paradiso in Cork – possibly the best vegetarian restaurant in the world -  who uses it well and indeed named one of his books (Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me) after it. Denis uses the very seasonal ingredient sensitively such as, for example in a Tomato and Wild Garlic Concasse, or a Roasted Cherry Tomato and Wild Garlic Risotto with Lemon Braised Artichokes.

Just across from Cardiff Herb Company was The Ethical Chef. Deri Reed is a vegetarian chef who runs his stall, caters for Weddings and other events and also runs a Supper Club. Deri always reserves a place at his Supper Clubs  for Food Bloggers and is well in tune with the blogiverse, having his own but also challenging other bloggers to work with him on the stall. Cardiff Bloggers were recently challenged and, on June 3rd Cardiffbites (aka Nicki) will be joining him to cook a recipe of her choice that will be available to the market public. As Cardiff Bloggers are holding their Big Eat Picnic just up the road in Bute Park that day so a number of vegetarian dishes can be expected to be on view. I may have signed up to the challenge but, as they say, things are at an early stage.

Anyhoo, back to the real business, Deri trained and worked with Denis Cotter at Café Paradiso and a Denis inspired recipe Wild Garlic and Brazil Nut Pesto - Denis actually uses Walnuts - was flying off the stall along with a vegetarian sushi, a Welsh Rarebit of the Pesto with Perl Las Organic Cheese, and a Beet Boost which combined Beetroot, Apple Juice , Lemons, Ginger and Oranges.

One of the key ingredients of the Pesto was a Blodyn Aur (Gold Flower) Welsh Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil and I bought  a bottle as it not only gives a clean tasting oil but 5 teaspoons added to a bread dough gives a better rise and a crumblier texture.

By this time the seductive smell of the Wild Garlic was driving me to distraction and we headed home to get cooking, first a simple Wild Garlic Soup  I use Rory O’Connell’s recipe – you could substitute young Nettle Leaves for the Wild Garlic.

Serves 4-6

6oz 175 g Potatoes in 1/2 inch dice
6oz 15g Onions diced
2oz  50gButter
2 Garlic Cloves finely chopped
2 pints 1,2 l Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock for a meat free soup
Salt and Pepper

1 pint 600 mls Wild Garlic Leaves tightly packed into a measuring jug and chopped into 1" pieces
8 fl oz 225ml Wild Garlic Flowers

Melt the butter and sweat the potato, onion and garlic for about 10 minutes in a heavy based pan with a butter wrapper or greaseproof paper disc on top to retain the steam.

Add the stock and bring just to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes with the lid off then add the Wild Garlic leaves and allow to just wilt.  Adjust the seasoning  Sprinkle in the flowers and serve immediately.

An alternative is to add cream when the Wild Garlic goes in and liquidise.

Ah Spring!

Some pictures are from the Ethical Chef website. All others are mine.

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  1. Thanks for the mention. I really hope I can do Deri's stall justice with my menu and that you lot will come and buy some food! :)