Rarely is the average consumer alerted to seasonal foods anymore. Tomatoes and strawberries are available all year round, albeit flavourless and with more air miles than we’d like to think about. I love the foods that seem to buck the trend and retain that special seasonal exclusivity. Bright pink sticks of rhubarb are still a seasonal treat, even though the forced rhubarb did seem to appear earlier than ever this year. Wild garlic is another great seasonal Irish food. For a few weeks every year I add it to everything.
You can place a few leaves into a bottle of oil for a few days to flavour it, perfect for dressings. I usually make the leaves into a pesto. It’s the most versatile way of using them. I store some in jars with a layer of oil on top or freeze it in ice-cube trays then pop the frozen blocks into a bag and add to anything that needs a burst of garlic. Use the pesto to make a divine garlic bread or stir it through mayonnaise. I sauté the leaves and add to an omelette or layer them in lasagna.
The leaves retain their pungency though and the entire car always smells of garlic for a good few days
Wild garlic season is bookended by trips to the shady woods where it carpets the floor between glittering streams and patches of bluebells. Our first trip is usually when the leaves are still fresh and waxy, the flowers not yet opened. We have the pick of the best on this trip, there’s so much choice.
Our second trip is right at the end of the season when I panic that it will all be gone soon and am thankful for any we find. Usually at this stage the paths around and through the wild garlic are worn and the leaves battered and weathered with the flowers wilting. The leaves retain their pungency though and the entire car always smells of garlic for a good few days after our foraging expeditions. My kids really love these annual outings to pick the broad green leaves and it gives them a great taste of foraging.
Wild garlic and mushroom steak sandwiches
150g wild garlic (1 large handful)
70g flaked almonds, toasted
80g Parmesan cheese, grated
300ml olive oil
Lemon juice, optional
2 sirloin steaks
2 ciabatta loaves (depending on size)
150g mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 handfuls rocket
Wash the wild garlic leaves well and gently pat them dry with a tea towel or dry in a salad spinner.
Blitz the wild garlic in a food processor until fairly smooth. You may need to add some of the oil to get it moving. Add the toasted flaked almonds and the Parmesan. Pour in the oil as it blends. It’s nice to leave some texture so don’t blitz it all too finely. Add salt and a spritz of lemon juice to taste if it needs it. Do season it very well though. Pour into jars and top with oil.
For the steak sandwiches, place the ciabatta loaves into a low oven to warm. Heat a heavy based frying pan. Season the steaks and place them on the dry pan. Leave for three minutes then turn and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Remove and leave the steaks to rest on an upturned plate. Add the mushrooms to the hot pan with a tablespoon of butter and cook for five minutes until golden. Season well with salt and pepper.
Cut each ciabatta loaf in two and slice horizontally. Spread one side with the wild garlic pesto and drizzle the other side with olive oil. Layer the steak, mushrooms and rocket into each roll and serve while still warm with extra pesto on the side.