The best thing to do with wild leeks? Pickle them
JP McMahon: It’s been a long winter of root vegetables
In the last few weeks, the first wild leeks have made their way into the restaurant. They pack a pungent punch. The only thing to do is pickle them and leave them to calm down for a few months. Three parts vinegar, two parts water, and one part sugar. We always use the same formula. Heat the pickling liquor and then pour over the leeks. Place in a container and keep in a cool dark space. They’ll keep for a whole year so make plenty for next winter!
Last year’s pickled wild leeks turned out lovely. We had them on the menu in Aniar with our slow-roasted pork belly. Brine the pork belly over night in a 5 per cent brine (salt-water solution), we roast it off at 140 degrees until it’s as tender as hell. This normally takes 3-4 hours but the wait is worth it. A whole pork belly will easily feed eight, if not 10 people. Roast your belly, chop your pickled leek and sprinkle all over the top of the belly. Currently, we pair this with some fried kale and sugar kelp. Seaweed is never too far from my mind.
The wild garlic has also poked its head up out of the ground, despite the inclement weather of late. The February snow reminds me of a Pieter Brueghel painting. There is something magical about foraging in the light snow fall. The baby wild garlic shoots are so young and tender. Picked straight from the ground, their taste transports me to ancient Irish times.
I still don’t understand why we call February spring. I look forward to March when there’s more greenery about, when all the three-corned leeks, Alexanders, wild carrots and nettles cover the walkways and woodlands.
It’s been a long weather of root vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love my root vegetables. Perhaps my favourite dish of this winter was our hay-baked celeriac. A whole celeriac wrapped in hay and tinfoil and then baked until tender. Come to think of it, it would work well with a wild garlic pesto. And a little seaweed, of course.