This time of year, a treasure is to be found in our woodlands. Look for some shady area in a deciduous wood. Then just follow your nose, because I’m talking about wild garlic, also known as ramsons. This stuff can be used in salads and soups but also makes a great pesto. One small caution: wild garlic can look a little like lily of the vallley, which is poisonous. However, the wild garlic flower is typical of the onion and garlic family and almost dandelion-like. Also, if you just rub a leaf between your fingers, the smell of garlic will confirm you’ve found the right stuff. For this recipe you’ll want to collect the leaves. Five minutes foraging, will yield at least three jars of pesto.
Back home, pull the stalks off the leaves and weigh out how much you’ll need. About 80g per jam jar. Sterilise some jars in a low oven and then let cool. Wash the leaves to remove dust and dirt and then dry between two towels. The other ingredients in this pesto are 40g each per jar of unsalted pistachio nut kernels and finely grated parmesan, good olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
Place the wild garlic and pistachios in a food processor and whizz until a nice consistency has been achieved. I like to leave it quite coarse, so you still get plenty of small pieces of nut. Then add a couple of tablespoons of oil and fold in the parmesan. The pesto will still be quite dry, so add more oil until you get the consistency you want. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Be careful with the salt as the parmesan is already quite salty. Pour carefully into the jar(s) and press lightly with back of a spoon to get rid of most of the air bubbles. Then pour more oil to completely cover and seal the pesto. At this stage, put the lids on but don’t tighten up fully. After half an hour or so, take a skewer and poke out any remaining air bubbles. If necessary, top up with olive oil. Now you can close up the jars properly. This will keep a couple of weeks or so stored somewhere cool and several months stored in the fridge. If you store it in the fridge the oil may solidify but just take the jar out a while before using and everything will be just fine.
By the way this pesto works really well with the Aubergines Slices with Walnuts and Garlic recipe. Just replace the garlic, olive oil and most of the parsley with about 100g of the pesto. You might just need a little olive oil to get a good spreadble consistency.
Obviously you can stir this into pasta to make a quick and tasty meal, but that’s not all. The other day, I had some new potatoes left over. I crushed these lightly, took some (light) creme fraiche mixed with a little cream, added a good rounded dessert spoon of the the pesto and seasoned with pepper and a little salt. I then put the potatoes in a buttered fairly shallow ovenproof dish, covered with the pesto and creme fraiche, sprinkled with some grated emmental and some pancetta cubes. After 20 minutes at 180°C I had a scrumptious dinner.