The Bitter Herbs of Spring

We’ve been getting the Seasons Veg Box from Riverford all winter. It’s been full of good things – parsnips, carrots, swede, cabbage, leeks. I’ve done loads of fun meals and it’s certainly kept us warm and comfy. But with the changing weather, I’ve really started to appreciate the old accounts you read, of people combing the countryside for dandelions and other new leaves, just to taste something fresh and tart.

In this morning’s box there was a bag full of dark green wild garlic leaves. They’re textured a bit like basil, and you get one long thin leaf on a stalk. The smell wasn’t too strong, but eating them raw gives you a wonderful garlic burn. Literally, my mouth is still stinging a bit. Mind you, I have been pigging out.

Lunch was a roast beef and garlic sandwich, on some seeded bread with a few dabs of mayo. Dinner was pasta with wild garlic pesto.

  • 2 oz about of pine nuts
  • an ounce or so of Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced or grated
  • 2 anchovies (the proper dark grey fillets in oil)
  • 100 ml thick green 0live oil
  • 2 handfuls wild garlic leaves (I suppose you could mix with basil if you want it milder)

I toasted the pine nuts and put half of them in a blender with half the cheese and the anchovies. Whizz whizz with a dribble of the oil to get it going, feed in the leaves. Add more oil to get the texture you want – thick paste or flecked sauce.

Cooked some pasta (just plain spaghetti worked well), and toss with the pesto, adding the rest of the pine nuts and cheese. Stunningly pepper hot, salty and the brightest bottle green in the world.

And there’s some pesto left, too. I foresee a poached egg on toast with green drizzle for breakfast.

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The Most Pretentious Menu I’ve Seen Yet

Menu from a conference dinner (the venue has a maritime / naval warfare historical connection, which may explain some of the more florid bits)
 
Warm Mousseline of Sussex Chicken stuffed with Cave Matured Roquefort and Fresh Harvested Walnuts with a Sauce of Sorrel Hollandaise and Julienne of Russet Apples
 
A Ravioli in the Colours of the Kingdom of Naples filled with Scottish Lobster, Salmon and Ginger from the Windward Islands and topped with Deep Fried Leeks
 
Cannon of English Lamb stuffed with Wild Woodland Mushrooms and Truffles, imprisoned in a pastry cage with a Sauce of Wild Rowan Berries and a Plume of French Bar-le-Duc
Black Potatoes from the Ardennes
Bundles of Vegetables gathered fresh from the garden
 
A Miniature Gateau flavoured with Liquorice from the Spanish Maine concealing a heart of liquid fire glazed with Quince Jelly and served on Lapsang Creme Anglaise with Baby Pear finished with an arabesque of purest gold.
 
Glazed Normandy Brie with Wild Mulberries and Bath Oliver Biscuits
 
Coffee and Homemade Truffles
 
I had to look up Bar-Le-Duc, it's a French preserve named after a town in Lorraine, traditionally made with whole redcurrants which have had the seeds extracted by little old ladies using a goose quill. I would normally spell Spanish Main without the "e", but otherwise there were no spelling mistakes – too many capitals but consistently used. On the whole though – YUCK – over complicated, and generally a right mess. Apparently the dessert was a sponge with something like a malteser in the middle, which in turn had a brandy liqueur centre. It wasn't popular. And the Brie was glazed with a sugar topping, so two desserts.
 
One idea worth playing with might be the Lapsang custard with a poached pear, that could be an interesting combo. 

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Chicken Livers times three

I posted this elsewhere in response to a query about what to do with chicken livers:

Stir-fry with butter and garlic, toss into your favourite warm plain tomato pasta sauce, with just a tad of balsamic vinegar and nutmeg, and serve over pasta with a spoonful of sour cream and plenty of fresh basil.

Or cook in loads of butter until the centres are still slightly pink, let it cool til nearly solid, then whizz up in a food processor with a spoonful or two of your favourite strong booze – brandy, pernod, or cointreau are all good. Stir in appropriate flavourings such as green peppercorns or fresh citrus peel shreds, and mix lightly with whipped double cream. Let set in small pots in the fridge. Cover with melted butter to seal and it will keep for about a week. Great on thin crisp toast, or alongside a sharp green salad.

 

The first is a Northern Italian influenced thing, I've used NCG Plum Tomato and Creme Fraiche soup instead of pasta sauce in the past, which has worked well. It needs the nutmeg and maybe even cinnamon to boost the warmth. I can't remember where I got it from …

The parfaits are probably from a Glynn Christian Sainsbury cookbook, either Pies Pates and Terrines, or his Christmas one.

And of course there's the classic Dirty Rice, cooking them with loads of onion, celery and green pepper, with plenty of black pepper and paprika / cayenne, and then adding long grain rice and letting it simmer in wine and stock til done. Adding spicy or garlic sausage at the beginning if you like, and prawns and fresh chopped tomato at the end.

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