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Peter Sidwell – Wild Garlic

Our columnist, Peter Sidwell, is all about embracing spring and the delicious British produce this season brings to our plates.

Spring is here – lambs are popping up in the fields, the daffodils are out and its not dark when I go to work and when I get back home.

This season makes everyone feel better about things. It is also a great time in the kitchen to begin embracing British seasonal produce. It is only now that it starts to poke its way through. Sprouting broccoli is going to be in season soon and I love to make a simple mid-week family supper by adding the broccoli to a pan of boiling pasta about five minutes after it has gone in to cook.

Meanwhile I chop a little garlic and salted anchovy in a pan with plenty of olive oil and cook for three to four minutes, drain the pasta and broccoli then mix it all together and finish with some Pecorino (there’s a Yorkshire one) or Parmesan cheese. Its the perfect combination of great British produce with that oh so familiar family dinner of pasta, so give it a go!

April is a great month for getting out and introducing yourself to picking wild garlic. It is truly an amazing product that is everywhere. It is so easy to pick while out and about in the countryside to take home to incorporate into all kinds of dishes and recipes. I always remember as a kid we would take our family dogs walking up to Millington Wood, just outside Pocklington up on the Wolds where the garlic grew like a lush green blanket along the bed of the woods. As a child I did not realise what that smell was, but now, as a chef and dad myself, talking my kids out walking with my trusty penknife in my pocket we pick plenty of wild garlic to use in my cookery school and my kitchen at home to make pestos, flavoured oils and even on our pizza. I hope that when my kids grow up they remember those days like I do and the tradition will continue.

Using wild garlic is simple. When it is young and tender you can just wash it and eat it raw or finely chopped and stir through some pasta with a little butter and black pepper. As the garlic grows more, you need to treat it more like spinach and cook it quickly. If you are wanting to preserve it like I do, just blanch the garlic in boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge it into ice cold water before blending in a food processor with a little water. You will then have a simple wild garlic puree that you can freeze in ice cube trays and simply pop one out when you need it.

I have been using wild garlic for some delicious, slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with preserved lemon, olive and wild garlic. All cooked with some white wine and chopped onions, covered and cooked in the oven for 4 hours at 160c. Delicious!

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