Archive for the ‘Garlic’ Category

Pickling Wild Garlic seed heads

Heading to the woods to pick the seed heads from the wild garlic has been on my to do list for a while!  Nature waits for no woman, but luckily I found them still intact today.  I’m thinking this would be better done sometime earlier (like 3 weeks ago) since they do feel a lot tougher and definitely ready to pop.  The flavour, however, is still definitely of garlic and green.  And I’m not willing to wait until next year to try this process that I first heard through twitter from chef Enda McEvoy and later found this brilliant post with great pictures on The Hunter Gatherer Cook: (http://huntergathercook.typepad.com/huntergathering_wild_fres/2010/06/wild-garlic-pods-hop-shoots-and-some-other-stuff.html).

So these are what I picked.

What’s left to do is use a fork to pull the heads from the light stalks and in a jar, cover with infused vinegar (Hunter Gatherer used pine needle vinegar which I don’t seem to have…).  He recommends infusing with mustard seeds and rosemary.  Well, all my rosemary died with the frost and I’m not sure if I have any mustard seeds but I’m going to make a pickle – maybe with cider vinegar and a touch of honey.  Will let you know how this delicacy goes.

I’ve been gardening a little too so my Circles are starting to take shape, if not a little later this year than last.  I have beets, chard, rocket and other leaves in one.  Summer sprouting broccoli takes another and I’ve just put 3 courgette plants into a third.  Last night I left out a little treat for the slugs who really love hiding in the stones that make the surrounds of my circular beds.

Slug Trap

A lot of slugs were harmed in the making of this blog post – today I counted about 20 slugs in the beer trap.  Sorry guys but we have to eat greens too!  I just used an empty tuna tin buried flush with the soil and poured in some out of date ale.  It really was quite satisfying to finally catch up with the slugs.  I’m planning a few more slug parties around the garden.

Back in January, Hugo from Cafe Azteca in Dublin sent me on some seeds for tomatillo and epazote, which I promised to sow for him in the tunnel.  Tomatillos are difficult to get here and go into making the green salsa for real Mexican cuisine.  Epazote is a herb Hugo used to flavour a black bean soup he made at his Mexican cookery class here.  It has grown just fine after being started on a heated bench in the glass house.  I transplanted some in the tunnel and outside to see how it gets on.  It was the dried version Hugo used so I should be able to harvest and store if it goes well.  A very distinctive aroma and flavour that’s difficult to describe (I wrote this before looking up widipedia!) but apparently very dear to Mexican cooks.  I would say it has an almost metallic/chemical smell that reminds me of chlorine.  Weird I know, but here’s what widipedia has to say on the herb:

Epazote is used as a leaf vegetable and herb for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anisefennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. It has been compared to citruspetroleumsavorymint and camphor.

Epazote

The tomatillos are really taking off since transplanted into the tunnel a couple of weeks ago.

Tomatillo tunnel

Going to try some wild garlic seeds with boiled baby beets for dinner.  Garlic and beetroot – a great combination.  Try it!

Wild Garlic & Chicken Bake

Castlemine Farm’s Brendan Allen has got me thinking about Eating Only Irish – happening 9th – 15th May (www.eatonlyirish.com) based on a brilliant idea by Brendan.  He will not let any food or drink pass his lips that does not come from this Island of ours.  His rules are:

“Rule 1 Food that is bred, planted, grown, reared, caught, foraged, slaughtered, harvested and processed entirely on Irish soil, or caught within Irish territorial waters.

Rule 2 If the label says “Produced in Ireland” all ingredients must conform to Rule One”

I’m in thinking mode about how nutritionally adequate this diet will be – there’ll be lots of vegetables but any ideas about fruit this time of year?  I came across Irish cooking apples (bramleys) the other day and of course there’s rhubarb but both of these need added sweetener for palatability.  We’ll probably have strawberries in the tunnel by then so that’s another one but they may not be widely available.

Oh and because Brendan comes from a bountiful farm it puts him at an unfair advantage so he will not be relying on any of his own produce in order to achieve the aim.

Here’s an almost Irish dish based on free-range chicken and foraged wild garlic (I cracked and used sea salt & black pepper….it’s so hard!).  I wanted to case the chicken (I’m using legs only here) completely in wild garlic leaves and bake it altogether.  It was incredibly tasty with a lovely hint of garlic that mellowed completely during cooking.  The chicken leg meat was so moist and the skin crisped up deliciously under the garlic and took on a beautiful flavour.  I want to try this with a breast also to confirm that it would have the same effect.

It was the simplest thing.  I pass Mote Park on the way home from work so I gathered some wild garlic fresh.  I placed a layer of the garlic on a roasting dish.

Wild Garlic Base

I seasoned the chicken legs well with sea salt & black pepper (cheating) and started wrapping and covering them with the garlic.

I poured and patted some Donegal rapeseed oil over the top and put into the oven at 190C for 40 minutes.  After 15 minutes I threw in some sliced Irish potatoes and enjoyed a pretty decent meal at the end of it.  The garlic jacket became crispy and stuck to the chicken but it was very edible too.

Wild Garlic & Potato Soup

Though very comforting, root vegetables begin to lose their appeal as the days get longer.  This time of year we have to jump on spring greens and what better than free and fresh spring greens?   Not so far from here there is a Coillte forest area called ‘Mote Park’.  It’s a great place to go for a wander and forage for wild garlic – you’ll know it when you smell it.

Wild Garlic Mote Park

I had brought my scissors and a carrier bag so filled it up, brought the wild garlic back to the kitchen, washed it and quickly made wild garlic & potato soup.

Here’s the recipe:

For 6

1 large white onion, peeled & roughly chopped

1 leek, washed & roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

3 large potatoes, peeled & roughly chopped

1 carrier bag wild garlic

1.5L light vegetable stock or water

sea salt & black pepper

1 clove garlic (crushed)

Method:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion and leek.  Season with salt, cover and sweat for 15-20 minutes stirring a couple of time.  Remove the lid and add the potato and stock/water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked.  Add the wild garlic and crushed garlic clove.  Cook for less than 1 minute.  Blitz with a blender and season well.  This soup should look lovely and green.  A dash of cream at the end would be fab.

Potato & Wild Garlic Soup

Garlic & Chicken

Today I took a trip to The Organic Centre in Co. Leitrim and salivated over their advanced and bountiful vegetables.  They have 7-8 tunnels that are super productive.  The place is worth a visit for any gardener or admirer of plants and food.  They sell their veggies at the Sligo Farmers Market every week.  While the tunnels are fairly quiet during the winter months, they sow some of these garlic in early November – the variety is ‘Vallolado’ and it looks fantastic.  It’s harvested around now and selling for €1 each at the market.  We picked up a couple of heads and this is what they look like.

Vallolado Garlic

The outer skins are soft and so easy to peel – even though you don’t really need to peel the individual cloves at all.  The aroma is heavenly.  The cloves themselves are lovely and crunchy under the knife.  So fresh – none of the rubbery feel coming from over-stored garlic available in shops.

Fresh Garlic Cloves

I set about celebrating garlic with dinner this evening.  Garlic is seriously good for you, full of powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body.  I had an organic chicken leg defrosted in the fridge, removed the thigh bone and stuffed and slathered it with this marinade:   4 large cloves garlic, smashed and chopped, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, 1 tbsp olive oil, freshly ground black pepper & sea salt.  I didn’t have time for marinating but you might (leave out the salt if doing so).

Marinating chicken

In a deep-ish frying pan I heated 1 tbsp olive oil and seared the skin side until it was golden and then turned onto the flesh side and reduced the heat, cooking for 3 minutes.  At this point I drained off the excess oil and added 150ml English Ale (Doombar from Sharps Brewery, Cornwall worked perfectly for me), a few sprigs of thyme and covered to braise gently in the pan. (This could be transferred to the oven at this stage – perfect for bigger numbers in a casserole).  Cooking at a bare simmer, 20 minutes was enough to cook the leg through and I finished it off under to grill to re-crisp the skin.  More ale or water can be added to the juices if needed to stretch the yummy gravy that develops.  Although not essential, a little chopped tarragon was delicious stirred into the juice before serving.  The garlic becomes soft, but very definable and sweet, especially if it’s tucked into the boneless thigh area.  This fairly rich chicken dish would be good with a boiled new potato and big green salad.

Pan Cooking Chicken