Wild garlic pesto

I imagine you are basking in spring sunshine as well (mixed with a few cloudy days now and then) and are buying every green shoot & leaf on the markets yourselves. A while ago I had a quick chat with Sophie James about a pesto with wild garlic and the thought has not left my mind.

Bärlauch- or Wild garlic pesto

Thankfully ramsons or German: Bärlauch are abundant now and I made a few batches experimenting with different nuts. Astonishingly walnuts, which I had imagined as a brilliant contender, completely killed of the sharp grassy & herby taste of the wild garlic and basically bulldozed flattened the pesto. Tja, next. Blanched almonds worked well, though, in my book nothing beats the creamy smoothness that pine nuts can give to a pesto. Always a stickler for proper pesto making (pestle & mortar), in dealing with wild garlic, I prefer the rapid pureeing powers of the blender to preserve the (almost neon) vivid green colour.

Now, what to do with those jars of wild garlic pesto? They look tiny now, but contain a concentrate and a little goes a long way. Plus, the Bärlauchpesto packs quite a punch and sports a certain sharpness, so it is in need of proper vehicles:

  • Good company to grilled lamb chops (serve with these lemony giant beans & fennel with dill)
  • Lunch of artichokes: mix a spoonful with mayo & more lemon juice for a grassy green dip to dunk each artichoke leaf and lick your fingers afterwards
  • Of course pasta: linguini with wild garlic pesto for a light supper
  • Any grilled meat, fish, vegetables like peppers, green asparagus, corn…
  • Knead into some butter for a quick compound butter to melt on your Sunday steak (oh, that was quite the thing & I might never make ordinary garlic butter again)
  • Make wild garlic bread: spread between barely cut baguette, wrap in foil and bake – yum
  • We tried these as garlic shoestring fries as well…

You can smell our house from space.


Wild garlic pesto

for two small Weck jars (140ml)

a bunch of wild garlic (just the leaves weighed 130g in the end)
50g (¼ cup) pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
40g (1.5 oz) Parmigiano reggiano or Grana pardano, grated
lemon juice
olive oil

Roughly chop the wild garlic and blend (only a short burst) them together with the pine nuts. Add the cheese, some salt, a spritz of lemon juice and some olive oil to the blender and give it another quick blitz & adjust the seasoning to your taste. Add more oil if you are using the pesto right away to achieve a runnier consistency. Otherwise (if you want to store an amount for a couple of days or more – ours was good for 2 weeks) spoon the concentrated paste into small jars while making sure no bubbles are visible throughout and top with a layer of olive oil to prevent discolouring. Store in the fridge until used.

genug für zwei kleine Weckgläser (140ml)

1 Bund Bärlauch (nur die Blätter wogen 130g)
50g Pinienkerne, in einer trockenen Pfanne getoasted
40g Parmigiano reggiano oder Grana pardano, gerieben

Den Bärlauch grob hacken und zusammen mit den abgekühlten Pinienkernen nur kurz in einem Blender oder einer Küchenmaschine zerkleinern, dann den Parmesan, etwas Salz, einen Spritzer Zitronensaft und etwas Olivenöl hinzugeben und wieder nur in kurzen Intervallen hacken (es sollte kein Püree werden) & nach Geschmack nachwürzen. Will man das Pesto sofort essen, mehr Öl hinzugeben um eine etwas flüssigere Konsistenz zu erhalten, will man es aber ein paar Tage aufbewahren, dann sollte man die konzentrierte Paste in ein kleines Glas löffeln (darauf achten, dass sich keine Luftblasen in der Masse befinden) und abschließend mit einer Schicht Olivenöl bedecken damit kein Sauerstoff an das Pesto kommt und es die Farbe verliert.

Verwendung: als Sauce zu gegrillten Lammkoteletts oder anderem gegrillten Fleisch, Fisch, Gemüse, verrührt mit Mayonnaise & mehr Zitronensaft als Dip für Artischocken, klassisch mit Pasta, als garlic fries (Knoblauch-Pommes), mit etwas Butter zu einer himmlischen Kräuterbutter verknetet & auf einem Sonntagssteak schmelzen lassen, zu Spargel servieren, Knoblauchbrot… ach, ich werde hungrig.

Bärlauchsuppe – wild garlic soup

Bärlauchsuppe (deutsches Rezept s. u.) – Wild garlic soup

Since a few days we are spoilt by sunshine & blue skies, spring seems to have arrived. In my book spring starts officially when bunches of Bärlauch with its chive & garlic scented dark green leaves are turning up at the markets. Wild garlic, ramsons, Allium ursinum or in German: Bärlauch bears its name for the brown bear’s penchant for the tasty bulbs of this vegetable & herb plant. I am fond of such telling names (like last weeks Pissenlit or the lovely Meadowsweet), they provide us with a story that connects us to a time when foraging was practiced en famille, the properties and effects (and edibility) of any plant, herb & mushroom were common knowledge.

Anyway, not to impress here as the master forager (which I am not, quite the opposite): stocks of wild garlic are depleted here and I am always a little afraid of picking the wrong plant by accident, although I think wild garlic and the beautiful but poisonous (!) Lily-of-the-Valley can be distinguished easily. Plus, I would feel deprived of my weekly visit to the market, having a quick chat and see what’s fresh, enticing and inspiring.

Friday the first wild garlic had turned up, just in time for the weekend: This is a very light, fresh and invigorating starter to a dinner. It hardly is a real soup, more akin to a tisane (guess who’s watching Hercule Poirot at the moment) or infusion, just a little something to set the tone and entice the taste buds. Best served in small amounts either in a little bowl or cup.

Update: My wild garlic soup is in the Guardian, yipee.
Is a bunch a bunch? – sizes: There has arisen a question about weight or size of a or this bunch of wild garlic. Bunch sizes vary according to country, shop or stall or season or if you harvest yourself. This recipe is totally flexible and how much you use depends on your taste as well: use more for a vivid green colour & super intense wild garlic taste, less if you prefer a less in your face spring experience. The bunches I have bought this year fitted comfortably in my hand, holding the bunch like a bouquet. I weighed it, too: 173g (6.1oz) with stalks, rubber band & the occasional flower; 126g (4.4oz) just the leaves.


Wild garlic soup
for 4 or 6 diners

1 (large) bunch of wild garlic (see comment above about size guide)
1 shallot, minced
a knob of butter
500ml or a pint of chicken or vegetable stock (add more or less to taste)
salt & white pepper
a dollop of cream (single, double, whipping, crème fraîche, crème double, anything)

Wash and chop the wild garlic leaves. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let the shallot turn slowly translucent. Add the chopped leaves and the stock, cook for a few minutes, then blend to a vivid green liquid. Season with salt & white pepper and add a dollop of cream.

für 4 bis 6 Personen

1 (großes) Bund Bärlauch (Kommentar oben in Englisch zur Bundgröße, paßt wie ein Blumenstrauß in die Hand)
1 Schalotte, fein gehackt
1 Stückchen Butter
500ml Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe (mehr oder weniger nach Geschmack)
Salz & weißer Pfeffer
ein Schuß Sahne (oder Crème fraîche, crème double etc.)

Die Bärlauchblätter waschen und hacken. In einem kleinen Topf die Butter bei mittlere Hitze schmelzen und die Schalottenwürfel glasig werden lassen. Den zerkleinerten Bärlauch sowie die Brühe hinzugeben und für ein paar Minuten köcheln lassen, dann pürieren. Das intensiv grüne Süppchen mit Salz & weißem Pfeffer abschmecken und mit einem Schuß Sahne verfeinern. In kleinen Tassen servieren.