Hello Bitten readers, it is with great excitement I would like to introduce myself and tell you a bit about this blog series.
I am Luc Wallace, a chef and vegetable gardener based in East Oxford. I have been growing vegetables on and off for 6 years now and always have meant to keep a journal. Since becoming a chef, this has expanded into ideas of seasonal recipes I come up with revolving around the allotment and what is available fresh locally, both in the fields and in the shops.
Luckily enough the team at Bitten are brave enough to give me a platform, so….
Here we go, Spring is almost here, the snowdrops, crocus and daffodils are out and keen foragers across the UK are no doubt getting very itchy feet. Well, last week my partner’s sister came to stay and bought a lovely bundle of wild garlic with her. This native herb is a very good plant to get acquainted with if you’re thinking of going foraging and brings much joy to the table. It’s also high in vitamins.
Straight away I set some aside for fermenting, then cracked on with a staple on many spring menus – the trusty Wild Garlic Pesto. This recipe is a simple twist on an Italian classic substituting the basil and garlic with our wild herb and takes less than 20 minutes. You could mix it with a light pasta dish, toss it through a salad or bung it in the freezer and save for a quick meal another day.
I chose to use parmesan in this one but, if you wanted to make it vegan, sprinkle your nuts with some nutritional yeast before roasting
Recipe – Wild Garlic Pesto
2 good handfuls of wild garlic leaves
25g of parmesan
A handful of cashews, pine nuts or peanuts, lightly toasted
Glug of good extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Add nuts and the lump of parmesan to a food blender, whizz until combined in a fine grit texture and remove. Add all wild garlic to the blender and combine with oil until a smooth paste, then add the nuts and cheese back in. If it’s too thick, add a little more oil. The pesto will keep better in the fridge if there is a little too much oil as it will form a seal. Season to taste.
Down at the plot, there isn’t a lot going on at the moment. I’ve been doing the groundwork for a polytunnel, pruning and mulching the fruit bushes up and sorting out the compost patches. If growing vegetables is something you’re interested in, now is the time to start planning.
You can easily grow in containers dotted around open spaces outside and even in window sills. Having fresh produce available is sure to brighten up any dishes you create at home. Right now I have some nasturtiums that kept growing all winter, early dwarf peas shooting up along with spring onions and leeks.
This week will be full steam ahead on the sowing front and as soon as my polytunnel is back up I can start filling it up. If you’re getting itchy fingers, stay tuned as there is plenty of time to plan your growing for produce this season. Plus, I’ll be bringing you lots more easily foraged goods along with recipes. Next up, gloves at the ready because I will be tackling nettles, blackthorn flowers, and maybe even some alexanders.
As the weather has just turned back to cold and wet, I’m adding my pesto to this warming meal-
Recipe – Chicken Pesto Crumble Pie
Should serve 2, but depends on how much chicken you have.
Leftover chicken, whole chicken including bones. Picked and separated.
1 large carrot diced small
1 large onion diced small
1/2 celery stalk diced small
4 cloves garlic
100ml cream of choice (mine is soy…shock horror from my Head Chef)
1 glass white wine
50g butter or substitute
50g ground almonds (optional)
2 tbsp of your wild garlic pesto (recipe above)
1- Take the chicken bones and any vegetable leftovers (when prepping vegetables like carrots, celery, peppers, onions, always keep the odds and ends for times like these), place in cold pan with water and bring to a simmer, skim any foamy build up.
2- While the stock is working take your vegetables and cook out in a little rapeseed oil until tender but no colour (whenever cooking a vegetable base season well, the key to tasty food is incorporating the right amount of seasoning throughout cooking, adjusting as needed). Add wine, rosemary, thyme and reduce by a third.
3- Make a roux base with flour and butter, let down slowly with chicken stock stirring constantly, add cream and cider veg. If too runny just cook out until it’s a double cream consistency.
4- Take picked meat and combine with the sauce. Place in a suitable pot for the oven and leave on a warm stove.
5- Combine crumble ingredients, top your pie and cook at 180C until golden brown.
Serve with your favourite greens or some roast veg and enjoy.
Follow Luc on Instagram @plot_2_plate