It’s that time of year again folks: people are going bonkers for wild garlic. Us Londoners are making fools of ourselves scouring the tiniest patches of woodland, picking through sodden newspapers and train tickets, or having fivers wrestled out of our hands at farmers’ markets. Those of you in the sticks are laughing your jolly, garlic-scented heads off while tapping out pitying tweets about having a patch the size of a rugby pitch at the bottom of the garden. What is ‘garden’?
I’ve often wondered why wild garlic is so appealing. It’s not like we can’t get the same flavour – more or less – from standard issue, widely available garlic bulbs. I think it’s the colour, the greenness, the signal that this, finally, is spring. This year more than ever we need to grab fistfuls of pungent leaves and blend them into soups and pesto. We need to feel healthy and refreshed while still being comforted by that deeply satisfying flavour. That familiar allium honk.
Wild garlic comes before asparagus, broad beans and peas and it’s like a viridescent balm for chapped lips, windburned cheeks and pale skin. Plus, putting wild garlic in something instantly makes it more impressive, amirite? Take boring old soda bread – the least challenging of any loaf and so straightforward a child can make it (I imagine) – lob a load of leaves in there and now you have New Bread, Exciting Bread. It’s warm from the oven, ready to daub with butter and eat like no one is watching. Maybe no one is watching in which case, let yourself go. Several slices must be consumed before considering other ingredients. Once you get to that point, this is perfect with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. I really recommend adding the dill, too, if you’re into it.
Wild Garlic Soda Bread Recipe
As a little side note, a mate said to me, ‘I think soda bread always tastes slightly fishy’ and I agree. Is this the bicarb? Who knows. It’s not unpleasant but it is definitely there. All the better for topping with smoked salmon, eh.
300g strong white bread flour
200g whole grain (seed and grain) flour
400g whole live yoghurt
Large pinch salt
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
A large handful of wild garlic leaves washed and roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 180C
Mix all the ingredients together until they form a shaggy dough. Knead for about 30 seconds, then form into a round shape on a baking tray. Cut a cross in the centre about 2/3rds of the way deep.
Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes – when it’s done it will sound hollow when you tap the base of the loaf. Allow to cool a little before slicing, otherwise the middle of the loaf will be sticky.