The wild garlic season is upon us.
I have Dominic at Bellau Kitchen to thank for first alerting me to the use of wild garlic in cooking. When I was a little girl, the woods around where we lived were full of it at this time of year but it was regarded with huge disdain and derision. My mum would never have dreamed of cooking with it. Once I had made Dominic's wild garlic and asparagus quiche I was hooked.
These days we are usually in France when it's in season but this year, as we know, is rather different so we have been able to pick plenty of it in the woods near to where we live in the UK.
The pie filling was made of a mixture of chunks of chicken breast, chopped leeks, bacon and mushrooms in a white sauce. The wild garlic was stirred in when the filling was ready as it cooks very quickly, a bit like spinach. You can vary the ingredients according to what you have in the fridge, less chicken but more leeks or mushrooms, with or without the bacon, and so on.
Having piled the filling in the pie dish I let it cool before adding the pastry. I usually make a pastry collar for the dish before putting the lid on and sealing them together with a pinched edge - the way I was taught to do it at school.
Flour is still hard to come by in many places but there seems to be no shortage of ready made pastry, as long as you're not fussy about brand. For my pies I used a pack of Tesco own label shortcrust pastry and it was excellent.
I made two pies, one for us and a small version for my dad who is self isolating, all by himself in his little bungalow. We had ours with some extra veg and it was absolutely delicious.
Other things I have made using wild garlic are mushroom and wild garlic quiche and lasagne. I have also used it in a version of my favourite risotto, using chicken and bacon.
1 pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry
2 small skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
1 tblsp vegetable oil
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
1 large leek, washed and thickly sliced
6 large chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 heaped tblsp plain flour (or cornflour)
a small bundle of wild garlic leaves, washed and sliced into ribbons
1 egg, beaten
Heat the oil in a large frying or sauté pan and add the chicken, bacon, leeks and mushrooms. Cook until the chicken is slightly browned and the leeks and mushrooms softened.
Sprinkle the flour over the pan and stir in. Cook for about 2 minutes before stirring in the milk. Continue cooking on low heat until you have a thickened sauce. Add a little more flour or more milk if necessary to get the consistency of a nice, thick coating sauce.
(If you don't have plain flour, use cornflour, blending it with a little of the milk and adding more to get the right consistency if necessary.)
Season with salt and pepper and stir in the wild garlic ribbons. Tip the whole lot into a suitable pie dish with a rim and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.
Unwrap the pastry and cut off enough to cover the pie. From the remaining pastry or the trimmings cut lengths about 2cm wide. Lay the trimmings on the rim of the filled pie dish to form a collar and dampen with water. Spread the larger piece of pastry over the pie and seal to the collar by pressing lightly into place. Trim the edges and seal by pinching with finger and thumb or pressing with the prongs of a fork. Make a small hole in the centre of the pastry lid and either leave as it is or decorate with leaves made from any remaining pastry trimmings. Make extra small holes in the pastry between the leaves with the point of a knife.
Brush the lid with beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned.
Serve hot with veg of your choice.
Serves 4-5 portions.