Our restaurant, The Kitchin, is just by the Water of Leith, where you’ll see plenty of wild garlic growing along the banks. At this time of year I can walk not too far from the restaurant and smell the delicate wild herbs. It always excites me to get into the kitchen and start cooking with the fresh spring produce arriving at my door.
Foraging for wild garlic is a great place to start, as it is generally safe. We always have great fun with the kids if we take them out for a walk and let them help to pick some wild garlic. The best place to look is in areas that are semi-shaded with moist conditions. Unlike domestic garlic, it’s the leaves where you’ll find all the flavour. They are easy to identify – you simply look out for their elegant, broad, pointed foliage and distinctive little white flowers and then smell them. Both the parts are edible, but once more flowers appear, they tend to be a bit more tough and bitter. At this time of the year, though, you’re more likely to find tight little buds.
When it comes to flavour, these little herbs can be treated rather like leeks, onions or chives – to pack flavour and freshness into any seasonal spring dish. I love to match them with shellfish or meat, but they taste equally good stirred into risottos, pastas, salads or soups. The flavour is a little sweet and you’ll find it milder than domestic garlic bulbs.
The leaves of wild garlic can be enjoyed raw or lightly cooked. If you’ve been out foraging, make sure you wash them well, or blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes. I like to make up a big batch of wild garlic pesto to enjoy with different dishes; it’s so simple to make, yet adds a burst of fresh flavour to any plate. Just ensure you make the most of these lovely green leaves before they’re gone. n
To make the pesto
Blanch the wild garlic leaves in salted water until tender. Refresh in iced water briefly and chop the leaves finely.
Blend with all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor to create a rough purée. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To make the chicken
Heat a heavy-based, lidded pan over a moderate heat before adding the oil and half of the butter. Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper.
When the butter begins to foam, add the chicken legs and roast until they are browned all over. Add the clove of garlic, cover the pan with a lid and allow the chicken legs to roast gently for 20-25 minutes, turning regularly to colour all over.
Meanwhile, blanch the wild garlic leaves in salted water for a few minutes until soft.
Remove the lid and add the lemon juice, the rest of the butter, wild garlic leaves and wild garlic pesto, and leave
the flavours to infuse before serving.