After a very long break, I’m back! That said, I haven’t been resting on my laurels, I have been busy. And although my busyness has not all been food related, the majority of it has, between sweet creation and generally cooking masses of food for my forever hungry family! However, I found that I still wasn’t getting the time to write my blog, something I have missed, not just from a recipe sharing point of view, but also from the sheer enjoyment of writing.
So, when last week turned from being February to March and I hadn’t typed one word so far this year, I had a real sense of time passing me by and not creating space for myself to do one of the things I love most.
As luck would have it, I recently got a mail from Killruddery house inviting my family and I to a Wild Garlic Forage and Workshop. The event was organised in collaboration with the Slow Food Group (the Sugar Loaf Convivium). The Slow Food Group was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat. This is an ethos, which is very close to my heart and as I’ve been feeling that life is moving too fast at the moment, being part of a Slow Food event was just what the doctor ordered.
The day began with a session of identification (so we didn’t mistake doc leaves as wild garlic!), harvesting & good practice tips. They applied a ‘Rule of Thirds Practice’, which means, harvest a Third for you, leave a Third for the wildlife to feed from and leave a Third to allow the crop to replenish for next year.
After foraging from the vast crop of Wild Garlic in the Killruddery estate we gathered in the stable studio, where it was all hands on deck (literally as you can see from the photos) to make wild nettle pasta and wild garlic pesto. All of the fresh ingredients had been gathered from the estate, including the Killruddery cold pressed rapeseed oil which was used as a base for the pesto.
Ed Hick, Slow Food guru who headed up the Wild Berry Foraging event last year, prepared the wild nettles for the fresh pasta while some of the children in the group collected eggs from the ‘Hens of Killruddery!!” The rest of us returned with our swag of wild garlic which each of us contributed to the vat of pesto that was being made.
Meanwhile, the nettle pasta dough was made and there were many offers from the kids to help with the rolling of the dough through the pasta machine. I must point out that there wasn’t a lot of hand washing (from the kids) prior to this task and I even saw the occasional investigation of some nasal passages however, I was rest assured that the pasta was going to be immersed in boiling water before consumption!
Once done, Ed told the kids that he was trying to create a new world record for the longest strand of pasta dough! r at least wild nettle pasta in Co. Wicklow! We got it to 40ft (the world record is something like 81 ft.) however; Ed reckoned that as ours was wild nettle pasta we had not only a new world record but also created a new category.
Once the long strand was completed and copious amounts of self-praise were declared, it was full steam ahead. The giant pot of water was on and bubbling away, ready to cook what was going to be tagliatelle pasta, the long strand was divided into individual piece and rolled through the pasta machine again, on the tagliatelle setting. Meanwhile the vat of pesto was finished and ready to enhance the hearty goodness of the fresh nettle pasta.
Tagliatelle made and in a feat of pure determination and synchronicity, all pasta strands were added to the bubbling pot within a 30 second window to ensure the gargantuan amount of tagliatelle was cooked at the same time. Two minutes later the pasta was just right and doused with wild garlic pesto. With so many mouths to feed, we each got a small taster of our mornings work. The flavours of the pasta and pesto tasted so fresh and packed with earthiness. And had the affect of peaking my need to get home and make my own pesto, which I had been threatening to do for a year now!!
Although I enjoyed the pesto in Killruddery, I was keen to experiment with my own version and add a bit of punchiness and bite through seasoning and nuts. So the following recipe is the one I used which is based on a basil pesto.
- 100g wild garlic leaves, washed and dried (I used my salad spinner to dry the leaves which prevented bruising the leaves)
- About 50g nuts toasted (you can use walnuts, pine nuts, almonds. I used a mix of walnuts and almonds)
- 200ml olive oil
- 50g finely grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put the wild garlic, olive oil and toasted nuts into a food processor. Pulsing till blended well. Then add the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper and pulse again till you have a smooth paste.
Transfer to a sterilised jar/jars, you will yield about 14oz/400g of pesto. What you don’t use you can freeze in ice cube trays, putting a thin layer of olive oil on top of each cube to protect from air and ensure that the pesto doesn’t dry out. Transfer the frozen cubes to a Ziploc bag and use as needed. I use these cubes to enhance the flavour of soups and pasta sauces, very handy.
However, on this day in question, we used the pesto as a topping on homemade pizza, which was scrumptious and mouthwatering! That said, this little jar of goodness is great as a dip, on sandwiches or with meat and fish. It will last about a week in an airtight container in the fridge.
Tip: We had picked a lot more wild garlic than this recipe needed, so on the advice of Ed Hick we blended the leaves and froze them in cube so we can have wild garlic pesto over the next few months!