wild garlic egg-fried rice

I’d planned to make egg-fried rice with purple sprouting broccoli, but an impromptu walk in the garlic woods with friends led to a fragrant addition to our supper.

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This picture was taken in May last year and the garlic isn’t flowering quite as profusely yet. But there were lots of garlicky greens to gather as we walked down into the woods and nearer to the stream, Ruby found that the garlic flowers were just beginning to open. Her 2 year old friend gathered garlic leaves just as enthusiastically as us, before sitting down to happily remove her wellies and socks so that her leggings and feet could become more closely acquainted with the mud. We all had lots of fun.

Back home in the kitchen, I was as excited as ever to have a bag crammed full of nutritious and free greens. My friend Heidi used her wild garlic leaves in a lovely Moroccan inspired soup with chickpeas, saffron and tomatoes. But I was still in the mood for a Saturday night Chinese supper. Not authentically Chinese at all, I have to point out, but the sort of fragrant yet wholesome food I felt like.

As Ruby had been involved in gathering the ingredients, she tucked in to her supper packed with greens with enthusiasm. Not something that always happens in this kitchen.

It made use of our current Purple Sprouting Broccoli garden glut as well as the wilder glut in the woods and was very simple to cook. Ideal for a May day when we’d made the most of the sunnier parts of the day outside between showers.

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Wild garlic egg-fried rice

For 4 average appetites or 3 very hungry people

250 g brown rice

3 free-range eggs

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

2-3 teaspoons soy sauce (I use the Clearspring organic variety)

3 handfuls wild garlic leaves, chopped

1 handful wild garlic flowers

2 handfuls purple sprouting broccoli

Break the eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork. Heat a small amount of the oil in a large wok and stir-fry the broccoli briefly. Remove and reserve on a plate. Heat the remaining oil and stir-fry the rice. Add the soy sauce and wild garlic leaves, stirring – the heat of the wok will wilt the wild greens nicely. Add the broccoli, stir and push the rice mixture to one side of the wok. Quickly cook the eggs in a sort of omelette in the wok, then slice into thin shreds with your spatula or chop sticks and mix with the rice. Heap into bowls, scattering a few wild garlic flowers on top.

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If you want to make this dish more authentically Chinese you can of course use white rice and vary the oil. I’d normally add spring onions or Egyptian walking onions from the garden at the beginning of egg fried rice, but this time the wild garlic seemed to add plenty of that fresh allium flavour. Later in the summer I’ll probably make it with peas picked from the garden instead of the PSB and wild garlic.

We ate it with some spare ribs that I’d marinated and cooked in the oven, but this would make a good vegetarian dish on its own.

As it combines a seasonal garden glut with lots of wildly seasonal food, I’m entering it in the lovely Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season for May.

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wild greens pie

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Spending so much time outside over the last few sunny weekends has totally renewed  my passion for eating from the garden. As has the plentiful supply of purple sprouting broccoli.

A couple of months ago my PSB was looking so healthy, I was already anticipating a March glut. Planning bruschetta heaped with PSB and drizzled with chilli oil, PSB with pasta, anchovies, pine nuts and garlic, piles of lemony PSB alongside simply cooked fish. Then it snowed and was cold. And snowed and was cold some more.

I love the wildlife in and around our garden and this year it seems as if a dearth of easy food has made lots of creatures more daring in daylight hours. We have an almost daily visit by a barn owl very early in the evening, which is lovely. When the greedy pigeons and muntjac start nibbling my PSB it isn’t quite as lovely. I netted it carefully, then it snowed and the weight of the snow played havoc with the nets. The PSB was looking decidedly sorry for itself.

Which is why coming back to the kitchen with baskets of the stuff is making me quite so happy at the moment. I’m loving spotting parsley that seems to have self-seeded itself from last year; chives are starting to really flourish, sorrel is being picked for salads and the lovage and angelica seem to be growing by the minute. In my head I hardly need to go to the shops.

The reality of course is that it’ll be a while until there’s a plentiful supply of cultivated veggies from the garden.  Much as I loved cooking the Anchovy, Parmesan and PSB tart from Louisa at Chez Foti and am still not bored of PSB pasta, we can’t really eat PSB for EVERY meal.

Thank goodness then for weeds. The nettles and ground elder are growing twice as rapidly as anything I’ve planted of course. So how great that they’re both so nutritious. Full of iron, vitamins and natural histamine, stingers are perfect for cooking with at the moment, still young and tender.

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I’ve added them to ricotta for a cannelloni filling and, inspired by Italian uses for wild greens, made torta verde. You need to wear long sleeves and gloves for picking nettles of course, but you’ll find that once cooked they lose their sting. And for anyone who’s suffered lots of nettle stings in the past, eating your enemy isn’t exactly sweet revenge, but very tasty.

Anne from  Life in Mud Spattered Boots has a great recipe for nettle soup and I love Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ideas for making nettle tea as a Spring tonic (sweetening it with honey and adding a squeeze of lemon) or just adding a knob of butter, a pinch of nutmeg and seasoning to cooked nettles to serve simply as a green vegetable.

This time though, I made wild greens pie. I used a mix of nettles, parsley, spinach, beetroot tops and sorrel but if I’d been able to venture further than the garden yesterday, I would’ve added wild garlic too. Must have a walk in the garlic woods soon, especially as Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods has inspired me to be more inventive in cooking with it. I used cultivated garlic and Egyptian walking onions for my allium fix here, but again, this is a recipe that you can adapt according to what’s good in the garden or hedgerow.

I would use this ricotta and greens mix to fill ravioli too, in fact I think it’s inspired by Italian recipes, as well as by a Greek Courgette Pie in Sarah Raven’s brilliant Garden Cookbook.

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Wild Greens Pie

Ingredients

A colander full of wild greens/greens from the garden (can include nettle tops, spinach, chard, sorrel, wild garlic leaves, parsley, ground elder)

Egyptian walking onions or a few spring onions or young leeks, chopped

A garlic clove chopped, or wild garlic

150ml olive oil

1 pack of filo pastry

1 tub of ricotta

2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 200C. Fry the garlic and onions in a little of the olive oil for a few minutes. Wash the greens well, then add to the pan with the garlic and sweat gently until wilted. If you have large leaves/clumps of greens you can snip with scissors.

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When cool, mix the greens with the ricotta, eggs and season with salt and pepper. Separate out 6 filo sheets and brush them with oil. Place 3 of the sheets in the base of an oven tray, one oiled sheet placed on top of the next (I’m very clumsy at this sort of thing, but a few torn sheets honestly don’t interfere with this pie looking and tasting lovely).

Place the ricotta/greens mixture in an oblong in the middle of the sheets, then fold the sheets around it, brusing with oil as you go. Place another filo sheet on top and brush with oil, and repeat with 2 more sheets. Brush with oil, and scatter with sesame seeds if you like. Put the pie in the preheated oven and cook for about 1/2 hour until the pastry is golden.

Great with a tomato salad – although faced with my normal reluctance to get in the car, rather than spend more time in the garden, we ate this with a salad of herbs yesterday.

After planting potatoes, making paths, weeding and planting seeds we were very hungry. Which is my excuse for totally forgetting to take a photo of the finished pie, before there was only one slice left!

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