By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The Wildlife Gardener is not the most organised of people, and forgot to go shopping for Easter Day lunch. What to do with a couple of carrots, celery, an onion and some part-baked baguettes? It’s not quite a roast leg of lamb. Inspiration came while we were walking home through a local wood: the unmistakeable smell of wild garlic rose up from the path. Mmmm ” just the aroma filling the woodland made us feel hungry. We asked permission to forage there so we each gathered a handful of the oniony leaves and took them home:
I chopped some leaves finely, mixed them with butter and stuffed the mixture into the sliced baguettes, which I baked for 10 minutes in a hot oven.
But family cannot live on wild garlic bread alone. How about some soup to go with it? My cabbage patch has started to overgrow with stinging nettles that I should be digging out, so why not make use of the young nettle tops? The Junior Wildlife Gardeners were keen to help gather the nettles:
Meanwhile I made a soffrito (soup base of onion, carrot and celery, gently sweated in olive oil and butter). We washed the grit, fox wee and insects off the nettles and added them to the saucepan with a litre of chicken stock, the remaining wild garlic and some black pepper. The nettles and garlic wilted into the soup as rapidly as spinach. The colour was so vibrantly green that I was loathe to simmer the soup for more than 5 minutes for fear of turning it into khaki sludge. I blended it quickly, threw in a small pot of single cream and voilà! lunch was served: nettle soup with wild garlic bread!
So what was it like? A taste revelation: wild garlic bread has a buttery, allium-y subtlety unmatched by the cloves of the cultivated plant. This same base note carried on into the soup, with the nettles giving it a ferrous, spinach-like robustness. I’ve been lucky enough to eat lots of really great food in my life and it’s not often that a new flavour or taste sensation surprises my palate: foraged food delivered here. Of course, wild food is now the trendy thing in cutting-edge restaurants: nettle soup is available at Launceston Place on its 3 courses for