British wild garlic pesto with hazelnuts and kale

Happy greens season! It’s that time of year when all the foodie instagrams, newspaper articles and veg boxes are talking about the stinky green leaves of wild garlic (known in the US as ramps).

wild garlic plants for pesto

The cynic in me notices the apparent trendiness and members-club-feel of foraged greens. My more charitable side wants to justify the excitement.

These are the first edible, native plants that we are seeing and it’s easy to get over-enthusiastic. It’s been a long winter of potatoes, carrots and Chilean vegetables that have traveled further than I ever have. (Future post: are your veggies better traveled than you?)

British wild garlic pesto

I’m going choose to be excited – and run with it. This is a recipe for wild garlic pesto made entirely with British produce. From the hard cheese to the oil… everything in it can be grown, harvested or produced within the UK.

British wild garlic pesto

I was directed to a hard sheep’s cheese at Androuet in Spitalfields, London. I think it’s even tastier than Parmesan(!). Instead of citrus I use cider vinegar, and I lightened the garlickiness with steamed kale.

A big inspiration for this whole recipe came from a recent event where a professor of food policy insisted Britain should grow more nuts. I went for hazelnuts – unfortunately of mixed origins.

British sheep cheese

As with any pesto, you can swirl it into pasta, mix it into cream cheese and make a dip, add it to mashed potatoes or toss some roasted vegetables in it. Or just eat wild garlic pesto straight out of the bowl. Your choice.

I have never tried to make this with US produce, but with it being the largest exporter of walnuts in the world, and the existence of the California olive oil industry – I’m sure it’s can be done. If you are in the US and take on the challenge… please let me know!

British pesto
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On the Counter

  • 50 g kale, after being stripped from stems
  • 30 g wild garlic
  • 15 g hazelnuts
  • 10 g hard sheep's cheese
  • 2.5 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt, and more to taste (Cornish sea salt if you want to go all out)

What to Do

  • Steam the kale for 5 minutes
  • Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
  • In a food processor, or mortar and pestle, break up the hazelnuts even more, then add kale and wild garlic in bunches, pulsing between.
  • Add in the oil, vinegar and salt.
  • The last step is to add in the cheese.
  • If you're freezing the pesto, convention says you should freeze it without the cheese and just add it when you serve it. I freeze it with cheese and haven't noticed a change in quality.
  • Break the cheese into small pieces (or pre-grate it), and add it to the food processor/mortar.

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