With the teasing of spring we have been treated to over the past couple of weeks everything has begun to wake up on the farm after what has felt like a particularly long winter. Every unfurling bud and sunny day are helping to lift everyone’s spirits – and the woods are alive with the smell of garlic. This Saturday (20th March) marks the beginning of astronomical spring and the wild garlic in our ancient woodlands has begun to lay down the carpet for its arrival.
‘With a slightly more subtle flavour than traditional bulb garlic the leaves of this plant aren’t only native to the UK but are also delicious. In continental Europe it is known as bear’s garlic due to being a favourite of the brown bear still present there. The latin for wild garlic is Allium ursinum, where Allium places it in the garlic family and ursinum refers to the latin ursa for bear. They dig up the bulbs and snack on them in the spring after waking up from hibernation, reportedly to get their digestive tracts back up and running after their long sleep. This is a popular property of this plant, it is traditionally used throughout Europe as a spring tonic and is favoured for it’s blood purifying properties. It is also said to lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of diseases like heart attacks and strokes’ (see Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones).
This year I have gone with a simple wild garlic butter recipe to accompany wholemeal dough balls. Perfect for a movie night the wholemeal flour in the dough balls adds extra texture and a deeper flavour to more traditional plain white dough with a crunchy crust perfect for cutting through the wild garlic butter. Ready from start to finish in 3 hours 45 minutes (of which only 45 minutes is actual preparation, the rest is proving and cooking time) this is a simple recipe that is easily achieved in an afternoon.
Wholemeal Dough Balls
Makes approx. 25 dough balls
Preparation Time: 45 minutes (plus breaks for proving)
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
- Pour 175ml of water into a saucepan and warm until steaming. Add the butter and stir to melt before setting aside to cool.
- Mix the flours, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Slowly add the water and butter mixture whilst still warm to form a soft dough.
- Knead for 10 minutes by hand until the dough feels bouncy (springs back when gently poked) and smooth.
- Lightly oil the sides and base of a clean bowl and place the dough inside. Cover the top of the bowl with cling film and leave somewhere warm to rise for 1½ – 2 hours (or until douled in size).
- Once left to prove knock the air out of the dough and knead again for a few minutes. Take a small piece of the dough and roll into a ball approximately 1-2cm in diameter.
- Place the ball on a lined baking sheet and repeat with all of the dough, spacing the balls 1cm apart.
- Leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.
- When ready to cook preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan/Gas Mark 4). The dough balls should have risen a little more and be nearly touching.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through and a little browned.
- Serve with garlic butter whilst still warm.
Wild Garlic Butter
Makes approx. 250g log of butter
Preperation Time: 30 minutes
50g Wild Garlic Leaves
250g unsalted butter
½ tsp coarse sea salt
½ tsp finely ground sea salt
- Make sure the butter is room temperature and soft before starting!
- Mash the butter with the back of a fork in a mixing bowl to a creamy consistency.
- Add the salt (coarse and fine) and mix thoroughly, tasting and adjusting as preferred.
- Chop the wild garlic so that it is very fine and stir into the butter, mixing evenly.
- Prepare a square of baking parchment and lay flat on a worktop. Spoon the wild garlic butter mixture onto the centre of the parchment and begin to roll and shape into a log using the parchment.
- Once the butter has been firmly rolled into a log, twist the ends of the parchment and chill in the fridge until needed.
- Note: this can be frozen for up to one month. You can either freeze as a block or cut into rounds and place on a tray in the freezer for 2 hours before transferring to a freezer bag for accessible butter pats.