Little is known about the man who became St George. He is reputed to have been a Christian born in Turkey in A.D. 270 who became a Roman soldier under the pagan Emperor Diocletian. He was eventually executed for his Christian beliefs. St George’s emblem of the red cross on a white background was adopted by Richard the Lion Heart in the 13th century (which is now of course the symbol of England). St George has been our patron saint since the 14th century and in 1415 23 April was declared a national feast day.
Although St George has become naturalized over the centuries little fuss is made about 23 April nowadays (unlike St Patrick’s Day). So to buck this trend I have decided to give you a couple of recipes to celebrate St George’s Day using an often overlooked ingredient which can be foraged for free.
A truly seasonal plant native to this country, wild garlic (Allium ursinum) thrives in the spring in deciduous ancient woodlands with moist soils. Also known as Ramson’s or broadleaf garlic it’s fragrant leaves resemble those of Lilly of the Valley. It produces stunningclusters of star like white flowers typical of alliums. They release a pungent scent of garlic which always whets my appetite for the following dishes. It’s leaves can be chopped and used to liven up many dishes from salads to soups.
So this St George’s Day go forth and forage and treat yourself to a real Englishgem of an ingredient!
Wild garlic salsa verde
I know salsa verde isn’t exactly English but it sounds so much nicer than green sauce so humour me! This is excellent with lamb whether it be roasted or grilled. Makes enough for 4 – 6 servings.
- 18-20 medium sized wild garlic leaves, thoroughly washed
- A couple of good sprigs of fresh mint
- A small bunch of chives
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 2 tbsp capers (I’ve also used pickled nasturtium seeds in the past)
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 100ml extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
- Roughly chop the garlic and mint leaves. Snip the chives and anchovy fillets into small pieces.
- Place all of these ingredients into a mound on a chopping board along with the capers. Finely chop until a rough paste is achieved.
- Mix in a bowl with the mustard and oil. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
Wild garlic gratin
Serves 2 as a side dish
- 300g floury potatoes
- 15 wild garlic leaves, thoroughly washed
- 2 spring onions
- 150ml crème fraîche
- 2 tbsp milk
- Salt and pepper
- Butter for greasing
- 25g grated hard cheese e.g. cheddar or gruyère
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4
- Slice the potatoes thinly using a mandolin or food processor with a slicing blade attached. Place in water until required.
- Finely chop the wild garlic and the spring onions.
- Place the crème fraîche in a bowl then add the milk to to loosen slightly. Stir in the chopped garlic and onions. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Grease a small baking dish with butter. Lay slices of potato in the bottom, season with salt and pepper then spoon over a little of the crème fraîche mix. Repeat the process until all of the ingredients have been used, ideally finishing with the crème fraîche mix.
- Cover with foil and bake for 90 mins or until the potatoes are tender.
- Remove the foil and sprinkle with the cheese. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15-20 mins until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve hot.
This recipe can easily be doubled or trebled as required. If you want to prepare this in advance you can refrigerate or freeze the gratin after stage 6. Sprinkle with cheese and cook as directed at 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 for 30 mins (it may need slightly longer if you have increased the quantities) or until hot.