Not so long ago a friend of mine took me to a secret woodland that lay hidden from the walkers of the nearby park. We followed an indiscriminate path that suddenly opened up in to a cathedral of trees and a carpet of bluebells and wild garlic. The scent was incredible (and my sense of smell is shocking) but it was the colours that moved me the most. It was as if the saturation was turned up wherever I looked as the sun streamed through the birch trees.
We were there to forage for wild garlic before we reached the end of it’s peak season. I’d been wanting to start foraging for food for a while and wild garlic was a good place to start since it’s an easy substitute for other fresh herbs like basil. It’s also incredibly simple to find since you’ll find the stuff in abundance in pretty much every woodland. Luckily Rebecca (an extremely talented photographer/blogger who took all of these amazing woodland photos you see in this post) knew the perfect patch that was off the beaten path and on a slope which meant there was little human or animal footfall which makes it a little nicer to eat!
I was planning on using the leaves in my recipe but you can add the flowers to salads to save any waste. Young leaves are the tastiest so I picked leaves with flowers that were newly opened or hadn’t quite opened yet. There was so much to choose from that I came away with a basketful – plenty to use for my pasta recipe!
You can use the leaves in so many different ways; pesto, dip, soup, you name it. I chose to reinvent a favourite pasta dish that I cook by introducing a few cupful of leaves hoping that it might elevate it a little. It definitely did the trick! There was more of a kick of flavour (I used kale in previous recipes) and the smell when cooking was delicious. Cooking with ingredients that I hand-picked made it a little more special and I can’t wait to head out and collect more before the season finishes in a few weeks.
I would recommend this dish for one of those spring evenings that has a chill in the air. We know this kind of evening well in Ireland; after a full day of sun the temperature suddenly drops and we find ourselves reaching for the winter blankets again. It’s warm, filling and a little bit indulgent but using foraged ingredients makes it a little less shameful!
Wild Garlic Chicken Pasta
Feeds 2 – 3 people – depending how hungry you are!
What You’ll Need:
- 2 x chicken breasts, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 1/2 cups penne pasta
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups of chopped wild garlic leaves
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Heat olive oil in a pan over a medium heat
- Add onion and stir for about 3 minutes
- Add chicken and stir until cooked all over
- Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute
- Add uncooked pasta, chicken stock, water, wild garlic and bring to boil
- Stir and bring to boil, then reduce to a lower heat, cover and leave to simmer for just over 20 minutes
- When all liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and stir in cheese, double cream and lemon juice
- Serve with crusty bread