Pea and wild garlic flower salad with goats cheese

Pea, wild garlic, goats cheese salad 001You may have noticed that we’ve had some sunshine recently and that temperatures have crawled  above freezing. This means spring is in the air and wild garlic is starting to show. And wild garlic is food for free. Excellent cooked like spinach but also great, raw, in salads.

Also known as ramsons, wild garlic grows in woodland, along river banks and where the bluebells grow. Different from the bulb garlic we’re all used to, you can use both the leaves and the flowers. The leaves are easy to identify being long and deep green and, when crushed in your hand, smell of fresh garlic. You’ll even notice the smell in the air. However, it’s worth moving that little bit away from the path before gathering; particularly if there are plenty of dog walkers about.

I’m lucky enough to live on the banks of the Tees where I find an abundance of the stuff. However, if you can’t pick it yourself, you’ll sometimes find it at farm shops and farmers’ markets.

The flowers of wild garlic are even less well known as a food but are surprisingly tasty and garlicky. Just make sure you wash them well.

For goats cheese, I prefer to use one that’s not too strong but it depends upon how much you like it. The Northumberland Cheese Company stock at least a couple of good ones. And Yellison Farm in Skipton, North Yorkshire do a very good young cheese that’s not so overpowering as many continental ones.

And while you could always use fresh peas for this recipe, it’s certainly no loss to the dish to use frozen ones. In fact it’s difficult to think of a fresh food that freezes as well as peas – as long as they’re frozen very soon after picking. As a result, frozen can often be better than fresh.

To make the salad a little more substantial, you could try adding a little chopped ham, cooked chicken or even a few crispy bacon lardons.

Serves four

  • 225g Goats cheese
  • 600g garden peas – defrosted if frozen
  • Six mint leaves
  • The zest of a lemon plus its juice
  • Eight wild garlic flowers
  • 50ml extra virgin rapeseed or olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper

This is so easy, it needs little instruction, but here goes.

Place the wild garlic flowers into a large mixing bowl, along with the peas and the mint leaves, once torn into pieces. Crumble the goats cheese and add to the bowl along with the lemon zest, a couple of pinches of sea salt, some black pepper and a good dash of rapeseed or olive oil. Add a few drops of lemon juice and toss the salad gently and serve in chilled bowls.

As published in The Northern Echo

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