Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Wild Garlic Part 2: Ramsons Flower Tempura

In Wild Garlic Part 1 I shared my first wild garlic foraging and cooking experience, using the leaves of the ramsons plant (allium ursinum) as stuffing in a roast chicken. That was at the beginning of May. Near the end of the month, Pete and I spent a lovely long weekend down in Dorset, planned around attendance on Mat Follas' foraging course.

Driving along the pretty, narrow, winding lanes of this corner of rural Dorset I was struck repeatedly by just how prolific wild garlic is there. Vast numbers blanket grassy verges in swathes of green and white. Driving with the window open means an almost constant whiff of pungent garlicky goodness. Given the abundance, it amazes me that we associate garlic with French cooking, and not with food from South West England!

During the weekend, we both enjoyed dishes based on wild garlic at Mat's restaurant, we picked and munched on fresh, raw flowers and stems during the foraging course and we inhaled it's scent during each car journey we made.

At Mark Hix's Lyme Regis Oyster & Fish House, I even had deep fried ramsons flowers in my starter, though I didn't yet know that ramsons = wild garlic and didn't make the connection.

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So much of wild garlic was there in the area that I decided to forage a big bag of it just before we returned to London. In the country corner we chose, I carefully collected a carrier bag full of flowers on their long, crunchy stems and when I turned away and back again, I couldn't even spot a gap in the thick carpet of flower heads.

Having very recently seen a recipe for elderflower tempura (and influenced by the Hix starter too) I was eager to tempura my bounty of fresh flowers.

We haven't made tempura before so checked a few recipe books and followed a very basic recipe, though next time I'll aim for a thinner batter and use carbonated water, which we didn't have in the house.

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With their long firm stems, it was easy to dip each flower head into the batter, transfer it into the hot oil and lift it out to drain afterwards.


We enjoyed the flowers with some absolutely delicious grilled bacon from Denhay Farms, who we visited during our weekend trip. It was a perfect light meal which summed up our little trip.


fran39 said...

So pretty, Kavey! And the tempura look lovely. If you have any wild garlic left, it makes a fantastic pesto, which freezes well for a winter reminder of spring.

Kavey said...

Fran, I had leftover leaves (in early May) and leftover flowers/ stems this time. In both cases I blitzed them raw with some oil and froze them in little tubs. Am hoping that can either cook them a little and use as base for a pasta sauce or re-blitz with pinenuts for a pesto style dressing. Glad to hear you reckon the freezing should be ok.

Heavenly Housewife said...

That looks so fabulous: pretty fried flowers! My husband would never trust me to go foraging though, he totally thinks i would end up poising ourselves LOL.

Kavey said...

HH - that's always been my fear but am determined to do some. For example, wild garlic, when in flower, is unmistakable for anything else. Elderflowers, same. Nettles, we all know those. So there are definitely some that are easier!

I want to learn about mushrooms but there's more scope for mistakes there, I think!!!

Courtenay said...

Beautiful photo of the wild garlic tempura--any chance that you might post the recipe?

Kavey said...

Courtenay, I would but I'm not sure what we used in the end. I think we had a quick google for tempura batter recipes and a look in a handful of books we had. Most call for carbonated water, which we didn't have in the house, so we just opted to make a basic flour and water batter, I have a feeling it may have had an egg in it, but you know, I'm not entirely sure if it did or not.

Next time though, I'll make sure the water is ice-cold and use carbonated, which some recipes recommend, though not all recipes, not traditional ones!

Suzler said...

Yum! It looks so pretty and delicious.

(p.s. Congratulations on your Masterchef Experience win!)

Kavey said...

@suzler Thanks! :)