With freshly harvested wild garlic in this week’s organic veg boxes, Barny Haughton has kindly supplied me with two fabulous wild garlic recipes for us all to try. I promise you won’t be disappointed!


Wild Garlic and Borlotti Beans — A Match Made in Heaven!

Last week, Sonia gave me a carrier bag of last season’s dried borlotti beans. These beans had been left slowly drying out in their pods on the vine and, once dried out and rattling, spent the remaining winter months loosely tangled and piled up in boxes.

I took my beans back to Bristol, podded them and left the beans to soak in a bucket of cold water overnight. When I saw them the next day—still raw but now plump with water from their overnight bath and perfectly speckled and pinkish brown like sparrows eggs—I knew they would be good in the way that most shop-bought dried beans will never be.

This is partly because they were last year’s crop (shop-bought dried pulses may be up to two or even three years old by the time you buy them), but also because they were left to dry slowly in their pods while still on the vine, so they were less exposed to light and to temperature and moisture changes. In fact, this method of drying beans is as old as the growing of them and is still widely practised on small farms all over Europe for creating seed stock and for eating during the winter and spring months.

If you grow beans and haven’t tried this, give it a go. You can do it with any beans that grow in the pod–including peas. I have even done it with runner beans which had grown huge and fat with their own seeds. I soaked the seeds, cooked them with mint leaves, pureed them with olive oil, more mint, garlic and lemon. Delicious.

It also happens to be the season for wild garlic. So here are two recipes for both. Of course, you can absolutely still use ordinary dried beans or tinned (though I think dried are invariably better) and they will be perfectly lovely; we mustn’t be snooty about them just because we have found this new and more gorgeous thing! The humble and ordinary bought dried bean is still one of the best things a kitchen can have in its cupboard.

Wild garlic pesto

This is best made when the wild garlic leaves are still young and tender because the flavour is more delicate and you can chop them up more easily. It is wonderful with freshly made pasta or through a risotto or on grilled bread with roast peppers.

  • 1 large handful of wild garlic leaves
  • 20g each hazelnuts and walnuts (or 40g of either)
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • 20ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice half a lemon

Toast the nuts in the oven or in a frying pan—not too dark.

Wash the garlic leaves thoroughly under cold water, dry them and, on a large chopping board, chop until fine but not to a paste. Add the nuts and chop them into the garlic until they are like very small breadcrumbs. Add the parmesan, olive oil, black pepper and mix well. Add the lemon juice just before serving.

Rigatoni with borlotti beans, potato and wild garlic pesto

Serves 4 people

  • 100g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 6 small, preferably new and waxy potatoes, cut into 1cm dice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • Sprig of fresh thyme
  • 4 tbs wild garlic pesto
  • 200g rigatoni

After soaking, put the beans in a saucepan in plenty of cold water with a few bay leaves, an onion halved, a stick of celery (if you have one lying about) and a small carrot and bring to a gentle simmer. With ‘last season’ beans, the cooking is going to take about 50 minutes; ordinary dried beans may take up to 2 hours. Make sure the water level doesn’t drop; as the beans absorb water they also release starch and if the water gets too thick with starch, the beans won’t cook as well.

Once the beans are cooked, let them cool a little in the liquor and then drain, discarding the vegetables (but reserving the liquor for soup). Transfer the still-warm beans to a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and ¼ tsp salt and toss well.

Finely slice the garlic and cook over a gentle heat until almost brown. Add the diced potato, toss together for a minute to coat and then add just enough water to cover plus a little salt and a sprig of thyme. Cook gently until tender, leaving no residual liquor. Add the borlotti beans, stir once and remove from the heat to somewhere warm.

Cook the pasta according to pack instructions. Drain well and add the wild garlic pesto, beans and potatoes to the pasta. Toss well and squeeze over half a lemon and serve immediately with some more grated parmesan.

About Barny Haughton

Barny HaughtonBarny Haughton is a chef, restaurateur, cookery school teacher and Eco Food pioneer. He has run three award-winning restaurants in Bristol over the last 25 years (Rocinantes, Quartier Vert and Bordeaux Quay).

Barny is best known for his work at Square Food Foundation, Bristol’s Cookery School & Community Kitchen, where he is Director and Head Teacher, teaching people from all walks of life to cook good food.