Wild garlic abounds at this time of year … everywhere except in my neighbourhood. I am planting some for next year but in the meantime I have to forage far afield to find it. There are alternatives though if it’s equally elusive where you live.
You can replace it with three-cornered leek, which often grows wild where garlic doesn’t, or steal a few leaves from any domestic garlic bulbs you may have growing in the garden. I haven’t tried it with the green part of spring onions but it’s worth experimenting.
You don’t have to pan-fry the gnocchi (in which case try brown butter, a few fried sage leaves and grated parmesan) but it’s a lovely way to eat them, either as a side dish, or on their own with a good tomato sauce.
We ate them with seared venison fillet and purple sprouting broccoli, steamed and tossed with a mixture of butter, lemon juice and zest and anchovy.
Any leftover gnocchi can be frozen, uncooked, in a single layer. Transfer to a sealable bag and when you want to eat them, cook from frozen, straight into boiling water.
A note on foraging: it’s not illegal to pick flowers, fruit, fungi and foliage in the UK provided it’s for personal rather than commercial use. There are exceptions to this: local by-laws may forbid foraging and for obvious reasons you can’t do it at Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
It is illegal to uproot a plant and it’s sensible to pick a leaf or two from lots of plants rather than to denude one. And bear in mind that while foraging isn’t classed as theft, you may still be committing the civil offence of trespass. If in doubt, ask the landowner.
Pan-fried Wild Garlic Gnocchi
700g floury potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
120g wild garlic leaves, thoroughly rinsed, or 80g domestic garlic leaves
2 egg yolks
150g plain flour
Rice flour, for dusting
Olive oil and butter, for frying
Bake the potatoes until soft. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, scoop out the middles and push through a ricer into a bowl. Allow to cool.
Blanch the garlic leaves in boiling water for a minute, drain very thoroughly and chop finely. Add to the potato along with the eggs yolks and stir with a fork to mix.
Season well and add three-quarters of the flour, stirring with the fork again. Form into a dough and add more flour as necessary until you have a soft, pliable but not overly sticky dough. You may not need all the flour. Try not to over-work it or your gnocchi will be tough.
Dust your work surface lightly with rice flour. Divide the dough into four and roll into sausages, about 2cm in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut into 2.5cm sections.
You can either use these as they are, as little cushions, or roll them over the back of a floured fork to make indentations. These ridges are supposed to help sauce adhere but honestly, I don’t think it makes much difference and unless you are deft and experienced, there’s a danger of over-working the dough.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and drop in the gnocchi in batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan. They’re about done when they bob to the surface, around three minutes. Give them another 20 seconds then taste one: it should be cooked through and not floury. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil with a good knob of butter in a heavy-based pan and fry the gnocchi on each side until golden brown. Eat straight away.