(vegan baking + other minor obsessions)
As far as foragers go, I am the humblest of beginners. So far, wild garlic is the only wild food I can recognise and pick (ok, and blueberries). But I do make the most of what little knowledge I have: all through the spring, wild garlic is my leafy green vegetable of choice.
Wild garlic is also known as ramsons, a member of the chive family. It grows in woodlands and can be picked from early to late spring. It usually forms a uniform ground cover and can be recognised by its broad-ish leaves, and later in the season by its white flowers (see photos). Rub a leaf between your fingers – if it smells garlicky, you’ve got the right plant. Leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. Once at home, pick out any leaves that don’t look good, give it a good thorough wash, and keep refrigerated in a plastic bag. It can be used in cooking just like you would any leafy green vegetable, like a much more flavourful alternative to spinach.
One of my favourite things to make with it is pie. In this version, I paired it with portobellos. This pastry crust is my latest favourite recipe – seeds, olive oil + wholegrain flour make a flavourful and healthy alternative to shop-bought pastry. Chilling the olive oil in advance results in a flakier, crumblier texture. And to bind everything together, a tofu ricotta filling. Perfect for a midweek family dinner or a great addition to a party spread, this pie can also be made in advance and served either hot or cold.
And a final note: even if wild garlic is not available, don’t let that stop you from trying this recipe! Substitute chard or spinach for equally delicious alternatives.
Wild Garlic + Mushroom Pie
250g/9oz wild garlic
olive oil, for sautéeing
1 onion, finely diced
6 portobello mushrooms, diced
Seed + Olive Oil Pastry Crust
100g/3½oz/¾ cup wholemeal flour (wholewheat flour)
100g/3½oz/¾ cup plain white flour (AP flour)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
60ml/2fl oz/¼ cup olive oil, chilled
75g/2½oz/heaped ½ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds, finely chopped
60ml/2fl oz/¼ cup water, chilled (more as needed)
400g/14oz tofu, patted dry
30ml/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
40ml/3 tbsp lemon juice
¾ tsp salt
1½ tsp light miso
1½ tbsp rosemary leaves, chopped
1½ tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1. First, make the pastry/crust. Put the flours, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the olive oil and seeds and pulse until just combined. Add the water and continue to pulse until combined. Press a little of the mixture between your fingers to see if it comes together as a dough; if it’s too dry, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, until it is the right consistency. Transfer the dough to a bowl and press it together to form a dough ball – work quickly and handle the dough minimally to avoid too much gluten developing, which would make the pastry tough and rubbery. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
2. To make the tofu ricotta, process all the ingredients together in the food processor and set aside.
3. Steam the wild garlic for 4 minutes, then drain it and leave to cool a bit. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess water and roughly chop. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over high heat and sautée the onion until it starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until slightly browned, reduced in size and the juices in the pan have evaporated. Transfer to the bowl with the wild garlic. Add the tofu ricotta to the bowl and stir to combine.
5. Heat the oven to 190°C/375°F (fan/convection ovens 170°C/325°F). Roll out the dough into a 13in circle and use it to line a 23cm/9in pie dish. Pour the filling into the pastry case and spread it into an even layer. I like to fold any dough overhang back over the filling, but you can trim it if you prefer a neater edge. Bake for 40 minutes. The pie is ready to serve straight away, but if you want to cut neat slices you should let it cool completely – it firms up as it cools.
Chef’s Tips This tofu ricotta recipe is a great staple and it has many uses in a vegan kitchen. To make it for any other use than quiches/pies, omit the cornflour. Try it on pizzas, as a lasagne filling or as a spread.