Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones. A warming and hearty dish to see you through February.
January Diary from Anna
Its been a strange winter down here in Cornwall this year, in that I feel like it never really hit. We have had warm afternoons, gentle breezes and sunshine more often than not. It hasn’t even rained that much! There is an old wives’ tale which says that if you don’t get winter in January you’ll get it in March, and I’m certainly hoping that isn’t the case as I see all the little buds forming everywhere I go; a series of hard frosts late into a mild spring can ruin a whole years’ growing. On the bright side however what all this mild weather means is that we are already seeing the emergence of a few wild gems that normally don’t show their faces for another month or two, and that is cause for celebration in my book!
January can feel like a bit of a drought month, the landscape dormant and quiet, saving up its energy for the year’s new shoots, berries, nuts and mushrooms all to come. I am often very cautious during times of scarcity, when food is scant on the trees and in the hedgerows its worth sparing a thought for the birds and little creatures which are relying on these gleanings for their survival. Never take more than you need!
This weekend was another unseasonably warm one, so I got up early, brushed off my walking boots and set off into the woods, on the hunt for some wild treats spurred into early action by the temperate weather.
One of the most abundant times in any forager’s calendar is undoubtedly wild garlic season, there is so much to do with the punchy verdant shoots, the peppery flowers which look beautiful scattered over salads and omelettes, and the soft buds and later seed heads which are wonderful pickled, full of flavour and texture that you can keep enjoying throughout the year.
I have a few secret places earmarked for their abundance during certain times of the year, and as spring begins to ramp up the woodland near the King Harry Ferry comes alive. The Roseland Peninsula is a rich foraging ground, and as usual I was not disappointed! One of the things that makes wild garlic so approachable in the world of British wild foods is that not only is it relatively easy to identify but you can smell it before you see it, meaning that honing in on a good hunting ground is a breeze! Low lying woodland, shady spots and river banks are all excellent places to head for in pursuit of these versatile leaves. For any first time foragers my advice is to take your time and inspect each leaf carefully until you are confident that you recognise the look and feel of them.
Wild garlic flourishes alongside both bluebells and lily of valley, neither of which you would want to accidentally slip into your pesto. I had a friend hospitalised last year from eating bluebell leaves by mistake, and with their shiny, flat leaves and identical dark green hue it is not hard to see how the mistake can be made when the air is heady with garlic aromas. If in doubt, move on to a more distinctive clump! Wild garlic leaves are much broader, and a little larger than bluebells, and lily of the valley have leaves which split from the stem, as opposed to single ones sprouting straight from the soil.
I was in luck this weekend and found huge swathes of garlic cushioning the riverbank. When foraging leaves, soft berries and flowers I always prefer to take a box, or flat basket depending on how frolicsome I’m feeling, so as not to crush or damage the haul in transit.
Wild garlic is tenderstemmed and comes away easily when pinched at the base, and I easily filled my tub, moving from clump to clump taking a few young leaves from each. If you pull too enthusiastically the whole bulb is inclined to come away in your hand, which is a shame for the plant but still totally edible and tasty sautéed up with the greens.
Once I got my leafy loot home I was faced with a conundrum. Classic wild garlic pesto? Cornish spanakopita? Wild garlic flaky sea salt? Since it was the first batch of the season I thought I would celebrate the return of wild garlic with my absolute favourite; cheesy wild garlic scones with crab apple jelly and soft cheese. A true tribute to Cornwall!
Wild Garlic and Cheese Scones with Crab Apple Jelly
350g self-raising flour, plus more for dusting
100g grated Davidstow Cornish cheddar
1 tsp baking powder
85g butter, cut into cubes
A decent seasoning of salt and pepper,
beaten egg, to glaze
Wild Cornwall Crab Apple Jelly, pickled wild garlic seed pods or flowers and cream cheese, to serve
- Heat the oven and baking tray to 220C.
- Tip the self-raising flour into a large bowl with ¼ tsp salt and the baking powder, then mix.
- Mix self raising flour, Davidstow (reserve about 8 teaspoons), salt and baking powder together and rub in the butter to make crumbs.
- Warm the milk and then gradually add to the crumbs, stirring to combine with a metal knife.
- Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface, then roll into golf ball sized balls or pat out the dough flat(ish) and cut with a pastry cutter for a snazzier finish.
- Brush the tops with a beaten egg and a teaspoon of grated cheddar and pop onto the hot tray.
- Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden on the top.
- Allow to cool on a rack. Halve the golden scones and thickly spread each side with Wild Cornwall Crab Apple Jelly (JAM FIRST!!) and a hearty blob of cream cheese. Top with pickled wild garlic flowers or seed heads.
If you try making your own garlic and cheese scones, tag us on Instagram or send us a picture!