Wild Garlic festival lunch at the Parkers Arms,
in Lancashire, we are at the height of the wild garlic season.
The leaves are out in profusion, but the flowers have, for
the most part, yet to come out, which always seems to mark the time at
which the leaves start to become a bit too powerfully flavoured.
April 2011, the Parkers Arms at Newton in Bowland held a mini wild
garlic festival. After a demonstration on dealing with wild garlic
(which we didn't attend, but it sounded well received),
chef Stosie Madie prepared a four-course lunch for us, featuring wild
garlic at all stages.
with some little puff pastry, almost croissant-like wild garlic and
Singleton's Lancashire cheese
canapés: these had just the right amount of leaves: you
could taste it, but it didn't dominate though I thought a bit longer in
the oven wouldn't have done the pastry any harm.
Next was a savoury custard
tart: the custard was quite delicately flavoured with wild garlic,
while the quenelle of wild garlic chantilly cream on top was heading
towards sock-blowing-off territory. The pastry was lovely and
short and buttery, but the custard had developed a bit of a skin that I
found a little off-putting, though I have no complaints about the
Also the tart was served cold (not fridge-cold thankfully,
but not warm). I think it would have been better warm, though
then they wouldn't have been able to serve the
chantilly, as that would have melted away. This was by the
far the richest of the four courses, and the one with the most pungent
wild garlic flavour, thanks mainly to the powerful chantilly.
If I saw this on
the menu served warm, maybe topped with a poached egg (hen's or
quail's) and some wild garlic hollandaise, I'd rush to order it.
Come to think of it, this would also be a good way of using up woodier
Our main course was a wild garlic risotto with bacon, smoked trout and
fresh trout. This was an absolute revelation. The
risotto itself was properly done, with the inherent sweetness of the
wild garlic coming through, balanced by the crispy bacon. The
combination of that with the two trouts was something I've never
thought of, but really is something that everybody should try at least
once. Unfortunately, the trout crackling shown in the
photograph was missing from our plates, though I tasted it separately
later. Jolly good crackling, but I don't think we missed it.
One of the drawbacks of menus which focus closely on a single
ingredient is that they usually fall down a bit at dessert stage,
though fortunately wild garlic has an inherent sweetness as well as
being somewhat herb-like. So it's not a huge leap to replace,
say the thyme in a thyme and lemon sorbet with wild garlic.
The sorbet was the one item on the menu where the wild garlic
was a little reticent, though the sweet tempura flower buds restored
the balance: I've made fritters of the open flowers before now, but not
the buds: it worked well. We both agreed that it was a very
good sorbet before clutching our heads as we were hit with
what I see from wikipedia is called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (or
more commonly, brain freeze) as the sorbet froze onto the roofs of our
mouths sending out pain signals to the brain! It was quite funny how it
hit us both at pretty much the same time! Nothing to do with
the restaurant of course. The combination of the sorbet and
the tempura flower buds worked well.
This was a very good meal, nicely balanced between the richer elements,
the milder and the more pungent elements with an overall feel of
lightness and freshness.
Fortunately coffee was not flavoured with wild garlic!