Wild garlic is just too good. I played around with this pesto recipe quite a bit before I was totally happy with it. I think it’s absolutely brilliant now, and I hope you like it too! It works beautifully with simple, fresh pasta, but I love it used as a dressing as well, as it is here.
I was craving something warming and a little more filling when I made this, something along the lines of a risotto, however I tend to prefer lentils to rice. The addition of blue cheese makes this recipe rich, indulgent, and utterly delicious; the punchy, citrusy pesto cuts through this richness such that the overall dish does not feel heavy. It’s a fantastic Spring supper!
The recipe below makes a generous supper for 2 people; the pesto recipe yields more than is needed for two, but any surplus will keep happily in the fridge for a week.
Caramelised Leeks & Lentils:
½ brown onion
2 handfuls of cooked puy lentils
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil
50g creamy blue cheese (Saint Agur works wonderfully)
Wild Garlic, Lemon & Walnut Pesto:
2 generous handfuls of wild garlic leaves
2 generous handfuls of baby spinach
1 small handful of walnuts
4 tablespoons of grated parmesan
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
8 tablespoons of mild olive oil
First, bring the lentils to the boil in salted water. Simmer for approximately 16 minutes, or until they are cooked about 80% of the way, (they will be cooked further with the leeks later). I sometimes like to cook lentils in a light vegetable stock as they take on a little flavour, so perhaps add a teaspoon of Bouillon to the boiling water.
Drain the lentils and allow the steam to billow off.
Finely dice the onion, and finely slice the leeks, washing them if necessary.
Heat a small slug of olive oil in a large frying pan and soften the diced onion for four minutes. Add the leeks and continue to sauté on a gentle heat for a further five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, make the pesto! You can use a pestle and mortar, a hand blender, a food processor… anything that whizzes the ingredients finely. Check that you are happy with the seasoning, and adjust accordingly.
Now, turn up the heat under the leeks. Keep them moving around the pan, and allow them to take on a lovely caramelised brown colour. This should take about three more minutes.
Next, add the cooked lentils and mix well with the leeks.
Add a small splash of white wine to the pan, it should sizzle immediately - we want it to evapourate almost entirely.
Now add half a cup of hot vegetable stock, and simmer for two minutes or so. This will loosen any lovely bits of caramelised leek and onion that are stuck to the pan, and ensure the final dish is flavoursome and juicy.
Turn off the heat, and stir through some little dots of creamy blue cheese. These will melt wonderfully, enriching the lentils, and imparting a creamy, risotto-like texture.
Serve on warmed bowls or plates, and drizzle and dot the wild garlic pesto over top. I reserved a few of the wild garlic flowers for garnishing, and added some finely sliced radishes for crunch, colour and pepperiness!