Now, when I went to the Borough Market just before Easter, I couldn't believe my luck. Not only was the whole place deserted (usual opening days are Friday and Saturday, but due to the Good Friday closure, they were open on Thursday - which, seemingly, only I was aware of) which meant that it was completely painless to push Max's pram around (ever tried to negotiate a pushchair, incl. shopping bags hung onto it on either side, through a busy market?) and the shopkeepers really had time to chat and talk about their produce. At Neal's Yard Dairy, we tried about 15 different English cheeses (which the little one adored) and at a newly discovered veggie stall, I found something I hadn't eaten in ages!
Wild garlic (aka garlic leaf and Baerlauch in German) is a herb seldom found - in fact, I remember my parents picking it on walks through the woods, I've never seen it displayed in a shop. It is only available in spring and is often mistaken for meadow saffron, which causes at least 5 deaths a year in Austria alone.
Most of the time, since the yield of a Sunday afternoon stroll is not that great, so my Mum would just slice it thinly and serve it on bread and butter... fresh crusty rye bread, butter, salt and a load of that herb that tastes a bit like chives, only much punchier. Divine.
I could have gone for the easy option and done just that. Instead, I wanted to make some gnocci I had seen in Alastair Hendy's "Cooking for friends". He uses spinach, though, but that shouldn't be the reason for the recipe just being completely impossible. 400 g ricotta and only 1 tbsp of flour and 2 tbsp of semolina? I knew right from the start that that wouldn't work. So I added. Plenty. Until I could actually form a roll as requested without the ricotta going off in all directions. So far so good. Unfortunately, the gnocci were still quite firm inside after cooking them, so I wasn't really that impressed. The taste was great, I really enjoyed the garlic leaves. But in terms of the dough, I'll go for the good old-fashioned potato version next time... that works perfectly every time!
Wild garlic gnocci*
(serves 2 as a starter or light lunch)
40 g garlic leaves
200g ricotta (excess whey removed)
2 egg yolks (small eggs)
20g freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp plain flour
18 tbsp semolina
salt, freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the garlic leaves in boiling water for about 2 minutes, drain, squeeze out any excess water and chop finely.
Combine the ricotta, eggs, flour and parmesan in a bowl. Add semolina until you achieve a smooth, manageable dough. Season. Form 2 cm rolls and cut into 2-3 cm pieces. Drop into boiling salt water and until the gnocci emerge on the surface. Drain and coat with butter, sprinkle with the parmesan before serving.
* based on Alastair Hendy, Cooking for friends", p. 50