Wild Garlic festival lunch at the Parkers Arms, Newton-in-Bowland



Here 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.

On 13th 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.  

We started 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.

wild garlic puff pastry canapes

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 custard itself.  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.  

wild garlic custard tart
Come to think of it, this would also be a good way of using up woodier asparagus.

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.

wild garlic risotto with trout

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.

Lemon and wild garlic sorbet with sweet tempura of wild garlic buds

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!

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Last updated: 14 April 2011