by Susan Clark
Article image credit: Watercolour illustrations by Lizzie Harper www.lizzieharper.co.uk
If there’s one plant you don’t need to be a botanist to safely identify it’s wild garlic: Just follow your nose ... and head straight back to your kitchen, says Susan Clark.
Scone - as in sc-OWN? Or scone as in sc-ON? Being a Devon Maid I have always used the former but ... I was Devon-raised by Yorkshire folk and so cannot really be trusted to be using the correct regional pronunciation or even recipe!
Last night, I dreamt about that Yorkshire man who raised me; a tall, dark and striking bearded fellow who would find himself booked solidly each New Year’s Eve to go First Footing with a lump of (lucky) coal up and down the length of the village. I think this was because he was a trans-located Northerner and thus, in these Devon parts, and way back then, still very much a novelty neighbour.
“I find you quite difficult,” he said (in my dream).
I woke and wondered if that might be because instead of doing the obvious thing with the current astonishing abundance of wild garlic around my home – which is to make a wild garlic pesto, like everyone else – I have been awaiting true inspiration to make something I actually would really really like to eat.
Imagine my joy (and relief) then when earlier in this same week, I had stumbled across a recipe on twitter for cheese and wild garlic scones which sounded delicious but which, no sooner had I clicked on the link to read the recipe in full, than I promptly lost it forever when my ever-tenuous Blackberry web connection crashed.
Never mind. I am not a Devon Maid for nowt (as we say in these parts) and as such I was probably making scones long before anyone tried to teach me domestic ‘science’ as it was once known and taught in our schools.
So I have dug out my trusted Devon ‘proper job’ recipe for West Country Scones (sc-owns) and to include this new wild garlic twist, I simply finely ribbon-chopped the tenderest of wild garlic younger leaves and mixed them with grated cheese before adding the milk to make the scone dough.
When the smell from your oven is good enough to fetch your neighbour to the front door on the pretext of asking if you are attending the anti-slurry meeting at the weekend – but actually because the smell is too good to resist – you know you are on to a winner.
For me, cooking with foraged foods is a fairly even split between complete triumph and total disaster. I am happy to report the Cheese & Wild Garlic scones fall into the triumphant category.
Needless to say, I am not serving these delicious scones with Devon-made clotted cream. Or jam. I am serving them warmed up and with a smattering of marmite under a layer of melted cheese for those in need of comfort and with a quinelle of my mother-in-law’s allotment beetroot chutney.
I’ve been thinking about my dad ever since that unsettling dream and so, just to reassure him (and my husband) that I am not always awkward just for the sake of it, I am now about to knock up a batch of wild garlic pesto and serve it with spaghetti for our supper.
Into the Kitchen
West Country Cheese Scones with a Wild Garlic Twist
Makes around 12-20 scones, depending on how thick you cut the dough
• 225g self raising flour
• 50g butter; soft enough to crumble into the flour
• 200g cheddar cheese (or you can do a mix of cheddar and parmesan)
• A dozen freshly-foraged wild garlic leaves, finely chopped (discard the stalks before you chop)
• pinch of salt
• two pinches of black pepper
• 150ml of milk
• 1 tbsp plain yoghurt (this is the secret Devon ingredient)
• extra milk to brush the tops of the scones for a golden glaze
Pre-heat your oven to a hot 220C/425F/Gas mark 7
Sift your flour into the mixing bowl. It’s worth taking the time to do this because it aerates the flour and will make for a lighter scone. Rub in the butter, add the salt and pepper and tip in the grated cheese and chopped wild garlic leaves.
Use a metal spoon or pallet knife to stir in the milk and yoghurt to make a sticky mix. Flour your hands and a work surface and lightly knead the mix to make a smooth-to-the-touch dough.
Roll to the thickness you prefer your usual scones and use a fluted cutter to cut the rounds for baking.
Brush the top of each scone with the extra milk to make a glaze. Pop into the oven on a lightly greased tray for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Cool on a wire rack and eat quickly which won’t be a problem because they are delicious!
Wild garlic is an excellent general health tonic and particularly good at helping aid digestion. Offering many of the same medicinal benefits as its cultivated cousin (garlic) including helping to lower both high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure – the wild variety is less potent dose-for-dose. That said, the fact you can harvest it from the hedgerow brings a feeling of satisfaction and wellbeing peculiar to foraging, and you can’t put a price on that.