Wild garlic is one of the more romantic foraged foods, with its pretty white flowers, lush leaves and predilection for lurking in shady woodland areas. Finding a crop on walks is always rather magical, and who doesn’t like free food? Whether you’re eating the leaves or the flowers, they need to be tempered by calmer ingredients. Macaroni cheese is a perfect vehicle, producing a meltingly green and cheesy pasta dish with a big waft of garlic. Bliss.
Wild garlic macaroni cheese
This is a great way to use up odds and ends of different cheeses – the more variety, the better the flavour.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
50g butter, plus 20g extra for the crumbs
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
50g plain flour
900ml whole milk
80g wild garlic leaves, washed and finely shredded
100g gouda (or experiment with a mix of a good melting cheese and a blue)
150g Lincolnshire Poacher, or extra-mature cheddar
Salt and black pepper
For the breadcrumbs
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
120g dried breadcrumbs
120g mix cheddar, blue cheese, parmesan or anything else you fancy, grated
5-6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1-2 tsp smoked paprika
Bring a big pan of salted water to a boil, then cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, then run under cold water for a minute to cool and refresh.
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat, add the onion and saute gently for eight to 10 minutes.
Add the flour, turn down the heat to medium and cook for three to four minutes, until a pale toasty colour. Slowly pour in the milk bit by bit, stirring vigorously between each addition to ensure it has been incorporated, until you have a smooth sauce. Add the wild garlic and cheese, stir until the cheese has melted, then taste and season.
Meanwhile, fry the breadcrumbs. Put a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil and 20g butter. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then add the crumbs and season. Fry, stirring, for seven to eight minutes, until the crumbs are browned and turning crisp, then take off the heat and stir in the cheese, thyme and paprika.
Stir three-quarters of the cheese sauce into the macaroni, and pour into a large baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce, scatter the breadcrumbs all over and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Eat at once with a crisp salad.
The simple flex …
Crisp pancetta or melted anchovies make an indulgent but delicious addition to the sauce. If wild garlic is hard to find, use bulb garlic instead and add some wilted spinach or kale for colour.