I love this time of year. The earth has woken up and everywhere is looking lush and green. There is a full on chlorophyll party going on and everyone's invited. Hedgerows are in leaf, allotments are sprouting, and the woods are carpeted with ground elder and wild garlic, both of which provide great foraging opportunities.
This year I have looked to the flavour pairing of garlic and molluscs to inspire a wild garlic dish. The french classics of Moules Marinieres and Snails with Garlic and Parsley Butter are two of my absolute favourites so I have decided to create a soup garnished with smoked mussels. The garnish is simple and uses John West tinned smoked mussels in sunflower oil together with the flower buds of the wild garlic plant which I pickle to cut through the creamy soup.
Ingredients and Recipe
200g wild garlic leaves, washed, blanched and refreshed in iced water
700ml vegetable stock
1 potato, diced into 1cm cubes
2 shallots, diced
75ml double cream
1 piece thinly sliced white bread, crusts removed
1 tin, smoked mussels in sunflower oil
8 pickled wild garlic buds (buds are pickled in equal weight of sugar and pickling vinegar)
20 wild garlic flowers
To make the soup, in a saucepan gently sweat the shallots in the butter for 2 minutes. Add the diced potato and cook for a further 30 seconds, then add the stock and simmer for 8-minutes or until the potato is soft.
Roughly chop the blanched wild garlic leaves and place in a blender. Strain a quarter of the stock from the saucepan through a sieve into the blender, then blitz until you have a smooth puree. Add the remaining stock with the potato and shallots and blend again until smooth. Stir through the cream, season to taste and reserve until needed.
For the mussels toasts, take a rolling pin and roll the piece of bread as thinly as you can get it. Cut out 4 rectangles, 10cmx2.5cm. Pour off some of the oil from the tin of mussels, then using a pastry brush, coat both sides of each piece of bread with some of the oil. Place in a 180°C oven for about 4 minutes then turn them over and continue cooking for another 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Take 8 mussels, roughly dice them and reserve them in a small bowl until needed.
To serve, reheat the soup and pour into bowls. Top each toast with a line of chopped mussel meat and garnish with pickled buds and flowers. Carefully place 3 more flowers in each bowl of soup and serve with the smoked mussel toast alongside.