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SWEDISH FOOD

Recipe: How to make Swedish wild garlic soup

This recipe for wild garlic soup from food writer John Duxbury is the perfect way to make use of an underrated Swedish spring crop.

Recipe: How to make Swedish wild garlic soup
Swedish wild garlic soup. Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

In the spring ramslök (wild garlic) can be found growing in forests in southern Sweden. Wild garlic soup has become rather fashionable lately, although it has never been quite as popular as nässelsoppa (nettle soup) in Sweden, probably because it is much easier to find nettles. However, wild garlic is much nicer to pick so if you have any wild garlic growing near you it is worth picking some to make this delicious soup.

Wild garlic normally only grows in woodland and looks rather like Lily of the Valley. Take care to ensue that when you rub the leaves they smell of garlic because Lily of the Valley is poisonous.

The leaves are at their best between late April and May, preferably before it comes into flower. The flowers are very attractive, but by the time wild garlic comes into flower the leaves are getting too big and they can be a little bitter.

Unlike with cultivated garlic, only the leaves are picked, as the bulbs are far too small to be of any use in cooking. The leaves can be picked by hand or you can cut them with a pair of scissors. Obviously, don’t pick too many in one area so the plants will come again next year.

Wild garlic pesto is probably more popular than soup, but I make both and use the pesto to make a cream and for a garnish.

Summary

Serves: 4-6
Level: Easy
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 25 minutes
TOTAL: 30 minutes

Tips

• Wild garlic is quite bulky so you will need about a third of a carried bag of wild garlic. Around 50 grams of wild garlic is sufficient for the pesto recipe below.

• There is normally no need to wash wild garlic, simply pick over the leaves to remove any moss, grass or other leaves, although you may want to give it a quick rinse if you picked it near a popular dog walking spot!

• The potato is added as a thickener. If the soup is still too thin, mix a tablespoon of flour with some water and then add it to the soup and bring to the boil before adding the soured cream.

• Serve the soup with a good rye bread or some nice crusty white bread.

Ingredients

15 g (1 tbsp) butter

1 medium onion, about 120 g

2 medium potatoes, about 200 g

2 celery sticks

1 litre (4 cups) good quality vegetable stock

200 g (8 cups) wild garlic leaves

170 ml (¾ cup) gräddfil or soured cream

   salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

   grated nutmeg to taste

   lemon juice to taste, optional

Garnish for 4 bowls

6-8 tbsp wild garlic cream, see below

2-3 tsp wild garlic pesto, see below

   finely chopped wild garlic leaves

   grated nutmeg, optional

Method

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions. Fry gently until softened, without colouring.

2. Add the potatoes, celery and stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

3. Add the wild garlic and continue to cook for a minute of two until it has all wilted.

4. Pour into a blender and blitz for about 5 minutes until fairly smooth.

5. Return to the saucepan and add the soured cream, salt and pepper, grated nutmeg (I used about a quarter of a nutmeg) and, if desired, lemon juice.

6. Heat without boiling, taste and adjust the seasoning again.

7. Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with a little wild garlic pesto, wild garlic cream, chopped wild garlic leaves and, if desired, some grated nutmeg.

You can either start by making the wild garlic pesto or you can make this whilst the potatoes are cooking, as in step 2 above. (You could substitute shallots or onion for the leek, pine nuts or almonds instead of walnuts, olive oil instead of rapeseed oil and any similar hard cheese to Parmesan. I simply fancied a change from ordinary pesto!)

50 g (2 cups) wild garlic leaves
25 g (2 tbsp) leek, roughly sliced
25 g (3 tbsp) walnuts
75 g (5 tbsp) rapeseed oil
25 g (4 tbsp) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp caster (superfine) sugar
1 tbsp extra rapeseed oil

Pick over the leaves and then place them in a food processor with the leek or shallot, walnuts or pine nuts and the rapeseed or olive oil. Blitz for a minute until finely mixed and then fold in the grated cheese, salt and sugar. Pour into a sterilised jar, pressing down well to remove any air bubbles. Pour over another tablespoon of oil to ensure the surface is covered with oil. Keep in the fridge until required.

When required, stir in the oil and use as necessary. Before returning the jar to a fridge, add some more oil to ensure that the surface is covered. The pesto is superb on bread, stirred into pasta or even added to a bread dough.

Wild garlic cream

For 4 people: mix 6 tablespoons of crème fraîche with 2 tablespoons of wild garlic pesto.

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, editor and founder of Swedish Food.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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