German Spaetzle with Wild Garlic Almond Pesto and Green Asparagus

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By the time spring arrived the air thickened with the pungent aroma hanging over the park and the woods. Following the path on my bicycle my nostrils were overwhelmed with the smell of garlic that seemed to follow me. I had not been living long in Germany and spring in this magnitude was often still overwhelming to my senses. For someone who had spent most of her life in the Persian Gulf in the bi-seasonal climates of hot and hotter, the feeling of four seasons was intoxicating.

Getting off the bike, my friends lead me into the shady woodland. Equipped with a bag and knife, there was a first-time adventure in store for me. The unmistakable fragrance of garlic filled the air but what lay in front of me were large patches of bright green leaves dotted with tiny white flowers. My friends skillfully reached into a bunch of the leaves, cut them just above the roots and stuffed them in to their bags. I watched! I learned! And I joined in.

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Foraging is the practice of gathering wild food. I remember doing it as a child while visiting my grandparents in Delhi – although at that time I hardly realized what I was doing, I was more interested in stuffing as many of those sweet mulberries I could into my mouth, staining my fingers with the dark juices. I did not know back then but those were the first experiences that ignited the spark of my passion for food growing in the wild.

Moving to Germany highlighted this feeling even more. Europeans will put every other nation to shame when it comes to foraging. Every season offers jewels and treasures that can be found in the woods, forests or on the free fields and trees – “one just needs to keep the eyes open and look around us” was the advice I got from friends fairly early on. From wild strawberries, blackberries, wild grapes, chanterelle mushrooms in Summer and Fall and in Spring one can find wild asparagus, morels, dandelions, elderflower and of course wild garlic.

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Like that kid all those years back I still get excited when I see a bush bursting with blackberries or a patch in the woods covered with those bright green wild garlic leaves. It really is a fun and interesting way to cook meals by learning how and where ingredients grow, and to participate in the process of gathering them from wilderness to the table. Last year I had the opportunity to widen my horizons and discovered a whole new world of wild herbs, leaves and flowers on my foraging tour at Paulinzella.

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Wild garlic should be at the top of your foraging to-do list. It is easy to identify and absolutely delicious – not to mention the incredible smell. You will certainly catch its scent on the wind before you actually find it. The season for garlic is very short, lasting from April and ending by June. If in doubt – rub the leaves to release the familiar scent of garlic. Unlike domestic garlic the bulbs are not eaten but rather the fresh leaves are prized. The characteristic white flowers however, are perfectly edible although the plant is at its best before too many flowers appear, signalling tougher leaves and a bitterer flavor. It is slightly more subtle than standard garlic and adds a wonderfully tangy flavor to dishes. Be sure not to pull out the entire bulb but snip off the leaves. Leaving the bulb intact allows the plant to regenerate and flourish to offer new leaves the following year.

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I love using the fresh leaves in salads, with pasta, fried and put on top of a tart, but my first and last batches of wild garlic are always dedicated to making a pesto. It’s a store cupboard essential that makes the wild garlic last just a little longer. In this version I have used a mix of almonds and pine nuts. Pecorino cheese give this a gorgeous sharper taste that holds its flavor against the wild garlic. Here I served it over fresh green asparagus and homemade German spätzle.

Recipe: German Spaetzle with Wild Garlic Pesto and Green Asparagus

By
Prep Time:
Total Time:
Serves: 4

 

Ingredients

  • 400g flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 40g butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 120g Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 350ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g almonds
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 200g wild garlic leaves, stems cut off, washed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, toasted
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 150g green asparagus, washed and cut into pieces
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Extra pecorino and pine nuts for the topping

Method

  1. To make the spätzle mix together flour, eggs and 100g water in a large mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and using your hands or a wooden spoon work the mixture until the dough resembles a pasty, sticky cake batter. Continue to work the dough and once air bubbles begin to form set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.
  2. Set a pot with cold water aside. Bring a large pot of salt water to a rolling boil. Press the dough through a spätzle press in portions into the water. Once the noodles begin to float to the top – approx. 2 minutes – remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into pot with cold water. Drain the noodles well. Follow this procedure until all the dough has been used up.
  3. For the pesto place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add a little more oil if you prefer a looser consistency.
  4. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Transfer to clean jars and top with an extra drizzle of oil to create a seal. The jars will keep in the fridge for at least one week.
  5. Sauté the asparagus in some olive oil until slightly tender.
  6. In a heavy skillet rubbed with a dab of oil, gently brown the spätzle. Remove from heat, add a few tablespoons of the pesto, the asparagus mix then grate some Pecorino and sprinkle some toasted pine nuts over the top.

Verdict

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This is an awesome light spring meal – full of mighty flavor of the fields and woods. The technique of making spätzle might take a few turns to get right but it really is well worth it. You can substitute the spätzle with any other egg pasta. Add a few chopped cherry tomatoes or some pan friend chicken breast – it is a recipe that can be made and enjoyed in many different variations. The wild garlic pesto works every time.

More spring recipe ideas from What’s for lunch, Honey?:

Dandelion Gazpacho-WM-0160 Asparagus Strawberry Salad with Vanilla Kissed Salmon steaks (0193) Zucchini Noodles Shrimp and Slow Roasted Tomato Sauce (0145) by Meeta K. Wolff
Dandelion Avocado Gazpacho with Deep-water Prawns White Asparagus and Strawberry Salad with Vanilla Kissed Salmon Steaks Zucchini Noodles with Garlic Shrimps, and Olive Caper Slow Roasted Tomato Sauce and Feta Cheese


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2016 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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33 comments:

  1. I love foraging for food and I'm a big fan of Spaetzle, willd garlic and asparagus. Your dish looks mouthwatering. Great shots!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Thanks Rosa. Foraging is so much fun. If you like all three of the ingredients you will love this!

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  2. Hey Meeta,

    You back gorgeous. So am I :-) beaming with some familial love and you with your retreat. Is this a new style Meeta...I see vintage look on the first photograph. Wild garlic has like taken england over like wild fire. Every tom dick and harry has been talking about it. I made a humble pesto with it last week and tossed it with my lamb shanks. Happy Cooking!!

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    1. LOL P. It was an unwanted break due to lots of other projects and work happening on this side. I love wild garlic just like every tom dick and harry.
      I keep trying things with my photos and working new ideas. Glad your keen eye picked it up!

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  3. I am totally smitten by the first picture of this post.. Every little detail is handled so gently...
    Oh yes Foraging for food has taken me back in time to my Grandparents house in Bangalore..

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    1. Glad you liked it. Always love it when my stories and posts take people back to a special memory!

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  4. What an amazing visual treat is this. I want to get hold of the wild garlic now. Any clue where to find them in Dubai?

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    1. Oh Fareeha - that might be a little difficult to find it in Dubai. The season is short here in Europe so I think it might not make it all the way to the UAE. You might want to head out to Lafayette Gourmet and see if you can find it there or at least ask the folks if they can recommend anything.

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  5. Your photos are gorgeous! We used to forage for wild strawberries as kids, and in the past couple years, we've discovered the mulberry trees, elderberry, and asparagus near our house and figured out what time of year to search it out! And as my kids say, "Pesto is the besto!"

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    1. I love the sound of your foraging schedule! And I totally agree with your lids! ;)

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  6. I wish I could forage where I live, but it's a concrete jungle here -- and if I went to the everglades, it would just be alligators and pythons. We do have fruit and citrus trees though - so it's not all bad. Your photos are beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Lisa. Florida has other major benefits. But you know you could try growing them yourself.

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  7. what gorgeous photos...that recipe is a keeper. Love the addition of pine nuts on top of the spaetzle too. Delicious.

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    1. Thanks Alison! Glad you like the recipe ;)

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  8. Even though it's not technically foraging, our farmers' market has wild garlic in the spring and I look forward to it ever year. This spaetzle looks so comforting and delicious! Love the asparagus! YUM!

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    1. That is just fine! I too sometimes get my wild garlic from the farmer's market when time does not allow me to get out in the woods.

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  9. Your photos are just stunning and you write so beautifully. I felt like I was with you on that bike ride foraging away! Like Lisa Lotts I too live in a concrete jungle though green fields aren't too far away. Perhaps I'll have to invest in a bike. Fab recipe!

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Especially about the writing ;) Yes a bike is good but maybe growing your own might also work!

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  10. I want to go on a foraging adventure with you, Meeta. Your story had me yearning for that adventure. I wish we had such forests here in Florida. It's a marshy land.

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    1. I would love to take you with me Kiran. Maybe one day!

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  11. I went wandering all over my forest here in Dordogne so desperately hoping to find wild garlic or ramps but alas, found none. It is not easy to find at markets as it is not a cultivated vegetable. I need to go for more walks in local forests soon.

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    1. Ahh! What a shame Nadia! I hope you score in the forests though. I need to write to you soon!

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  12. This makes me want to go on a foraging adventure. Alas, as a city-dweller, I'm mostly limited to the occasional foraged-goods that make it to the farmers markets. But this spaetzle sounds amazing, and your photographs are gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks Mary. Farmer's markets are a good place to find items that are not easy to access when living in the city.

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  13. I have only ever foraged mushrooms and berries, but it's always been a dream of mine to really go foraging in earnest. And as for spaetzle - i fell in love with it when I tasted it in Berlin last spring, and I've been dying to replicate it since! Do you think this would work with GF flour? Beautiful photography and writing - I will be following your future posts.

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    1. I have never made it with GF flour. I just checked a few German websites and it seems they make it with a mix of GF flour and cornflour. So give it a try.

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  14. Such a beautiful spätzle! I just love that color. I haven't tried wild garlic yet. Sounds wonderful. Love the sharing of your foraging experience.

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    1. If you ever do get a chance to try it you should. It's wonderfully aromatic yet robust in flavor. Thanks for the comment!

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  15. I love the idea of using foraged ingredients. Unfortunately here in Southern California foraging opportunities are scarce--unless you count picking oranges from neighboring orchards. ;) This looks delish! I love pesto dishes, and pecorino is one of my absolute favorite cheeses to cook with.

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    1. Picking oranges is just as much fun. We used to do that all the time when we were visiting family in Florida or Cali too. And yes to pecorino!!

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  16. not a huge amount of edible foragable stuff around me - had to resort to buying some wild garlic; but it was bloody good...

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    1. Maybe you can forage around Jeanne and Nick's veggie patches ;) Wild garlic is awesome.

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  17. Spaetzle is probably one of my favorite things, ever.
    I am German, but also worked in a German kitchen here in San Francisco. I love this recipe!
    Cannot wait to try it!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta