bear's garlic spring chicken burger

bear's garlic spring chicken burger

At our favourite market greengrocer this weekend I was rather excited to notice something new - at least, it was something I hadn't seen before. In the corner of a large box was small pile of dark green leaves, long and pointy. Of course, I immediately asked what they were.

"C'est l'ail des ours," was the reply. My brain immediately went into translation mode : "It's bear's garlic". With a name like that, how could I NOT take a handful? Especially since the greengrocer went on to tell me it's usually only available for a couple of weeks per year.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, so I looked up my favourite sources, Jekka's Complete Herb Book and the RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs, who told me that Allium Ursinum is known as both wild garlic and bear's garlic in English (how cool is that?). And that it's good for high blood pressure. Wikipedia tells me that it's also apparently a favourite of brown bears in the spring. Bear food! But this member of the onion family is also called ramsons, and amongst other things I could apparently turn it into a pesto.

So I did. I served dollops of it on top of grilled halloumi and lemon paprika chicken (a long-time favourite barbecue recipe of ours), with a little salad and sandwiched between toasted ciabatta.

And it was darn good.

So darn good that after the first taste, Sylvain started slathering the pesto all over his ciabatta. I took a bite, then followed suit. There was something quite unique about the taste - yes, it was exceptionally, exquisitely garlicky, stronger than a garlic chive, but it was also grassy and fresh, and a tiny little bit nutty. I imagine it would be absolutely delicious stir-fried with a little oyster sauce, or included in a korean pancake, or perhaps even in a frittata.

I didn't take any preparation pictures - you can't see the leafy goodness that is ramsons, or how I pounded out the chicken for the burger - because I didn't expect to be putting this recipe up today. I would typically test a recipe at least a few times before putting it up, but the season is SO short I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to do it again, so I want to get it up here before I forget. Perhaps next year I'll be patient enough to take "before" shots. Because you can bet I'll be keeping an eye out for ramsons to appear in the market again!

How did I live this long without knowing about this fascinating ingredient? And what else is there out there that I don't know about? Isn't life exciting?!

bear's garlic spring chicken burger

  • 1 large chicken fillet
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • juice of one lemon
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch ramsons (bear's garlic), roughly chopped
  • 1 handful toasted pine nuts
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • bread for burgers (we prefer ciabatta)
  • 6 small slices halloumi
  • salad leaves

Serves 2.

what to do
  • Heat the grill on medium.
  • Gently pound the chicken fillet a couple of times, cut into 4 small pieces then dust each piece all over with paprika and pepper. Drizzle with the lemon juice and a teaspoon of olive oil, cover and refrigerate.
  • Make the ramsons pesto by placing the ramsons, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a food processor and blending for 30 seconds. Add olive oil gradually until a thick paste forms (anywhere from a couple of tablespoons to a quarter of a cup, depending on your preference). Set aside.
  • When the grill is nice and hot, toast the burger bread according to your preferences, then place in a serving bowl.
  • Grill the chicken pieces for 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for another 1-2 minutes (depending on your grill, you can test they are cooked through by slicing into one of the pieces). Remove and place on a serving plate.
  • Grill the halloumi for 30 seconds, then turn and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove and place on a serving plate.
  • Put the salad in a serving bowl, put everything on the table and let people build their burgers!

This will make too much pesto for one meal (at least if you want to go out in public in the next 48 hours - it's pretty garlicky!) but as with any pesto, it can be mixed into pasta the next day!


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