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Head chef at The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds invites you to go wild

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Spring feels like it has been a long time coming this year, the world seems like it never stops for one second. March is a funny time to be a chef, the weather is warming up a little, the skies are blue and every one is craving a bit of greenery and fresh vegetables and would kill for an asparagus, but nothings really ready yet! But there are a few really special ingredients that will see us through.

Yorkshire forced rhubarb is one of them. I don’t know how they do it so well, if it’s the soil, the water or the farmer, but it’s incredible. Would you believe they grow it in tunnels underground? I believe by candlelight constantly watching and monitoring the temperature. I love to poach it with lots of vanilla, white wine, sugar and hibiscus and fold through some yoghurt and cream for the most luxury syllabub.

Another very special ingredient I try to gather every year is magnolia – seems a bit of a strange one I know, the only problem with it is that people are very protective over their lovely magnolia plants! Its tulip-like leaves have a subtle ginger punch to them, which would be amazing folded through a steamed sponge batter or pickled. But as I said, people don’t like you picking their magnolias so if there is anyone out there with a lovely big tree that could spare some I would be forever grateful.

Wild garlic and cavolo nero pesto (55473300)
Wild garlic and cavolo nero pesto (55473300)

There are lots of places to find wild herbs and do a bit of foraging, but in all honesty I’m not the best at it so I stick to picking the easy recognisable stuff. This time of year is great, three-cornered leeks are everywhere – they are a bit like wild garlic but with a slightly waxier, smaller leaf – there’s lots of blossom coming through which will be perfect to freshen up syrups and drizzle over cakes, wild garlic is young and tender and soon will cover huge blankets of land, impossible to miss if you have been shown once.

Chefs are a bit funny with where they go foraging, especially for wild garlic. I have two places, one where I walk the dog and one just for picking. Bradfield Wood is fantastic – lovely long walks for the dog, great scenery and usually loads of garlic. It generally grows on the side of the walking trail and it looks like a big thick leaf of grass, it’s soft to touch and when it flowers (end of May), it has a lovely delicate white trumpeting flour perfect for folding through a tempura batter. The best thing to do is screenshot a picture of it before you go and give it a good rub between your fingers when you think you have some. Please just be respectful if you do go to Bradfeild or anywhere else, just pick a little and try and just take one leaf from each plant without removing the root.

Have a lovely time picking garlic and, hopefully, making my pesto! It is perfect served over carved lamb or simply folded through some linguini.




100g wild garlic or three-cornered leek

100g cavolo nero

40g toasted pine nuts

30g capers

50g parmesan finely grated

50g good olive oil


Strip your cavolo nero back from the stocks and chop it coarsely.

Clean your wild garlic, looking out for little bugs.

Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and cook your greens.

Refresh by running under cold running water.

In a pestle and mortar or a food processor blend up all your dry ingredients and olive oil.

Finish with a good pinch of salt.

Greig Young is head chef at The Northgate, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Call 01284 339604

Visit www.thenorthgate.com