I like flowers, particularly ones you can eat. These are wild garlic leaves (along with their flowers) that I found festering in the heat and growing through the railings of a building I have often wondered about, mainly because it’s called Corsica Hall and that sounds quite grand and Corsican though I gather it’s neither. You can smell it, the wild garlic, as you approach; that oniony heat, suppurating and cleansing and sweeping everything out like a broom. In fact it looks when washed rather like a collection of spring onions, and the general taste is milder than a clove of garlic. It can get a bit lost. What to put it with? Meat. Yes, go on. A bit of animal.
I have been discussing such things with my new friend the café owner in town. Every time I go in to have a cup of tea (last one free with my loyalty card) we talk quickly and furtively about food. Scandi, she said, that’s the new thing and I said yes, because I saw a TV programme with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in which he shoved onion flowers into the crevices of a huge leg of lamb just before barbecuing it and this was in Denmark. Then she has to go away and serve people but I know in her body language that she will come back and add something. So then she tells me about infusing flowers into custard, and this is absolutely the perfect time; gorse, rosemary, broad bean, dill, fennel flowers. Our conversations are quite tense because time is of the essence and everything must be boiled down to the bare essentials. I found garlic flowers. Really? Yes, I’ll bring you some. Okay, brilliant etc. And then today, I dropped off a small stash tied together with cotton. She wasn’t there which was just as well. A waitress put them in the fridge. I was like her dealer.
I think I may have found my perfect café. There’s a man who is there every time I go, and generally he drinks coffee, but the other day he was nursing a glass of white wine at eleven o’clock in the morning, and reading the paper with exquisite slowness. And they have a mushroom man, and they line-catch their cod from the seafront. And they made their own tables. I would like their life.
Meat reminds me of Clarissa Dickson Wright who died at the weekend. She didn’t just cook a lot of meat, she believed in it, loved animal fats, found vegetarianism deeply unsettling, and was generally a force of nature of the old-fashioned kind. Her appearance on Desert Island Discs is probably my all-time favourite interview ever, particularly in the face of the withering Sue Lawley, who is clearly trying to chasten her into admitting that the food she championed was unhealthy. “I’d rather eat a cream cake than take Prozac”, she shot back, mischievous and right. Mischievous and right, scholarly, fun, unruly, brave. Sorely missed.
Grilled lamb chump chops with wild garlic
With help from Nigel Slater
50g garlic leaves with bulbs and flowers if possible
Juice of half a lemon
a little olive oil
2 lamb chump chops
Lay the chops in a bowl and add the oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper, and give it all a swish so the meat is lapping it up. Chop up the garlic leaves roughly and add to the bowl. Press a few of the wild garlic bulbs & flowers into any cuts or crevices you can find in the meat. Allow this to sit at room temperature for a couple of hours if you can, moving the pieces of lamb around now and then and giving them a little knead. Alternatively, you can refrigerate overnight covered in foil.
Heat the grill to very hot (a charcoal grill is ideal but timings will vary according to how much heat you’ve harnessed. For this recipe, the assumption is you have a grill where the heat comes from above). Grill the lamb till firm and slightly charred at the edges, with as many of the leaves as possible tucked underneath. The lamb should be pink in the middle – about four minutes on each side. Serve with a few scattered flowers and left-over leaves. Lovely with new potatoes.