The dumb magnolias had bloomed too soon again, as if they didn’t know the spring rains would come and destroy their delicate flowers. The earth was still cold and most days were grim, but we had plenty of reasons to want to go outside and have a picnic: because it was the only thing that we were allowed to do; because our friend Max Halley’s take on picnics — think Mary Berry and Hunter S Thompson drinking on a park bench — makes the idea seem so joyous that we never wanted to eat indoors again. And because there’s a patch on Clapham Common by the pond where wild garlic grows every year, and you can pick as much as you want.
This may not have been the Périgord truffle hunt but it was as close as we could get to an adventure. We packed a pair of scissors and our thickest blanket and headed out. We stopped at a fancy new grocer on the way and saw garlic leaves for sale. Feeling smug for getting something for free, we splurged on a slightly better bottle of rosé, some good ricotta and a sourdough flute.
You don’t need a trained pig or a sharp-nosed spaniel to find garlic leaves. They will announce their presence even to blunt, snivelly noses like ours after a walk on the cold common. It was too chilly for a picnic outside, despite the beautiful, dumb magnolias, so we harvested our garlic and headed back to the living-room carpet, where we sat and ate green garlic bread with a chilled glass of pink and the heating on full.
Garlic bread is one of those rare things that, even when it’s done badly, is still incredibly delicious. Make it with great ingredients and a bit of care and the result can be sublime — the sweet, pungent oil permeating the bread, the heat crisping up the edges and tempering the sharpness of the garlic. Extra crunch comes from walnuts, added richness from Parmesan, while dollops of ricotta bring cool, calm clouds to this storm of flavours.
To top one baguette. Serves 4-6
For the garlic-leaf pesto
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