Ramsons Pesto and Chicken Kiev

CHEF TONY SAYS: A short distance from my home town of Bury is the beautiful town of Ramsbottom where a plant called ‘ramsons’ grows in abundance. Some people believe this is where the name Ramsbottom comes from (ramsons is the old English word for wild garlic, a herb that grows here – a popular theory is that Ramsbottom means ‘valley of the wild garlic’). Ramsons grows in woodland areas with moist soils. Nuttall Park on the outskirts of Ramsbottom is the perfect place to forage for this delicious plant or, like me, you could grow your own in pots (as it takes over the area) from seed.

If you do decide to try to forage rather than growing your own, please make sure you follow the advice that can be found online as other look-a-like plants are poisonous – and make sure you wash the leaves well.

As it is the season (a very short season I might add, but not as short as the asparagus season) I thought over the next two weeks I’d share a few ramsons recipes with you.

This week: Ramsons Pesto and Chicken Kiev

Ramsons Pesto


1 large bunch of wild garlic, washed

1 small bunch of curly parsley or basil, washed

70 g pine nuts, toasted

70 g parmesan cheese

150 mls olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice

salt and pepper

Place all ingredients apart from the oil in a food processor and blitz for a minute or two. While machine is running slowly add the oil til blended.

You’re done! Use pesto with gnocchi, fish dishes or for the chicken dish below.

Wild Garlic Chicken Kiev with lemon roasted asparagus and crushed new potatoes

OK, there are two ways to try this unbelievably tasty chicken dish. First, make a pesto recipe like above and use that – or make a wild garlic butter by softening salted butter (not melting) in a food processor, blitz the ramsons with a little salt and pepper, add the butter and blitz till it’s mixed well. This butter can be rolled in cling film or foil and frozen till you need it.


For the Chicken Kiev:

2 chicken breasts with the fillet on but skin removed. You could buy a chicken supreme and remove skin and bone yourself.
Wild garlic butter or pesto
Plain flour
2 eggs
100ml of milk
Bread crumbs either homemade or bought
Salt and pepper

For the crushed new potato:

3 large handfuls of new potatoes
Salt and pepper

For the lemon roasted asparagus:

Large bunch of asparagus
Salt and pepper
Half a lemon


Start by preparing the chicken: lay the breast down with fillet facing up, remove any sinew and fat from the chicken being careful not to remove the fillet. Open the fillet away from the breast and remove the exposed sinew underneath.

Using a sharp pointed knife, make an incision into the large part of the chicken breast using the folded-out fillet as a height guide. Be careful not to pierce the outer flesh of the chicken.

Put as much garlic butter or pesto into the pocket you have made. I find using a piping bag fills the chicken best. Fold over the fillet, putting it back into place on top of the breast and covering the pocket.

Crack your eggs into a bowl that’s large enough to take the chicken breasts. Add your milk and whisk well til incorporated. Do not under-do this stage – when you remove the whisk, if the egg appears string-like off the whisk then you need to carry on.

On a plate, put enough flour to coat the chicken breasts and on another plate put enough bread crumbs for them.  Season both flour and breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.

Place your chicken in flour, coating the whole breast while making sure the fillet remains in place over the pocket. Then move the chicken into the egg mixture before placing into the breadcrumbs. Check to make sure whole of breast is covered in crumb. Repeat the egg mix then bread crumb process.

A good tip is to use one hand for wet, the other for dry. Put simply, pick up the chicken in your left hand, place in flour, scoop flour over breast using your right hand, then pick the chicken up and place in egg mix. Using your left hand, turn the chicken over in the egg mix before moving to bread crumbs. Scoop bread crumbs over chicken breast with your right hand till it’s coated then move the chicken to the egg mix, then repeat. This saves on mess and creates nicely breadcrumbed items with no lumps of crumb.

Preheat oven to 180 or 160 for fan assisted ovens.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the new potatoes and place chicken in the oven. The chicken will take 18-22 minutes – be sure to test with a probe to a minimum of 74 c.

Prepare your asparagus by snapping the hard bit of the edible part – don’t worry the asparagus will snap in the right place. Put the asparagus in an oven tray, slice up some butter and put on top. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze lemon on top.

Check the potatoes by piercing with a knife or toothpick – if the potato slides off easily then take off heat and place asparagus in oven. This should be around the 17/18 minute mark. Check the chicken – if cooked, remove and rest, if not, carry on cooking. Drain potatoes in a colander.

Put potatoes back in pan with a knob of salted butter and salt and pepper. Using a fork or a rolling pin, crush the potatoes while checking for seasoning. After 4/5 mins, depending on the thickness of the asparagus, they should be ready, as should the chicken. Spoon the crushed new potatoes onto a plate, place the asparagus next to them and put the Kiev on top.

Enjoy with a glass (or bottle) of Chablis or a white Rioja.  If white is not your style, a soft red will do like a Beaujolais.


Next week: a filling wild garlic soup and a lamb roast with wilted ramsons.


Each week, discover recipes to nourish the soul, all compiled and concocted by Chef Tony, a gastronome with 15 years’ of experience cooking across the North West. Chef Tony has worked in some of the region’s best kitchens, including the award-winning Nutters in Rochdale and The Lowry at Salford Quays.