Three-cornered leek recipes

Three-cornered leek deliveryThis box arrived courtesy of a very generous Lindsay on Twitter. Lindsay has a wonderful surfeit of these in Devon and needed an ID for it. She also wanted to be rid of some and so one thing led to another.

Allium triquetrum flowers
Allium triquetrum flowers by Kenpie WikiMedia Commons

It’s allium triquetrum or three-cornered leek (aka three-cornered garlic). It’s so called because of the cross-section of the leaf. Wild garlic (allium ursinum, ramsons) has a broader, flatter leaf and is only just poking out of the ground now. Like wild garlic, it has white flowers.

It’s a mediterranean plant which has naturalised in the south-west of England and prefers a moist but well-drained soil. It will spread by division and seeds extensively. It’s treated as a weed and invasive species in many places. It’s an offence to plant in the wild in England & Wales.

It tastes like a grassy leek or garlic with a lingering aftertaste. It’s not as pungent as garlic or as spicy as chives.

So I felt I had to come up with some culinary treatments for it. Read on for the details…

Three-cornered leek recipes

Three-cornered leek pesto

This made about 500ml of pesto. So have a sterilised container ready. You can scale the ingredients if you wish according to how much three-cornered leek you have. You can also play with the quantities of the other ingredients to taste. Test as you go and find out what you like. The leaves will probably need a good wash and dry first. I pat mine dry on a clean tea towel.


250g (about 4 cups) three-cornered leek leaves
50g blanched almonds (or pine nuts/hazelnuts), toasted lightly
50g parmesan or similar hard cheese in small chunks
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil


Three-cornered leek pesto makingPut about half the three-cornered leek leaves into a blender with the nuts, cheese and lemon zest & juice. Process until the leaves reduce in bulk a little and then add the rest of the leaves. Process until you have a rough purée and add a little seasoning. Then dribble in the extra virgin olive oil while the processor runs until you have a loose paste. Taste and correct seasoning or other ingredients.

Pop into your container and cover with a layer of oil. Keep in the fridge with a layer of oil on the top after each use. It should keep for as long as you need in this way.

Three-cornered leek pesto

Three-cornered garlic pesto – how to use

Use as you would any other pesto!

I’ve used it to mix through spaghetti. Cook the pasta until just cooked, drain the pasta keeping some water back in the pan. Add a smidge of chilli flakes (I have some blended fresh ones in oil in the fridge) and a generous tablespoon of pesto per person. Mix well and loosen some more with extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste. A very fast and incredibly tasty meal.

Three-cornered leek meat balls and burgers

This mix is incredibly versatile. I made meatballs I used in a carbonara, some more with a bulgar wheat pilaf (recipe later) and the remainder as burgers. The quantities can be scaled and varied according to what you have available.

It’s a delightfully gentle garlicky, smoky mix which compliments different cuisines well.


About 200g (3 cups) of three-cornered garlic leaves or leaves & bulbs
50g stale bread in chunks
1 dried chilli, or quantity to taste (in this case from my Seedy Penpal Lorraine)
375g beef mince (pork, lamb or chicken would all work well as would thick lentil/spilt pea puree)
1-2tsp smoked paprika
1/2tsp ground allspice
1tsp ground cumin
1 beaten egg may be needed
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste


Put the leaves, bread and chilli in a food processor and process until you have medium-sized breadcrumbs and coarsely chopped leaves. You don’t want to make a purée.

Tip the leeky crumbs into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Squidge the mix together really well with your hands so that it’s thoroughly mixed and you’ve broken up the meat well. The mixture should hold together of its own accord. You may need to add some or all of the beaten egg if the mixture doesn’t want to hold together.

Three-cornered leek meatballs

Then form the mix into walnut sized balls, or burgers (I used about 100g/burger) and let these rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer. Wet hands will help you do this more easily.

If you don’t want to use the mix that day, it’ll keep in the fridge covered for a couple of days.

Here’s how I used my mix.

Three-cornered leek meatball carbonara recipe

Have you guessed I’m a bit of a fan of pasta? This is such a hearty and fragrant dish: it’s not elegant though 🙂


100g of the mix per person, made into walnut sized meatballs
Olive oil
1 very fresh egg per person, well beaten
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
75-125g spaghetti per person
50g or so three-cornered garlic leaves for garnish


Put a glug of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat until hot. Place the meatballs gently in the hot oil and fry them until they are brown all over and cooked through. You should be able to do this while you cook the pasta.

Start to cook your pasta in plenty of salted water at a rolling boil.

Three-cornered leek in meatball carbonara

When the pasta has a minute to go before it’s cooked, pop the three-cornered garlic leaves into the pan with the pasta to wilt.

Drain the pasta and leaves, reserve some of the water in the pan or in a jug. Put the pasta back into the hot pan, but off the heat.

Add the meatballs to the pasta using a slotted spoon and mix them gently. Then add the beaten eggs and mix quickly so the water & eggs make a silky sauce. Take too long and you’ll have scrambled eggs!

Serve immediately and tuck in.

Three-cornered leek burgers

Here, I made the mix into burgers and fried them over a medium heat for about 5 minutes each side. The burger buns are Dan Lepard’s carrot burger buns without the spices as there’s spices in the burgers.

Three-cornered leek in burgerSo there you are. A pretty useful weed I hope you’ll agree.

What do you use yours for?

If you liked this, here’s some Wild Garlic recipes you may fancy.




16 responses to “Three-cornered leek recipes”

  1. Janine E Martin Avatar

    I’ve just harvested two large pots of wild leek/onion and was checking out what to do with the leaves ( does that also include the stem) for the pesto?

    1. Carl Avatar

      Sorry for late reply Janine, I guess you’ve already improvised. But for anyone else reading, yes the stem is used too 🙂

      1. Janine E Martin Avatar

        Yes I did using 1 cup of flowers and 1 cup of leaves /stems. It was delicious had to add quite a lot of oil in order for it to be blended.
        We have also frozen the flower heads and have untold amount of stems in the fridge!
        I made pickled onions, given some bulbs away and storing some for later use and replanting.
        Just found yesterday wild garlic too!
        Many Thanks

      2. Tonessa West Crowe Avatar

        I love this recipe. I just got a bumper crop of Egyptian walking onions. I am going to try this recipe with those little babies!

  2. Flo Avatar

    Hello, I tried the pesto and it didn’t turn out very nice…should I have harvested the leaves before the plant was flowering?Many thanks Flo

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Flo

      I think that must be right. Lots of plants get much harsher or bitter when they start to flower/seed. So you are best to use the younger leaves and then move on to other things. Try again next year, have a chew on a leaf first to see if you like the taste 🙂

  3. […] Three-Cornered Leek Meatball Carbonara: Carl Legge thinks three-cornered leeks not only make a great pesto, but also a ground meat […]

  4. Rachel K @MarmadukeS Avatar

    Guardian Witness and The Guardian’s Readers’ Recipe Swap are looking for recipes for “Shoots and Leaves” and I immediately thought of you and especially your genius meatballs! All you have to do is upload the recipe and/or a link to the recipe and your blog and a photo should you want to.

    And if not that recipe I am sure you have lot’s of other seasonal goodies to add 😉

    1. Carl Avatar

      Thanks for the heads up Rachel – that’s brilliant! I’m on to it 🙂

      1. Rachel K @MarmadukeS Avatar

        It seemed to me it might also be a good way to get a mention of your new book in there . . . I wouldn’t overdo it as the site is for readers rather than promoting commercial interests, but I noticed that Meemalee (very well-known food blogger) has just posted up a recipe for Noodles in which she mentions her new book on . . . noodles!

        BTW, on another note – I am doing a sort of Agony Aunt live chat for the Guardian on how to use up leftovers (I am feeling a bit Agony Aunt/Earth Mother/Sustainable kitchen waste ninja!) If you have anything you would like to contribute, I would love it in the comments section.

        Of course there might be other sections of their Live Better challenge which is all about sustainability, that you would rather take part in!

  5. narf77 Avatar

    A great post about one of our common introduced weeds here in Tasmania. They do really well here and eating them is the ultimate form of revenge! 😉

  6. Rachel K @MarmadukeS Avatar

    Oooh I hadn’t thought of making meatballs – genius! My leeks are just beginning to flower so excellent timing, thank you!

  7. Francoise Murat Avatar

    Sounds amazing – all of it, where can one get such wonders? Have never had the pleasure of growing or tasting. Must hunt down seeds , thanks for sharing

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Francoise

      Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂

      Seems many people down south have them lurking around that you could acquire some from as bulbs. I bet if I put a twitter ask out we’d get you some within the day as bulbs. Otherwise, I can always send you some.


  8. twestcrowe Avatar

    Love the pesto recipe, how novel! The meatballs sound divine. — Tonessa

  9. lindaswildlifegarden Avatar

    Awesome post Carl and very yummy recipes will have to have a go at some of them