Monthly Archives: April 2016

Spring Asparagus


April and May, the garden shoots up. Everything that over wintered and that we have picked and enjoyed for so long is bolting. The spinach, chard and kales are shooting for the sky. They’ve done their job and are going to seed. We have baby stand-ins ready to take their place, they’ve been very shy about growing with the cold weather but as soon as there’s a bit of heat they will spring into action.

The baby salad leaves and rocket are shooting up too and being greedily enjoyed.

It’s also asparagus season, not that we have asparagus in our garden any more. We tried to grow it but never succeeded in growing more than enough for one persons dinner at a time. It would shoot up like an alien overnight and stand alone in the veg patch. We eventually dug it up in frustration.

However the West Cork asparagus is arriving, you’ll find it in the farmers markets. The short growing season and limited supply means a premium price but it is worth it and if you are lucky enough to buy some you’ll enjoy the flavour so much that you’ll never be impressed by the well-travelled version again.

Asparagus is best cooked simply.

One of our favourite ways to eat it is to trim the asparagus – I do this with a sharp knife, lightly running the blade across the asparagus spear until there is no resistance and the knife cuts through. Discard the tough end of the stems and toss the spears with olive oil, salt and black pepper. We then cook them on a hot grill pan, turning every couple of minutes until lightly charred. The same method would work under a grill.

Eat them as they are, with a mound of salad or dunked in butter, vinaigrette or hollandaise, it’s always a treat.

We came in from work last night, hungry and not keen to cook but there was a bunch of asparagus winking at me on the counter so I cooked up pasta with asparagus. It didn’t take too much effort and I shared a glass of wine whilst cooking – one for me, and one for the pot!

The result was delicious so here’s the recipe and another quick way to use asparagus.

Put a large pot of water to boil when you begin cooking this recipe so that you can co-ordinate cooking the pasta. Read the pasta package for the cooking time as this differs with the different varieties. We used a corn, quinoa and rice linguine – gluten free and very tasty – just don’t overcook it.



Asparagus with Linguine

Serves 2


1 bunch asparagus

1 small onion

20g butter

20mls olive oil

a small glass white wine

200mls cream

250g linguine – you could use spaghetti or tagliatelle

freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve


Peel and finely chop the onion.

Heat a pan then add the butter, olive oil and onion. When the onions are sizzling season with a little salt then turn the heat to mediumWash the asparagus, shake off any excess water, and trim the ends of each spear by gently running a sharp knife across until there is no resistance and the knife cuts through. Do this to each spear and discard the tough bits. Chop the stems into 1cm pieces but keep roughly 10cm at the tip. Cook the 1cm pieces in with the onion for a few minutes then add the tips.


Increase the heat and cook quickly for a minute or two but don’t allow it to burn. Add the white wine and allow the alcohol to bubble off then stir in the cream.


Bring to the boil then cook without boiling over for a few minutes to thicken. Take off the heat and toss together with the pasta. If the sauce is ready before the pasta don’t keep cooking, just leave it aside until you are ready otherwise the asparagus will overcook.


Spring Stinging Nettle Frittata


Spring is here and the nettles are back!

Like most edibles that grow we are most enthusiastic when they first arrive. One minute we’re scrabbling around searching for the baby plants, the next there is a veritable jungle standing three feet high.

They are a bonus in the kitchen but a curse for gardeners. In my case it’s a perk to be able to use something so pesky.

Young nettles are tasty and tender. The part of the plant that needs to be picked is the tip – a bit like picking tea. If you are careful they won’t sting you but if you’re in a hurry or in doubt wear a pair of gloves. Either way use a pair of scissors to snip the tips from the plants.

Nettles are a specialty of the Northern hemisphere, they don’t grow in Australia nor anywhere that isn’t fertile and wet which rules out quite a lot of the world. Their prolific growth in Ireland proves they are very happy in this climate. If you have a nettle patch that bugs you or is getting out of control just keep cutting it back and it’ll eventually get exhausted and give up.

Before you do that, and whilst they are young and tender you might enjoy this months recipe. Each year we seem to have some kind of nettle culinary craze. We’ve made pestos, herby Greek pies, smoothies and soups and this year we’re on nettle and herb frittata with local buffalo ricotta cheese. I put in fennel weed, parsley and chives, which are growing in our garden. Use whatever herbs you can get your hands on, soft green ones are best – parsley, chervil, basil, mint or chives…… Wild garlic would be good too if you could make it down to the woods.


Nettle, Herb and Ricotta Frittata

1 onion

25mls olive oil

6 eggs

1litre of young nettle tips

a big handful of any herbs – fennel, parsley, basil, chives etc

150g buffalo ricotta

salt and pepper

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a small non-stick pan and add enough olive oil to barely cover the bottom and then add the chopped onion. Turn the heat to medium and gently cook the onion until it softens. Season with a little salt. Stir in the nettles, keep the heat on medium and cook gently until the nettles wilt and soften.

Chop any green herbs that you are using.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper whisk them to mix then stir in the chopped herbs and wilted nettles. Break the ricotta into clumps and gently stir in, don’t over mix, you need a little lumpiness.

Put the pan back on the heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the pan is hot pour in the nettle and egg mix then turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook gently for three to four minutes. The frittata should be setting. Put the grill on hot and pop the frittata under to finish. Don’t leave it to go too golden, just a little. It’s better a little soft than overdone as it’ll continue cooking off the heat the heat.