Category Archives: italian

Spring into Dumplings

In between storms and torrential rain the green things are struggling to come back, valiantly pushing ahead anytime there’s a ray of sunshine. Spinach, chard, rocket, nettles, wild garlic are all growing again. Most of our spinach and chard have weathered the winter outside. At one point, when it froze for a week it looked like they might lose the will to live, their leaves were sad and frost burnt but somehow they rallied on and now look like they’re good to go. The nettles and wild garlic are just emerging and the rocket is as always surging ahead but as the rocket’s in the tunnel it does have an advantage. 

We have learnt from previous winters that it’s always good to have a stash of green things in the tunnel so late each August we plant up little beds of spinach, rocket and kale just to make sure we have a supply of these useful greens.

The new glasshouse is slowly filling up with seedlings and by Easter it will be bursting at the seams and we’ll be off again. Another year in the garden.

I wanted to make a recipe with wild garlic but as I write this there are very slim pickings out there so I’ve modified my plan. What was going to be ricotta gnocchi with wild garlic pesto has morphed into ricotta gnocchi with rocket pesto. It could just as easily been kale pesto or nettle pesto but as I have a choice and I particularly enjoy the fresh pepperiness of rocket, rocket it is. Classic pesto is made with basil but it can in fact be made with a huge variety of tasty leaves. 

The recipe for pesto is pretty fluid – olive oil, nuts/seeds, cheese, garlic and herb/leaves of you choice. I often put in a little lemon juice which prevents the pesto from going Gollum green if it’s not used quickly – it also brightens up the flavours.

Ricotta gnocchi are very easy to make unlike potato gnocchi which take a little more effort. They are often called malfatti (badly made) as they don’t have a  uniform shape – all part of their inner beauty! Just get yourself some of our wonderful local ricotta and a clean bowl and you’re nearly there!.

Ricotta Gnocchi 

250g ricotta

1 egg

nutmeg

50g semolina

75g grated Parmesan cheese

salt and black pepper

Put the ricotta into a bowl and beat together with the egg.

Season with a little grated nutmeg and salt and pepper.

Stir in the semolina, this will give you a soft mass that should hold together

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil then turn down to simmer. It’s important the water is a quiet simmer as a rolling boil will cause too much agitation and the gnocchi will break apart. 

Wet your hands to prevent the mix from sticking to them then form small balls with the mixture and gently slip them into the water. Leave the gnocchi to cook for a few minutes and when the gnocchi rise back to the surface they are ready. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain any excess water before plating or putting in a serving bowl.

Drizzle the pesto over the gnocchi and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3 

Rocket and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

15g pumpkin seed

50g rocket

25g Parmesan cheese

1-2 cloves garlic

100ml olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt

Heat a dry pan and gently toast the pumpkin seeds.

Roughly chop the garlic and rocket

Place the pumpkin seeds,  garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, rocket, parmesan and salt into a  jug and using a hand held blender blitz to a smooth sauce. 

Check the seasoning and the pesto is ready . Use what you need then put the remainder into a small pot and pour a little olive oil over the top. This will stop the pesto from oxidising. Store in the fridge and use within the week. Delicious with pasta, grilled vegetables, meat, fish…..perks up everything.


Tomato Party

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Storm Ellen did a superb job of flattening our beans but fortunately the tomato tunnel stood strong and our beautiful tomatoes are still ripening and bursting with flavour.

The feasting is endless. Tomatoes with everything.

Whilst browsing for tomato ideas I came across a recipe for Panzanella. It was the picture that caught my fancy as a salad using old bread that was dried then got wet again sounded odd. I checked out a few more recipes and realised this idea had real potential and no better chance of success than when surrounded by ripe home grown tomatoes.

Panzanella originates in Italy where there are ripe tomatoes and dry bread aplenty. These simple ingredients paired with the best olive oil and vinegar that you can lay your hands on make a stunning salad.

The first step is to dry out the bread, which proved easier said than done in a West Cork kitchen. I used thick slices of sour dough bread as recommended and spread it out in a bread basket and left it in the kitchen to dry.

In the south of Europe where these recipes originate bread bought in the morning is stale by the evening, hence the proliferation of recipes using old bread but no such luck here. Two days later the bread was still perfectly edible and far from dry so I turned the oven on for assistance.

I couldn’t resist rubbing the slices of bread with a cut clove of garlic before ripping it into small pieces and tossing with a drizzle of olive oil. ( if you like garlic bread, you will like this) I spread the bread on a baking tray, popped it in the oven and ten minutes later it was beautifully dry .

Now is the moment to make this recipe if you live in this part of the world. The local tomatoes are ripe and at their full flavour potential. The only time of the year we can eat such tasty tomatoes without travelling. Check out the farmers markets and small stores that sell home grown vegetables

This recipe is well worth the effort = dry bread and tomatoes tossed together with olive oil, vinegar and basil makes a sublime combination however odd it might sound, a real flavour and texture bomb in the mouth.

Simplicity at its best

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Panzanella

Tuscan Tomato and Bread salad

 

4  large ripe tomatoes

4 thick slices sourdough or country bread

3 cloves garlic

1 small red onion.

1 bunch basil

150mls extra virgin olive oil

50mls vinegar – the best you have

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and black pepper

Anchovies in oil (optional)

 

Put the oven on 180c

Cut the crusts from the slices of bread, rub with a cut side of garlic – no need to peel it.. Tear the bread into small pieces (2cm).

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Put it into a bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil 1-2tbs, toss well then spread out on a baking tray. Bake for ten minutes then check. The bread should be crisp but not brown.

Dice the tomatoes into 1 -2cm cubes, sprinkle over a little salt and put them into a sieve or colander and set them over a bowl to catch the juices. Leave for 15-20 minutes.

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Peel and finely slice the red onion. Massage in a few grains of salt to separate and soften the onion. Peel the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and chop very finely.

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Put the garlic into a small bowl together with the Dijon mustard, vinegar and the juice that has run off from the tomatoes. Whisk these together then drizzle in the olive oil whilst continuing to whisk until you have a creamy emulsion. Stir in the sliced onion.

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Put the tomatoes and dried bread into a bowl – approx. 50/50 of each. (Keep any remaining bread to top other salads or soup). Chop the basil and add to the bowl, pour over the dressing then toss together until well mixed. Leave aside for ten minutes to let the flavours to mingle before serving.

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Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

I’m just about all ‘kaled’ out. We have eaten some amount of kale and spinach in the last six weeks and I am almost happy to see the plants bolt. We will miss them but the new baby salad leaves and rocket are much more exciting.

There’s not much else ready to pick in the garden at this time of the year unless you are lucky enough to have an asparagus patch. We don’t. I tried to grow asparagus some years back but eventually lost patience and pulled it all up. There never seemed to be enough for dinner, just the odd alien popping up here and there but not enough for a bunch.

Luckily there are successful asparagus growers in West Cork and now is the time to grab a bunch before it’s moment of glory passes and there’s another years wait.

This recipe is a kind of vegetable carbonara, a bit of an oxymoran as any self-respecting Italian will tell you that carbonara only has four ingredients – eggs, pancetta, pecorino or parmesan and spaghetti but as with all recipes tweaking can produce great results.

I have used asparagus and locally grown shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are feather light when fresh but become meaty and super tasty when cooked.  Any long wiggly pasta will work for this recipe. If you get your timing right this dish can be cooked in the time that it takes to cook your pasta

 

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

Serves 2

 

1 small onion

7-8 stems asparagus

100g shiitake mushrooms

50g butter

50mls olive oil

2egg yolks

4tbs cream

50g grated parmesan or pecorino

250g tagliatelle/spaghetti/linguine

salt and cracked black pepper

 

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil, ready to cook the pasta

Peel and finely chop the onion

Snap the tough end from the asparagus and discard or put aside to make soup. Chop the rest of the asparagus in 3-4cm pieces

Slice the shiitake mushrooms.

In a small bowl mix the egg yolks, cream and grated cheese.

The vegetables are going to take roughly eight minutes to cook so now is the moment to decide when to add your pasta to the boiling water. Read the packet, add a large spoonful of salt to the water and cook the pasta according to the instructions – the vegetables can spend a minute or two resting whilst the pasta finishes cooking if needed

Heat a large frying pan or skillet and add the olive oil. When the pan is hot add the asparagus and cook for three to four minutes stirring every now and again. Season with salt and cracked black pepper and put aside. Next melt the butter in the pan and add chopped onion and the shiitake , mushrooms, cook on a high heat for three or four minutes, season with salt and cracked black pepper then put the asparagus back in.

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Take the pan off the heat.

Before draining the pasta reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water.

Drain the pasta, add to the vegetables and the egg mix then toss together adding some of the reserved water to get a creamy dressing.

Eat immediately