Avocado Ceviche Dreams

This seems a long time ago now although it was only last month. It’s a little recipe that I write for the local paper, the West Cork People. I didn’t take my laptop on this trip so never published what I had written, so here’s a little escape from the coronavirus………..It seems like another world now

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This month (February!) we are eating our way around south east Mexico. We flew into Cancun and travelled down the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo towards Guatemala. It’s very beautiful, the water is crystal blue and but it comes with full on tourism and touts so we decided to head away from the coast and explore the Yucatan and towns of the interior. The land is lush, green and gently undulates. No mountains here and strangely no rivers, instead there is a network of water that travels underground popping up in cenotes.

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Cenotes are deep fresh water pools, sometimes open and sometimes in caves with with stalactites and creepers hanging. They are very deep- up to 45 metres- and crystal clear, absolutely stunning. It’s possible to jump into them and swim, strangely enough even though they are so deep they are not cold and there are plenty of fish which nibble your toes. The city centres are old colonial style which sprawl out to poorer areas. We’ve explored Valladolid, Merida and Campeche.

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We  seek out the markets which are overflowing with avocados, mangos, chillies and just about every conceivable fruit and vegetable that grows in the south. The sounds, smells and colours are amazing and an interesting place to buy breakfast/brunch. Quesadillas, negritos, empanadas, tacos, gorditas, enchiladas, polcans, panouches, chilaquiles, huaraches… The list is boggling but we are beginning to navigate our way around the menu.

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The one thing that they all have in common is corn. Each is made from ground corn be it a fresh tortilla, a fried tortilla or made from masa(corn dough) that is wrapped around a filling then grilled or deep fried. Topped or filled with shredded pork, turkey , pork, fish, prawns or refined beans, cheese , pink pickled onions, avocado, radishes, shredded cabbage and served with a variety of salsas this food is bright and diverse. Not a spud in sight! The salsa are nearly as varied as the tortilla dishes. The pico de gallo – diced tomato, chilli, onion, coriander and lime juice is fresh and zingy but the habanero salsa – which is the most popular can blow your head off

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For the rest of the day there are taquerias on the street that churn out tacos and various cantinas that serve bigger meals. In the interior the food is pretty meaty and on the coast the menu is seafood.
We’ve been poking our noses into kitchens, picking people’s brains for recipes and were lucky enough to spend on evening cooking with a Mayan lady that we were introduced to. She made us real Mexican/Mayan home cooking. One recipe was this ceviche – without fish – as she explained, ceviche is a process not a fish dish. It was fresh and delicious, perfect scooped up with totopos (tortilla chips). It could also be piled on top of a burger, fish or grilled meats or just enjoyed as a salad. And better still the ingredients are available in Ireland. It’s important that the avocados are ripe which could take some forward thinking. If they are a bit hard , put them I the fruit bowl with a ‘do not eat me’ sign for a few days and they will ripen.

Avocado Ceviche

1 cucumber
1 small-medium onion
3 ripe avocado
A handful fresh chopped coriander
A pinch of crushed oregano
A pinch of black pepper
1 tbs olive oil
Juice 3-4 limes – depends how juicy they are
A good pinch of salt.

Cut the cucumber in half then scoop out the seeds then cut it into strips lengthwise and dice.
Peel and chop the onion finely
Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone then slice in strips (without going through the skin) then into a dice cutting the other way. Scoop the avocado from the skin with a spoon.
Add all of the above ingredients together then mix gently. Taste and add more salt or lime juice if needed.

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Home alone with Lemons

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I’ve been holed up with a box of lemons – literally. I inherited an entire box when we closed the shop this week because of the coronavirus and have been merrily making my way through it ever since.

I have a big kilner jar of pickled lemons , or should I say pickling lemons as they’re not ready to eat yet. I found the recipe in the Guardian, a lemon pickle to eat with samosas which required 25 birds eye chillies which I just happened to have in my chilli bucket.

IMG_7363We recently harvested the last of our chillies in our tunnel to make room for this years seeds and now we have quite some chillies to make our way through. The pickle sounds exciting  – lemons, chilli, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, oil , vinegar and what sounded like an alarming amount of salt – !00g salt and only 2tbs sugar.

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It has me curious. Anyways it’s going to take two weeks before I can try it so l have to be patient.

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The rest of the lemons, bar a couple held back for the gin and tonics, were finely sliced and left over night in water. I put them into a big pot today, added sugar and cooked them for more than an hour .They made the house smell a lot better than sanitiser!

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Here’s the recipe, scale it back to make less. I think one quarter would make a sensible family amount unless you are marmalade freaks. It  does taste seriously good. Lemony, sweet and sharp at the same time – just as marmalade should taste.

 

Lemon Marmalade

 

25 lemons

3.5 litres water

4kg sugar

about 20 clean jam jars

 

Wash the lemons well and slice very thinly with a sharp knife.

Put the lemon slices in a large bowl and cover with the water and leave overnight.

The next day, put everything into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then simmer until the lemons are very tender, about one hour.

Put a small plate into the fridge or freezer to chill

Add the sugar to the pot and bring to the boil. Keep the marmalade at a rolling boil for about twenty to thirty minutes. Do not turn to a low simmer as the marmalade needs to reach 104c to set. You need to keep the heat as high as you can without boiling over so stay close by. Fish out any stray pips that float to the surface. To check whether the marmalade is ready to set put a spoonful of onto the chilled plate and leave for a few minutes then gently push your finger sideways on the surface. If the marmalade is ready to set small wrinkles will appear. If this doesn’t happen put another clean plate to chill and boil the marmalade for another five to ten minutes then try again. If it’s ready take the marmalade off the heat and let it rest for ten minutes. This will stop the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jars. Wash the jam jars well and put them in a hot oven for five minutes. This will sterilise the jars and also prevent them from cracking when they are filled with the hot marmalade. Wipe any spilt marmalade from the sides and top of the jars with a clean cloth and cover with clean lids whilst still hot.

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Rocket Beans

One good thing the coronavirus has given me is some time. It all felt very stressful in the beginning but now with everything closing down, not having to organise work or rushing here and everywhere, everything has slowed down. I’m also avoiding wall to wall reportage, just listening to enough news to keep up, and thinking of all the things I can get done now that I have some time.

Funny how I want to fill it!

This is the first recipe since last year Halloween!

And here is what we had for dinner last night…..

Beans take time to cook – even if you open a can, they always benefit from a little bathing with the other ingredients.

This recipe is for beans cooked with melted down onion and fennel, cooked until just before they caramelise. I put in a Parmesan rind at the same time and this creates a creamy unctuous side to the whole affair but leave it out if you don’t have one or want a vegan version.

This recipe began as Beans and Greens in my repertoire but it was dark last night when I began to cook. Too late to pick greens but I had some rocket in the fridge that I made into pesto which I drizzled over  when serving. We ate the beans with chippy potatoes on the side.

Below are the instruction for cooking dried beans but last night I opened a jar!

 

Rocket Beans

150g dried cannellini beans or a can or jar drained and rinsed.

1 – 2 onions

2 stems celery

1-2 small fennel

2-3 cloves garlic

parmesan rind (optional)

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 glass white wine

 

 

100g rocket – chopped

1 dip pine nuts

100=150mls olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic- peeled and chopped

A squeeze of lemon juice

50g grated parmesan

 

Soak the cannellini beans overnight in cold water.

Bring enough water to cover the beans to the boil then drain and rinse the beans, tip them into the pot and bring back to the boil. When the beans are boiling turn to a low simmer and cook gently for 40 minutes then check them to see if they are tender, they will probably need more time so if they need longer cooking check every ten minutes until the beans are cooked. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Whilst the beans are cooking, peel and chop the onions. Heat a saucepan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom then add the onions. When the onions are sizzling reduce the heat and cook for five minutes.

Wash the celery and chop into four strips lengthwise then chop into a small dice and add to the onions.

Wash the fennel, chop in half then slice thinly and add to the pot.

Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper – this will help the vegetables to melt down and add the Parmesan rind if you have one.

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Cook the vegetables gently until they are are soft and translucent, this will take 20-30 minutes, then peel and chop the garlic and stir in. Cook for another five minutes then add a glass of white wine, let it bubble up then add the drained beans and enough cooking liquid to just cover the beans. Use water or stock if you have opened a can/jar.  Season with salt and pepper then simmer the beans for 20-30 minutes. The liquid will reduce  – the beans shouldn’t be swimming in liquid when served but keep enough to have the beans sitting in a little sauce.

To make the pesto put all the ingredients into a jug and buzz with a handheld blender.

Adjust the consistency and season with a little salt

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To serve, put a ladleful of beans onto each plate and drizzle over a little pesto

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Vampire Soup with Optional Eyeballs

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Beetroots have been around since the Romans who enjoyed their earthy charm.  The root and leaves have been eaten for centuries. They also had a moment of glory when it was discovered that beetroots could be converted to sugar but these days these brightly coloured vegetables are known more for the fact that they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The colour of the beetroot that makes everything that it touches turn some shade of pink/red/purple seems to perk people up. Antioxidants or not their colour certainly cheers things up on a rainy day

 

To celebrate Samhain and Halloween I ‘ve made this this sensational Vampire soup with optional eyeballs. The soup is in fact a sophisticated marriage of beetroot and fennel gently cooked into sweet submission and adorned with crème fraiche but with a little imagination and a few peas it transforms into a ghoulish delight.

 

The Vampire title may entice your children to try this stunning soup and the optional eyeballs are easily achieved by posting a pea on top of a little spoonful of crème fraiche and setting it afloat.

It could be just the thing for Halloween

You could even organise an eyeball eating contest.

 

Here’s the recipe

It’s very easy to make, It doesn’t matter too much  the size of the beetroots that you use, it’s more important that they are fresh so don’t use ones that are pre cooked and vacuum packed.

Choose about three big or six small beetroots

 

Beetroot and Fennel Soup

 

1 onion

75mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery

1 fennel

1 potato

3-6 beetroots

800mls vegetable stock

A squeeze of lemon juice

 

Peel and chop the onion

Heat a saucepan, add the olive oil and onion then cook on a medium heat.

Chop the celery into 4 lengthwise then dice small and stir in with the onion.

Trim the fennel then cut into half and chop finely.

Stir in with the onion and celery, season with a little salt. Keep the vegetables gently humming away in the pan. Turn the heat up and down until you’re happy the gentle sizzle is not burning. Peel and dice the  beetroots and potato small, add to the pan and stir into to combine leave to cook for another 10 minutes with the occasional stir. Season with salt,  Add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then cook at a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Blitz until smooth, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste, then adjust the seasoning.

Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche

 

 


The Queen of Apple tarts

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Our bumper apple harvest has had us wading through buckets of apples. Apple puree for the freezer, apple juice and cider for imbibing, apple chutney and of course cakes and tarts.

Apple Tart Tatin is right up there when it comes to apple tarts. In our household it is the queen. It also uses a surprising amount of apples to make which helps get through the apple mountain. This tart takes a little time to prepare but the resulting buttery caramelised apples are worth the effort.

You will need an iron or cast-iron pan that can go on the stove top and also in the oven as this tart begins with apples sitting on a bed of butter and sugar gently caramelising on the stove top. The apples are then completely cooled and covered with pastry. Sweet pastry or puff pastry both work – my preference is for sweet pastry but whatever you have.

The size of the pan depends on how many people you have to feed and how many apples you have. A small pan will use around fifteen apples and large pan around 20-25 apples. Always have more at hand than you think you will need. I use small apples which are not floury. Our garden is full of ancient apple trees but if you need to buy the apples Cox’s Pippins or Braeburn are ideal.

This is the recipe for a small pan- all the measurements are approximate as the method will reveal

 

Apple Tart Tatin

about 150g butter

about 150g caster sugar

about 15 small apples

400g sweet or puff pastry

 

Slice the butter thinly and cover the bottom of the pan. Cover the butter with caster sugar – not completely buried but lightly covered.

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Peel the apples, cut into half, take out the cores and tidy the apples up – take out the ends where the stalk and belly button were.

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Place the apple halves into the pan. If the apple has a fat end put the fat end facing out. Pack them tightly sitting on their sides.

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IMG_5334Put the pan onto the heat to melt the sugar and butter. When it bubbles up turn the heat to medium low. It should have some lively action going on but not too fierce otherwise it will burn. Let it slowly cartelise turning the pan to get even cooking. This will take about fifteen minutes, keep a close eye as when the it caramelises it will go quite quickly. Take the pan off the heat when the caramel is deep golden – you’ll see this bubbling around the edge. Take the pan off the heat. Iron pans retain the heat so if it looks like the caramel is getting too dark sit the pan onto some cool water to slow it down.

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Leave to cool completely,

Put the oven on 180c

Roll the pastry into a circle two fingers width wider than the pan. Carefull lift the pastry over the apples and tuck in the edges.

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Cook for approx 30 mins, until the pastry is golden.

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Take out of the oven and leave to cool almost completely. Don’t fiddle with it or be tempted to turn it out whilst it is hot as the caramel will not be set and will run off the tart which will break your heart after all that effort.

When the pan is nearly cold – only a little warm underneath, run a knife around the edge of the pastry to ensure it’s all mobile then put large plate over the pan and invert the tart quickly. Gently lift the pan off of the tart….. et voila! Alternatively allow the tart to go completely cold cold then heat the pan for couple of minutes to loosen the caramel then follow the same procedure.

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Delicious with cream, ice-cream or custard

 


Tomato Party

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The time we have been waiting for all summer has arrived. The tomatoes have ripened and we are enjoying them with nearly everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We grew fifteen varieties of tomatoes this year, all selected for their flavour rather than prolific production or uniform size. The names are curious but in fact somehow apt when you see the fruits –  Bottondoro, Mountain Magic, Fandango, Liguria, Ox Heart, Moon Glow….. They’re all shapes and colours,  red, orange, pink, and yellow .

We let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, this guarantees that they are bursting with flavour and not all picked at once. There’s always a bit of a wait for the tomatoes to ripen but we are usually still picking them in moderation well into the autumn

Each variety has merits, the Bottondoro – orange cherry tomatoes are delicious roasted , we’ve been spooning them onto and over things with a dollop of creme fraiche. The Fandangoes, Ox Hearts and Moonglows have been cut into a chunky dice and consumed with just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of  sherry vinegar and salt. They don’t need any fancy treatment.

We ‘ve also made pasta, stews, soups, risottos and most of all ‘pan con tomate’ the Spanish go to breakfast.

Pan con tomate is toast rubbed with a smidgeon of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and tomato which is rubbed on the toast or grated.

Grating tomatoes is a very useful kitchen trick.

Simply take a large ripe tomato, cut it in half and grate it flesh side down, over a bowl, on the coarse side of the grater. The result will be a fresh tomato passata in the bowl and a tomato skin in your hand. Just bin the tomato skin and the tomato is ready to use.

Here is a recipe for a Greek dish, using grated tomato.  Prawns with Ouzo and black olives are the original incarnation but Ouzo which is a Greek aniseed flavoured aperitif can be replaced with whatever you have in the drinks cupboard. I use Pernod but brandy or white wine would work too.

This is delicious mopped up with bread or served with basmati rice or pasta for a main course. Fresh prawns would be the ultimate but uncooked frozen prawns will work too just be sure to dry them well before frying.

Serves 6 for a mezze, 3- 4 for a main course

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Prawns with Ouzo and Black olives

 

500g fresh peeled prawns – not already cooked

75mls olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

2-3 large ripe tomatoes – about 500g

a good pinch of dried oregano

a small glass of Ouzo or Pernod

1-2 tbs black olives

salt and black pepper.

chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Peel and finely chop the onion

Peel and finely chop the garlic

Cut the tomatoes in half and grate on the coarse side of the grater, holding the skin side. Discard the skins

Dry the prawns on a little kitchen roll.

Heat a small frying pan, add the olive oil then the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes until the prawns just change colour. Lift out of the pan and put aside.

Fry the onions until they begin to soften then stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the grated tomatoes, oregano and the ouzo or Pernod. Let the sauce bubble up and reduce for a few minutes. Stir in the prawns and black olives then cook for anther 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

 

 

 


Summery Courgette, Green Beans and Pea Salad

August really is the month in Ireland for home grown Mediterranean‘ vegetables although in fact they are actually fruits! Tomatoes, aubergine peppers and courgettes are sun loving fruits that are eaten as vegetables. The sun loving being the reason they take all summer to ripen.

Our courgettes have been taking their time. We’re still hovering around the plants wondering whether there are any ready to pick, which is in fact a good thing. Baby courgettes are the sweetest and tastiest and delicious in salads.

We’ve been eating a courgette, green bean, basil and pea salad – having an abundance of green beans at hand and cheating with peas.  It’s delightful combination of textures and summery flavor

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The peas and beans are blanched but the courgettes are raw but don’t seem so. They are salted and rinsed before being dressed which gives them a crisp but tender bite .

 

Check out the farmers markets and local growers  as courgettes grown close to home will be fresher and taste better. If you can find little yellow ones they’ll be great for the colour scheme but green ones taste equally as good.

 

Courgette, Green Bean and Pea salad

 

250g French beans

1-2 small courgettes

200g fresh peas -= frozen is good

handful fresh basil

100mls olive oil

zest 1 lemon

juice of half or to taste

1 clove garlic

1/2tsp dijon mustard

salt and pepper

 

Slice the courgettes thinly, sprinkle with salt and toss well.

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Put aside in a bowl or colander for at least 15minutes.

Top and tail the beans. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a half tsp salt and the beans. Cook for 4 minutes then lift out of the water and drop into a bowl of cold water. Let them cool then drain

Bring the water back to the boil then add the peas. Cook for 1 minute the drain and drop into cold water to cool. Drain and shake off excess water.

Rinse the courgettes, take a handful at a time and squeeze to remove the water. Repeat until all the courgettes are done

Put the courgettes, french beans and peas into a bowl, roughly chop the basil and add then season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grate the lemon zest on top of the vegetables

Peel and chop the garlic. Whisk the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard together then whisk in the olive oil. Season with a little salt

Gently toss the dressing with the vegetables. Add more salt or lemon to taste.

 

 

Lettercollum Kitcheb Project are hosting two events for the Taste of West Cork festival in September. The first on Friday 6thSeptember is ‘Dinner from the Garden’, a seven course tasting menu shared around the kitchen table at Lettercollum and the second is “A Taste of Valencia’, tapas and paella accompanied by music and flamenco dancing in O’Donovans hotel on Tuesday 10thSeptember. Tickets for both events are available at the shop or by email.

 


Rabbits and Raspberry Pancakes

We have a rabbit in our garden, It has been hopping about devouring beans and kale and now it’s systematically chomping through a row of cauliflowers. This is an unusual problem for us as the garden’s walled and although birds cause devastation the rabbits usually stay out. It’s not easy to catch a rabbit and our dog isn’t taking any incentive so we’re building rabbit trap – a contraption made from a bucket and sticks. A bit like catching a tiger in the jungle. Fingers crossed it will work and we can relocate the rabbit otherwise we’ll have to have a rethink as for sure it can’t stay.

Apart from the bunny drama the garden is ticking along nicely. Just about everything is in situ – the pumpkins, the courgettes and beans etc but as it’s not been very warm it’s very slow. The beans look horrified, they have gone a pathetic shade of yellowy green but hopefully the temperature will rise and they’ll recover.

The soft fruits are ripening and we have the gooseberries well protected with nets this year. Last year the birds stripped the plants the minute the gooseberries ripened but we’re on the ball this time.

There are also raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and loganberries ripening – nearly time to crank the jam factory into action.

Meanwhile we’re making delicious raspberry pancakes, perfect for summer breakfasts/brunch – kind of healthy and decadent at the same time. Made with oats and squashed banana they are surprisingly sophisticated and banana-flavour free. They take no longer to make than a fry up with the added bonus of twice the vitamins and antioxidants.

Any berry could be used for this recipe, fresh or frozen but a lot of them have travelled a long way. There are some delicious local raspberries available at the moment. If you haven’t got your own raspberries to pick, these are the next best thing  – big fat berries with a powerpack of flavour.

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Eat the pancakes naked, or drizzled with maple syrup or honey and a dollop of Greek yoghurt .

 

Makes 8 little pancakes – multiply the recipe for crowds.

For a vegan version substitute the eggs with 50mls extra plant milk

 

Raspberry pancakes

 

100g oatflakes

1 banana – roughly chopped

2 eggs –

100mls milk – any kind

1 heaped tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 punnet raspberries

oil or butter to fry

 

Put the oatflakes into a food processor and buzz until fairly fine.

Separate the eggs. Put the whites in a bowl and the yolks in with oats then add the milk, banana, vanilla and baking powder to the oat mix. Buzz until the mix is fairly smooth

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Tip the oat mix into a bowl then gently fold in the whisked egg whites

Heat a frying pan and when the pan is hot add a smear of butter or a drizzle of oil. Spoon the mix in a tablespoon at a time, allowing space between each pancake so that they don’t stick together. Turn the heat to medium-low

Post a few raspberries into each pancake and when little bubbles begin to appear on the surface carefully flip the pancake over and cook the other side.


In Anticipation of Peas

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It’s a busy time in the garden, lots to sow, transplant and weed but not a vast selection to eat. There are plenty of green things – salad leaves, herbs, baby spinach, a few bolting leeks but for the rest we are waiting.

This recipe is in anticipation of the peas.

Our peas are about 15cms tall and on the up, beginning to climb their chicken wire fence. There’s a way to go but they’re coming

There is still time to plant peas if you have the space. They enjoy the Irish climate and providing the mice don’t eat the seeds will soon emerge and start climbing up, grasping with tiny tendrils to whatever is close by so it’s best to make a fence to keep them where you want them.

The main reason I plant pod peas is because they are so sweet. We snack on them in the garden so probably only half the harvest hits the kitchen.

The secret with peas is to eat them as soon as you pick them, before the sugars convert to starch. This is why frozen peas are so successful and indeed can be superior to pod peas.as unless they were recently picked they will have become a little starchy.

These little green orbs have a lot going for them as they are a source of plant-based protein, officially a legume not a vegetable. Paired with eggs, a little fresh goats cheese or yoghurt to make a complete protein this makes a nutritious vegetarian option that is easy and fast to make.

I was going to make the recipe in the blender but there was a power cut so instead of buzzing the mix I got stuck in with  a potato masher  and the result was chunky pea in batter delicious so the recipe can be made either way. If you use a blender pulse buzz and stop before the mix is smooth.

We’re using Sunview fresh goats cheese, which comes from Kilmichael near Macroom. Goats cheese has a dodgy reputation but this new season fresh cheese is creamy and delicious, not in the least bit goaty.

If you can’t handle goats cheese use a little feta or leave it out.

We ate these with mint and yoghurt sauce and salad on the side.

 

Pea fritters

 

300g peas

3 eggs

3-4 spring onions

zest of half a lemon

50g crumbled fresh goats cheese

50g cornflour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

oil to fry.

 

Bring apot of water to the boil , add the peas then cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain and refresh under the cold tap then put aside .

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Seive the cornflour and baking poiwder then whisk into the eggs together with the slat.

Finely chop the spring annions then stir into the batter with the lemon zest, goats cheese and peas. Mash with apotato masher to crush the peas.

Heat a frying pan, pour in a little oil – enough ti just cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon in 3 or 4 tablespoons of the batter, allowing each fritter to spread but not join up. Turn the heat to medium and fry the fritter for 2-3 inutes then flip over and cook the otherside. Repeat until the mix is used up. I made 10 fritters.

 

Mint Yoghurt Sauce

 

250mls Greek yoghurt

1 tbs finely chopped mint

salt. And cracked black pepper.

 

Mix te yoghurt and finely chopped mint together then season with salt and cracked black pepper.


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