Saturday, 11 May 2013

FORAGING - Spring Pasta and Wild Garlic

Spring is here. FINALLY.  For fucks sake it’s taken long enough. Waking up to blue skies and walking home from work in warm fading light is joyous. Irritable and intolerant most of the time, the rarity of British sunshine makes Londoners throw off the shitty mood and stay outside as long as possible.  Every grass verge is dotted with opportunistic sunbathers and the pavements of Soho are heaving with groups picnicking on blue-bagged off-licence tinnies. Sunny London is the best place in the world.   

I adore the buzz of urban springtime but coming from a semi-rural town in Yorkshire means every so often I crave the peace of countryside.   Fortunately my friends feel the same and yesterday we ran away from concrete and skyscrapers to Hastings, for a long walk along the coast.
I haven’t felt inspired by food for a while.  A combination of busyness, tiredness and being skint have meant a couple of months eating more for sustenance than pleasure but while walking I spotted wild garlic and took some home, eager to cook with something new.  

Foraging for wild food is well trendy right now and wild garlic is perhaps one of the easiest introductions.  It’s in season late February to late May and grows in woodland areas where bluebells are usually found.  It has long flat leaves and small white flowers but you’ll smell it before you see it.

Unlike cultivated garlic where you use the bulb, with wild garlic you eat the leaves.  I cooked it with asparagus, cream and lemon in a pasta dish along the lines of risotto primavera. Despite the cream and butter it was light and fresh with a subtle allium hum from the wild garlic and a crunch from the asparagus.  Really nice. 

Wild Garlic and Asparagus Pasta - Serves 2 generously

·       Enough tagliatelle or tripolini for 2 (around 120-150g per person)

·       A large bunch of wild garlic leaves, rinsed carefully and roughly chopped

·       Large bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off, sliced in half lengthways then and chopped into about 5 cm sections.

·       5 round shallots very finely diced

·       2 heaped tablespoons of butter       Olive oil

·       100 ml double cream

·       Zest  ½ lemon

·       Juice from ½ lemon

·       100 ml white wine

·       Salt and pepper

·       Parmesan to serve 

1)      Set a large pan of salted water to boil and add the dried pasta to cook according to instructions or until al dente (or how you like it).

2)      About 3 minutes before the pasta is done, add the chopped asparagus to the same pan.

3)      If the pasta and the asparagus finishes cooking before you finish the sauce, drain and reserve the cooking water. 

4)      In another pan (large enough to hold the cooked pasta and sauce) heat a splash of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter on a low/medium heat and add the finely diced shallots.

5)      Gently fry the shallots for about 7 minutes until translucent and soft, but not browned.

6)      Add the white wine to the shallots and crank up the heat, boiling vigorously until about half the liquid has evaporated before adding the zest and lemon juice. Whisk in the 2nd tablespoon of butter.

7)      Turn the heat down to medium and add the drained pasta and asparagus, the chopped wild garlic and the double cream. 

8)      Stir well.  Add a splash of the pasta cooking water if the sauce needs loosening.  Taste for seasoning and adjust.

9)      Serve straight away with parmesan.