The longer days mean the green things are kicking back into action in the garden. I even found enough nettles last week to make a soup — admittedly I had to search — which is a funny thing to do with nettles, as come another month and we’ll be tripping over the bloomin things.
Nettles apart, some green things soldier on through the winter here. The kale, spinach and chard have managed to quietly survive the colder months and now that there is more daylight the growth is taking off and we are out picking leaves again.
We put kale in soups, salad and stir-fries, it’s a very versatile, it’s also one of those ‘feel good’ vegetables, so wonderfully green that you know it’s good for your nutrition
My new favourite way to eat kale is with some pasta. My pasta cooking skills have come along way since I left home. It was one of the first things that I cooked; spaghetti buried in vegetables and sauce. The first time I went to Italy I thought they were very mean with the sauce and even meaner with the Parmesan cheese. I’ve since learnt to dress the pasta and use one or two key ingredients rather than everything that’s in the vegetable basket.
I have used orecchiette in this recipe, which look like little ears and scoop up the sauce beautifully but you could use other pasta shapes.
Try to co-ordinate cooking the pasta with making the sauce.
Put a big saucepan of water to boil, blanch the kale and then use the same water to cook the pasta, just add more salt. The pasta cooking time varies from brand to brand and also from shape to shape so check your packet for cooking times.
The fried breadcrumbs are known as ‘pangratto’, which translates as breadcrumbs but it’s also known as Poor Mans Parmesan. They are easy to make and give an interesting flavour and texture to the dish.
Orecchiette with Kale, Chilli and Garlic
500g kale, stems removed
3 cloves garlic
6 anchovies from a can
1 tap fennel seed
1tsp chilli flakes
2 slices old bread
200mls olive oil
150g grated Parmesan to serve
Put a large pot of water to boil. When it’s boiling, add 1tsp salt and the kale. Submerge the kale with the back of a spoon and when the water returns to the boil drain the kale and refresh under a cold tap.
Squeeze any excess water from the kale and slice into thin ribbons. Season with a little salt and put aside.
Remove the crusts from the slice of bread and buzz to crumbs in a food processor.
Heat a frying pan, add 25g butter and 25mls olive oil, when the oil and butter bubble up throw in the breadcrumbs and toss well. Cook the breadcrumbs on a medium high heat until golden and crispy. Put aside.
Peel the garlic and slice thinly, chop once or twice and put aside.
Bring the large pot of water back to the boil. Add 1dsp salt and the orecchiette. Give them a good stir.
Heat the frying pan, add 50mls olive oil and the garlic, fennel seeds and chilli flakes. Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes then stir in the anchovies. Stir the pan until the anchovies break down then stir in the shredded kale. Cook gently until the kale is heated through.
Strain the pasta into a colander. Tip the pasta into a bowl and then stir the kale through.
Drizzle over a little extra olive oil and sprinkle the crispy breadcrumbs over the top.
Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
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Lettercollum Kitchen Project, 22 Connolly Street, Clonakilty or email email@example.com. www.lettercollum.ie.