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.
Asparagus with linguine
1 bunch asparagus
1 small onion
20mls olive oil
a small glass white wine
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 medium.
Wash 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.
There are two more cooking classes before we take a break and concentrate on the garden. There’s an Italian class on Saturday, May 7 and a Salad and Summer Food class on Saturday, May 28. If you would like to learn how to make different yummy salads, dressings and simple dinner dishes this is the class for you! If you’re interested please contact us by email or phone or drop by the shop.
Here’s hoping for an increase in temperature!
Lettercollum Kitchen Project,
22, Connolly Street, Clonakilty