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 and 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; as it’s in the tunnel, the rocket 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; 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 for this edition 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 have been kale pesto or nettle pesto, however, 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 or 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!
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.
Rocket and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
15g pumpkin seeds
25g Parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves garlic
100ml olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
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.
Happy Easter everyone. The spring is well and truly here. We’re ready and eager to open the shop; we’re going to have a pile of spinach! We’re aiming for Tuesday, April 6, and unless the virus does a back flip, we’ll be there!
Hoping to see you all soon.
Lettercollum Kitchen Project
22 Connolly Street, Clonakilty
Ph 023 8836938