Foraged Fritatta

The seedlings on my windowsill may be dawdling but the nettles are sprinting. Weeds are rampaging everywhere in the garden and there doesn’t seem enough time to tackle half of them. Eating the pesky things seems the best option. Along with last year’s chard (valiantly braving the elements while newer sowings take their time) and some wild garlic from the woods, one of my favourite ways of eating those nettle tops is in a fritatta.Frittata 3 AW (1)

 

I’m full of enthusiasm for similar mixes of greens at the moment, mainly ‘foraged’ from the garden. I glance out of the window and the garden still seems to offer meagre pickings. Yet there’s always a handful of greens to add to a quick lunchtime omelette or to wilt and mix with ricotta and parmesan for filling pasta shells. I might add some of last year’s Italian greens that are hanging on in there in the asparagus bed and a few dandelion leaves. Then there’s the tops of the Brussels flowers I grew last year, the plants are pretty much over and look very scruffy but I’m reluctant to pull them out while they’re adding to my colander of tasty, nutritious (and free!) greens.

Foraged Frittata

6 eggs (I often include goose eggs as they’re around at the moment and add a richness, their large yolks making the frittata SO yellow)

A colander of chard, nettle tops, wild garlic, whatever edible cultivated and wild green take your fancy.

I onion, chopped

A small bowl of grated parmesan.

Salt & pepper.

Olive oil.

Add a glug of olive oil to a frying pan and add the onion with a pinch of salt, then cook on a low heat slowly until it’s softened and deliciously sweet. Meanwhile wash the greens thoroughly in a colander then wilt in a pan. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the excess water from the greens then chop – I find this easy with scissors. Beat the eggs in a bowl, add the greens, parmesan, cooked onions and season.

Add another glug of olive oil to a frying pan, turn the heat to medium/high and add the egg mixture, Turn the heat down to low immediately and cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes until the frittata is almost set then place under a pre-heated grill until the top is set. Great eaten straight away but leftovers are lovely cold too.

Makes me relish the hungry gap!

Sicilian tuna pasta with wild garlic

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I’ve called this Sicilian tuna pasta, as although it uses a mix of my Cotswold store-cupboard basics and woodland greens, it reminds me of the sort of pasta dish enlivened with Arabic spices that Sicilians are so good at.

Sicilian fish and pasta dishes always transport me to the lovely holiday we had between the laid-back Sicilian island of Salina and the Baroque faded grandeur of southern Sicily when I was 5 months pregnant with Ruby. The simple dishes we ate, flavoured with freshly picked lemons, local herbs and wonderful ingredients from the sea were particularly enjoyed as I was so happy to be in the middle of my pregnancy, and loving the attention my bump attracted from exuberant, Italian mamas.

Back down to earth, this dish is very handy during a rainy half term week when I’m happier playing with my now 5 year old daughter and her friends and cousins and cooking for them than fitting in a shopping trip. All of the ingredients come from the store cupboard except basil which is now growing well on the windowsill and wild garlic which is thriving for a little longer in the woods and hedgerows.

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Serves 6

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

A bunch of basil leaves

2 400g tins plum tomatoes

2 x 200g tins tuna (sustainably sourced, pole & line caught) in olive oil

500g dried pasta of your choice

juice of 1 lemon

1 handful wild garlic leaves (chopped) and a few flowers

extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the drained oil from one of the tuna cans in a pan and cook the onion, chilli and cinnamon on a medium heat for 10 mins until the onion is softened and slightly sweet. Add the tomatoes, tuna (all drained) and a pinch of salt. Simmer for about 20 mins, taste for seasoning and break tomatoes up with a spoon. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Toss the pasta into the sauce with the basil (roughly torn), wild garlic leaves and the lemon juice, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, loosen with a little of the reserved cooking water if needed, check seasoning and serve with the wild garlic flowers scattered over.

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I’m sure the wild garlic is a very inauthentic touch if I’m associating this easy supper dish with Sicilian food. Having loved the imaginative culinary use of wild herbs in Sicily though, I like to think that if a Sicilian were visiting the Cotswolds in the very lush month of May, they wouldn’t be able to resist adding this fragrant freebie.

wild garlic egg-fried rice

I’d planned to make egg-fried rice with purple sprouting broccoli, but an impromptu walk in the garlic woods with friends led to a fragrant addition to our supper.

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This picture was taken in May last year and the garlic isn’t flowering quite as profusely yet. But there were lots of garlicky greens to gather as we walked down into the woods and nearer to the stream, Ruby found that the garlic flowers were just beginning to open. Her 2 year old friend gathered garlic leaves just as enthusiastically as us, before sitting down to happily remove her wellies and socks so that her leggings and feet could become more closely acquainted with the mud. We all had lots of fun.

Back home in the kitchen, I was as excited as ever to have a bag crammed full of nutritious and free greens. My friend Heidi used her wild garlic leaves in a lovely Moroccan inspired soup with chickpeas, saffron and tomatoes. But I was still in the mood for a Saturday night Chinese supper. Not authentically Chinese at all, I have to point out, but the sort of fragrant yet wholesome food I felt like.

As Ruby had been involved in gathering the ingredients, she tucked in to her supper packed with greens with enthusiasm. Not something that always happens in this kitchen.

It made use of our current Purple Sprouting Broccoli garden glut as well as the wilder glut in the woods and was very simple to cook. Ideal for a May day when we’d made the most of the sunnier parts of the day outside between showers.

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Wild garlic egg-fried rice

For 4 average appetites or 3 very hungry people

250 g brown rice

3 free-range eggs

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

2-3 teaspoons soy sauce (I use the Clearspring organic variety)

3 handfuls wild garlic leaves, chopped

1 handful wild garlic flowers

2 handfuls purple sprouting broccoli

Break the eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork. Heat a small amount of the oil in a large wok and stir-fry the broccoli briefly. Remove and reserve on a plate. Heat the remaining oil and stir-fry the rice. Add the soy sauce and wild garlic leaves, stirring – the heat of the wok will wilt the wild greens nicely. Add the broccoli, stir and push the rice mixture to one side of the wok. Quickly cook the eggs in a sort of omelette in the wok, then slice into thin shreds with your spatula or chop sticks and mix with the rice. Heap into bowls, scattering a few wild garlic flowers on top.

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If you want to make this dish more authentically Chinese you can of course use white rice and vary the oil. I’d normally add spring onions or Egyptian walking onions from the garden at the beginning of egg fried rice, but this time the wild garlic seemed to add plenty of that fresh allium flavour. Later in the summer I’ll probably make it with peas picked from the garden instead of the PSB and wild garlic.

We ate it with some spare ribs that I’d marinated and cooked in the oven, but this would make a good vegetarian dish on its own.

As it combines a seasonal garden glut with lots of wildly seasonal food, I’m entering it in the lovely Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season for May.

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