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Faster pasta

TEN MINUTES TO A FILLING MEAL

It’s cheap, easy and cooks in 10 minutes – who could be without pasta? Another great virtue is that it makes the best use of even the smallest of crops.


Pasta with salmon, artichokes & pea shoots

Pea shoots
Twinkle pea shoots in January

This one was assembled from New Year leftovers and pea shoots that were in the conservatory – the artichokes were on offer at Lidl.

  • Smoked salmon (leftovers or off-cuts)
  • Sour cream and chive dip (or any similar party leftover; Caesar salad dressing works well)
  • 1 jar grilled antipasti artichokes in olive oil, drained (optional)
  • 1 seed tray of 3″-4″ high pea shoots, freshly cut (or 4oz cooked frozen peas)
  • Pinch black pepper and lemon pepper
  • Pasta

Prepare the sauce ingredients: cut the salmon and artichokes into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta and when boiling, cook as per packet instructions – less two minutes.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and put it back into the pan. Then add the other ingredients, except the pea shoots.

On a low heat, warm the dish through until the sauce is hot and the salmon just pink. Make sure the pasta is cooked to your liking (al dente is best). Finally, add the pea shoots just before serving and stir through.


COLD WEATHER PASTA WITH SMOKY BACON

Cavolo nero
Cavolo nero

Hardy standbys, black kale (Cavolo nero) and chard, form the bulk of the autumn/winter crop – and they start to sprout again in spring.

Kale has a strong flavour, and is partnered best with equally robust ingredients. As ever, if you don’t have the right amounts, use what you have – broccoli or dark cabbage wouldn’t go amiss here.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter
  • 8 rashers lean smoky bacon, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, roasted whole then crushed
  • 200g/8oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 bunches kale, stems removed, leaves sliced or torn into pieces
  • 1 bunch chard
  • Black pepper
  • 75g pasta per person

 Sauté the bacon in the oil/butter gently until almost crisp, then add garlic and mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until their moisture is released and they’re lightly browned.

Prepare chard by removing the leaves from the stems, chopping the stems into bite-sized pieces.

Add your pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook as per packet instructions.

Add the kale, chard stems and pepper to the bacon pan, and sauté for about 8 minutes. Add splashes of water, or stock, if the pan seems dry.

Lastly, add the chard leaves and cook until wilted (less than a couple of minutes). By this time, the kale should be tender.

Drain the pasta and add the bacon/veg sauce to the pasta pan, mix well and serve.


ROCKET PESTO WITHOUT A FOOD PROCESSOR

Rocket
Large bag of wild rocket (and bought pine kernels)

My 1970s food processor bit the dust, leaving me with a sackful of rocket. Who said pesto had to be smooth?

  • Rocket, leaves only – remove stems and tough mid-ribs
  • 1 bag pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic, either crushed raw, or chopped and pre-roasted
  • Fresh Parmesan, Gran Padano or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

In an electric mixer, place a thick layer of washed leaves, grated cheese and pine nuts. Add a slug of olive oil and mix on high. The leaves will be bashed, the cheese creamy and pine nuts probably untouched.

Keep adding other layers until the main ingredients are incorporated. The oil amount is critical. Too much and it will be greasy, too little and it will stick together in a clump.

Once a good consistency, add the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes to taste. (I used about 6 cloves and 4 tomatoes, but I like them strong.)


BLANCHING AND FREEZING KALE

Kale
Cavolo nero and Red Russian kale

Preparing kale is tedious. The ribs are tough – you need to strip the bubbly leaves off them.

Make a small rip either side of the rib, then hold it firmly in one hand, while running the other hand up to the top. This keeps the edible part in one piece.

After thoroughly washing the leaves, blanch them in boiling water until they go limp, then plunge them into a sink full of iced water to stop the cooking process.

When cool, drain off excess water, tightly pack into containers and freeze.

PASTA, KALE AND GARLIC

Use your blanched kale in this quick, Italian-style recipe:

In a tablespoonful of olive oil, gently fry 2-4 sliced garlic cloves, 25g pine kernels (I added a few sliced runner beans as I’d picked them too) and cook until tender. Add blanched kale and heat through.

A good accompaniment to strong meats, or as a pasta sauce with added Parmesan.