Not so long ago a friend of mine took me to a secret woodland that lay hidden from the walkers of the nearby park. We followed an indiscriminate path that suddenly opened up in to a cathedral of trees and a carpet of bluebells and wild garlic. The scent was incredible (and my sense of smell is shocking) but it was the colours that moved me the most. It was as if the saturation was turned up wherever I looked as the sun streamed through the birch trees.
We were there to forage for wild garlic before we reached the end of it’s peak season. I’d been wanting to start foraging for food for a while and wild garlic was a good place to start since it’s an easy substitute for other fresh herbs like basil. It’s also incredibly simple to find since you’ll find the stuff in abundance in pretty much every woodland. Luckily Rebecca (an extremely talented photographer/blogger who took all of these amazing woodland photos you see in this post) knew the perfect patch that was off the beaten path and on a slope which meant there was little human or animal footfall which makes it a little nicer to eat!
I was planning on using the leaves in my recipe but you can add the flowers to salads to save any waste. Young leaves are the tastiest so I picked leaves with flowers that were newly opened or hadn’t quite opened yet. There was so much to choose from that I came away with a basketful – plenty to use for my pasta recipe!
You can use the leaves in so many different ways; pesto, dip, soup, you name it. I chose to reinvent a favourite pasta dish that I cook by introducing a few cupful of leaves hoping that it might elevate it a little. It definitely did the trick! There was more of a kick of flavour (I used kale in previous recipes) and the smell when cooking was delicious. Cooking with ingredients that I hand-picked made it a little more special and I can’t wait to head out and collect more before the season finishes in a few weeks.
I would recommend this dish for one of those spring evenings that has a chill in the air. We know this kind of evening well in Ireland; after a full day of sun the temperature suddenly drops and we find ourselves reaching for the winter blankets again. It’s warm, filling and a little bit indulgent but using foraged ingredients makes it a little less shameful!
Wild Garlic Chicken Pasta
Feeds 2 – 3 people – depending how hungry you are!
What You’ll Need:
- 2 x chicken breasts, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 1/2 cups penne pasta
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups of chopped wild garlic leaves
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Heat olive oil in a pan over a medium heat
- Add onion and stir for about 3 minutes
- Add chicken and stir until cooked all over
- Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute
- Add uncooked pasta, chicken stock, water, wild garlic and bring to boil
- Stir and bring to boil, then reduce to a lower heat, cover and leave to simmer for just over 20 minutes
- When all liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and stir in cheese, double cream and lemon juice
- Serve with crusty bread
I’ve made no secret of my love of St. George’s Market and after the loveliest trip on Saturday, I won’t be climbing down off my soapbox anytime soon. It’s the one place that is sure to pick me up on these ceaseless grey winter weekends when straying too far from the house is out of the question.
I dragged Andrew for a mooch around the stalls after lunch when I knew the crowds would have quietened down and he wouldn’t have to stress about pushing past a load of tourists hovering over loaves of soda bread. As I drooled past the display of cheese and chutneys, I made a bee line for the vegetable stands (I have eaten a lifetime of smoked cheddar over the holidays) where I knew I would be in safer hands.
I love buying my vegetables from the markets when I’m able to. Getting to meet the seller and have a conversation with them is such a rarity these days and I take real pleasure in getting to meet local business people. I picked up sweet potato, a massive bunch of fresh dill, onion, a load of asparagus and when I didn’t have enough change to cover it all, I was shooed away with a flick of a hand. That’s Belfast all over.
After I picked up my veggies I splurged on some salmon and had to restrain myself from buying a kilo of mussels and scallops. Fresh seafood is such a luxury for me and this year I am trying to introduce a little more in to my weekly cooking to try and inspire some new techniques. I can rely on the same dishes to carry me through sometimes (oh hey cottage pie) so a little shake up can only be a good thing.
Last night I unveiled the beauty and roasted the fish in foil slathered with a delicious marinade. It was extremely quick and easy that I’m even thinking of going completely wild and making fish cakes from scratch later in the week. With fresh breadcrumbs! Too much?
I’ve included the ridiculously simple recipe below in case you feel like trying something other than a stew/casserole/pie – unless you’re a much more accomplished chef than me and a recipe like this is laughable! Above all else if it encourages you to take a trip to your local markets or even just to the fishmongers down the road to have a chinwag about anything other than Brexit (fishmongers are quite passionate about EU quotas I feel so keep it light) then this would make me silly happy.
Happy Tuesday y’all!
Roasted Fresh Salmon & Veggies
- 600g fresh salmon fillet
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 150ml melted butter
- 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill
- Cherry tomatoes on the vine
- 1 large sweet potato
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- 10 asparagus stalks
- Cut the sweet potato in to chunks roughly an inch thick and drizzle with olive oil in a baking tray before sprinkling with cinnamon.
- Place in an oven heated to 200 C and leave for 40 minutes, shaking after 20 minutes.
- Mix the butter, sugar, lemon juice, dried herbs and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Lay the salmon in foil in a baking tray and pour the mixture over the salmon.
- Wrap the salmon up and place the cherry tomatoes beside the salmon in the tray. Drizzle with the tomatoes with oil and season with a little salt. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
- About 5 minutes before everything is ready boil the asparagus until just firm.
- Stuff your face.