As we walk, hand in hand, on paths through secluded woodland, the smell of garlic begins to grow thick in the air. Nothing smells more inviting, more compelling. The sunshine has been blissful these last two weeks, and, finally, after much anticipation, the cherry blossoms across from my little home have begun to flower in a delightful, voluptuous manner, showering all those who pass below it in blushing pink confetti. I could easily sit and admire these beauties for hours at a time, but I fear that our little labrador, who has come to stay with us for a couple of weeks, would not permit this meditative act. Instead, she would much prefer to discover new footpaths through the bluebell carpeted woods nearby, jumping into any dark, murky puddles that cross her way, and, of course, chasing the ‘sally squirrels’ back up their trees. You can only imagine the utter bliss and laughter her presence has provided us.
So, as you can imagine, most evenings are now spent venturing through fields and across the Peaks, enjoying the soothing sounds of running water and the sight of playful lambs. But that bewitching smell seems to guide us everywhere as we find ourselves, somehow, coming across that same wonderful spot in the clearing of the woods again and again, where wild garlic grows abundantly, spreading intoxicating aromas for us to inhale. As I have mentioned before, the weather has been absolutely glorious, so much so that I have had this burning desire to enjoy pasta with something fresh and slightly sharp, to completely comfort me after a long evening hike. It may seem rather strange, and perhaps wrongful, but I have drawn up a relationship between pasta, the blissfulness of longer days and the sight of greenery on the trees.
No too long ago, when my mother came to visit me, she came baring the most wonderful gift in the world; an entire kilo of za’atar. Naturally, I was delighted, and couldn’t wait to begin spreading it on hot bread with labneh or cream cheese, or enjoy it with goat’s cheese and a hint of honey, as I had done back home. Sprinkling it around can bring almost any dish to an entirely different level of heavenly. I wanted to play with it, bring out its character, complementing other spices and herbs of the East-Mediterranean with it, as well as having it enrich the seasonal produce we have here in the UK. Perhaps this recipe is more suitably termed an amalgamation of cultures and cuisines, rather than anything else. I am no purist when it comes to food, and I am certainly not critical of those adventurous enough to go against the current and experiment with exotic ingredients that, because of our day and age, are fortunately available to us. Rather it strikes me as delightful, and as utterly inspiring.
Cumin-Scented Wild Garlic and Feta Ravioli with a Pea-shoot + Mint Pistou Butter
Cooking time: 2+ hours
Serves: 4-6 people
These raviolis are beautifully savoury and slightly sharp. As for the pistou butter (the Provençal cousin of pesto): it is delicious simple fried on its own, as in this recipe, or melted with a drizzle of heavy cream, to make a lovely rich sauce. Wonderful with chicken and white fish.
A word of warning, however: when collecting wild produce, please ensure that it harvested in areas where dogs have not ventured. Also, ensure that you inspect and wash them thoroughly before use.
400g Italian 00 flour, plus extra
4 eggs, large
pinch of salt
120g wild garlic, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
60g wild asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
100g feta, crumbled
1tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground finely
1 tbsp butter
1/8tsp black pepper
1/2tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
4tbsp pea shoots, finely chopped
2tbsp mint, finely chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1 1/2tbsp za’atar
1tsp ground coriander
1/2tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground finely
3-4 bulbs of wet garlic (regular garlic can be substituted)
1tsp thyme, finely ground
1tsp oregano, finely ground
2-3 strands of saffron, ground with a pestle
200g butter, room temperature (see: cultured butter)
50ml of white wine
juice and zest of half a lemon
pinch of salt
1/4tsp black pepper
Begin by making the pistou butter. Place all the ingredients, except the butter into a food processor and blend until relatively smooth (a few small chunks of herbs will be fine). Place the butter into the processor and blend until ingredients are incorporated. Take the butter out of the processor and place onto a sheet of cling film. Roll up like a sausage with a 2 inch diameter and place into the refrigerator (Note: the butter will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator or about 1 month in the freezer).
Next, wash the food processor and place the ingredients for the filling into the processor and blend until incorporated but still has some texture to it. Place into a bowl and place into the refrigerator.
Now, mix the flour and salt together before pouring onto a clean top and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs and place these within the well. Using a fork, whisk the eggs gently, adding the flour from the sides. Once the the dough begins to take on a more solid form and is not too sticky to touch, begin to use your hands to knead the pasta dough. You will need to knead for about 10-15 minutes (Note, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour, a small bit at a time; and if the dough is too dry, add a tiny amount of water). When you have finished kneading, the dough should feel elastic. Roll into a ball and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
When ready, take out the dough and cut into four pieces (tip: make sure your pasta pieces are still wrapped in cling film so they will not dry out whilst on the counter). Using a pasta machine, roll each dough piece, one at a time through the different settings from the widest down to the thinnest, before placing on to clean surface.
Place one to two teaspoon amounts of filling about 1/4inch below the bottom of the pasta sheet, approximately 1/2inch between each amount. Brush a tiny amount of cold water onto all sides of the filling before placing the other half of the pasta sheet over them. Press around each filling, ensuring there is no air trapped inside, before pressing down all the sides and making sure the ravioli is sealed and cannot leak. Cut into desired shapes and dust with flour.
Boil some water with a pinch of salt. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the ravioli, a few at a time, to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a warm plate. Meanwhile, cut desired amount of pistou butter (approximately 1/4 of the roll for 2 portions) and add to a frying pan on medium heat, allow to fry for 1-2 minutes. Take off the heat and pour over the ravioli, serve with parmesan and some black pepper.
Thank you for reading.