They say necessity is the mother of all invention and there is nowhere where this is more true than in the kitchen. Well, in mine anyway. It’s true, I am always going on about how we should all plan our food more and I do like to try to, so strictly speaking I shouldn’t be needing any necessity inspired invention right? Cue ironic laugh. It is hard for me to admit but there are always times when even the best laid plans (i.e. mine) go astray. Particularly when you have to rely on things like public transport. We’ll leave it at that, suffice to say that sometimes, even here, it’s exit plans; enter necessity and with offspring.
In my travel worn state on Monday, (just back from our holidays so shouldn’t complain too much) I was craving some really tasty, healthy and flavourful food before drinking a large glass of the holiday wine and crawling back to bed. Trouble was, the cupboards did not look very obliging and the shops not very appealing. I decided to wing it with whatever I had to hand, which was predominantly a large bag of freshly picked lemons brought back with me. And of course, it being my cupboards we’re talking about, lots of tins of chick peas and family sized bags of pasta. Armed with some ricotta and tenderstem broccoli from the local farm shop, I thought I’d have a go at rustling some pasta up. It was the best idea. If you’ve never had tender stem, or broccolini as it’s called elsewhere, give it a try. It cooks much quicker than ordinary broccoli (so be warned) and you don’t need to do any prep, you just eat the whole lot. A cross between calabrese broccoli and chinese kale, it is full of folate, vitamin C and fibre amongst other things and tastes remarkably similar to asparagus but can be easier to get hold of than that most seasonal of seasonal veggies. If by any chance you can’t get any, feel free to switch in green asparagus instead (if you’re in season) or try calabrese broccoli instead although you will have to get out your knife and do some chopping I’m afraid. And it will taste slightly different but the secret ingredient to this sauce (and actually to an awful lot of my food- don’t tell anyone) is delicious, super healthy, fresh lemon juice so you shouldn’t notice the difference too much. But a word to the wise, make sure you don’t scrimp on it. Buy really nice big lemons and to really get the most out of them roll them on the kitchen counter top several times, then pierce them a couple of times with a knife and shove them in the microwave for 20 seconds on full power. You’ll be amazed by how much more juice you’ll get out of them. The whole meal shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to make, but with the lashings of fresh lemon juice you’ll feel like you’ve just had a lovely pasta supper in a restaurant in a piazza in Italy. Almost worth planning for a plan free night more often then.
Lemony Tenderstem Broccoli and Chick Pea Pasta Recipe
3 cloves of garlic
one to two good pinch(es) of dried chilli flakes
3 tbsps fresh thyme, chopped
100g ricotta cheese
2 x 400g tins of chick peas
juice of 2-3 fresh lemons
400g tenderstem broccoli (broccolini)
3-4 tbsps creme fraiche (or soured cream)
2 tbsps olive oil, more to drizzle over
650g dried pasta
Parmesan/ pecorino cheese
Put a pan of salted water on to boil.
Start by crushing your garlic. Warm the oil very gently and add the chilli flakes and the garlic and allow to cook without colouring for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat.
Juice one lemon into a bowl, then mix in the thyme, chick peas and the garlic/ chilli olive oil.
Mash just over half of this mixture to get a smoothish paste with the ricotta and creme fraiche.
When the water comes to the boil, add the tenderstem broccoli and cook for two minutes. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and refresh in cold water.
Throw the pasta into the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, remove a mug full of the cooking water and keep to one side.
When the pasta is cooked, strain then return to the pan. Turn the heat off, but put the pan on the same ring to benefit from the residual heat.
Stir through the mashed chick pea mixture, the unmashed chick peas and the tender stem broccoli. Loosen the mixture by adding splashes of the pasta water until you get the right consistency.
Sprinkle over some sea salt, pepper, extra lemon juice and parmesan/ pecorino shavings and serve immediately with a spicy green salad.