Nettle and Lardon Frittata….

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No sting in this tail.....!

This was one of those days when you get into a sort of gardening groove and you want to use something that is wild and free – and there – well frankly with our garden – all around – are bags of nettles! I have been beating and nobbling and chopping the swines down for years. And then this morning I found myself reading Nigel Slater‘s Kitchen Diaries 2 with regard to black pudding – see previous posts. By sheer fluke i turned over the page and there, lo and behold, was an article on nettles! I put on a Sting cd and read on….(ouch!).

The result was – I decided to involve them in tonight’s supper – I was already planning a frittata – so it just became even more interesting than normal. It is ‘rocket sciencely simple’ (not easy to say when you have had a glass or three of shiraz).

For four –

Pan fry a finely chopped onion until translucent. Add a 75 gm pack of pancetta or lardons and continue til it is nicely browned. Put to one side.

I used about 50 gm of nettle tops – washed and rinsed well. I pan fried them lightly in olive oil til they wilted. Set them to one side and let them cool. Nettles do not wilt as much as spinach so you get a little more. But of course – you could use spinach if you can’t get nettles.

For the tomato sauce – pierce a green chilli – add to a saucepan with a good sprinkle of dried oregano, a chopped garlic clove and a finely sliced, deseeded green chilli plus at least two tbsp of olive oil. Then add a 400 gm tin of chopped tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer and leave for around 20 minutes with a lid on. Taste – add some tom sauce if you like or a tsp of sugar.

Ok – I used 500 gm of spaghetti cooked as per the packet – then drained. In a jug I popped 2 eggs and about 100 gm of milk plus some black pepper, a dash of salt and a good handful of parmesan cheese grated. I mixed this all together with a fork.

I popped the spag into a large bowl and stirred in the egg mixture. Then I put a large frying pan on the stove with a dash of olive oil. I then added half of the spaghetti mixture to the pan – flattened it down with a plate. Into the centre I added the bacon mixture and the finely chopped nettles. Then I carefully add the rest of the spaghetti – pressed down again with the plate – so that the filling is all covered.

Pan fry it for about 5 minutes til it looks a little browned underneath – use a slice to lift it to check. Then whizz it under a preheated grill to brown the top a little. It is just a matter of being patient and attentive. Put on some good music and watch – when it it is as you want it – pop a large plate over the frying pan and carefully flip it so that the fritatta ends up on the plate.

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Bring to the table – use a sharp knife to cut wedges and serve with the tomato sauce. This is frighteningly simple and scarily tasty! The pancetta and nettles blend so well.

A supper with real bite!

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HARD TIMES AND SARDINE SPAGHETTI…..

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One dish using tinned sardines that has always been a cheap and delicious stand by for me is one I created years ago when times were hard – cue violins and characters dressed in Dickensian rags. Well, they were not that hard, but you know what I mean – penny-pinching, struggling student etc etc….yawn,, get on with it! OK… Basically, it is pasta with a sardine sauce.

Tin of sardines in oil or tomato / Capers / pinch of dried oregano /Chilli flakes/  Olive oil / Tomato puree or sauce /  Spaghetti / Salt and pepper.

Strip the spines out of the sardines and add to a bowl. Add a good teaspoon of rinsed capers, a glug of olive oil, a sprinkle of chilli flakes, the oregano and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix together, breaking up the sardines. Add a dash of tomato puree or tomato sauce. Stir into hot spaghetti and you will not regret it! Sometimes I add a few fresh herbs that might be loitering with intent – e.g. basil or dill or coriander – all work well.

And, smelly as they are when cooking, it is worth giving the fresh ones a go. Open all the windows first though and warn the neighbours! Sprinkle them with rock salt and leave for an hour or two in a coldish place. Whatever you choose to cook them on, griddle pan, frying pan, plancha or barbecue, ensure the pan is very hot before starting. Take the sardines from the salt but do not brush off all the salt. Cook them for 4 minutes per side, but do not lift them whilst they are cooking. Be brave! If you move them too much they will split. Once you reckon they are a little burnt, turn them over and cook the same way. Serve with fresh lemon. Folk in the med do not gut or fillet the sardines. No need. Though I see that supermarkets are now selling them ready gutted, which might be up your street. However, whole ones taste best to me.