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Long before I was familiar with  “ramps” or “ramsons” {or wild leek, spring garlic, and wild onion for that matter} I was visiting the honeybees in the wood with my father-in-law.  I wandered off to admire the babbling brook when I stepped on a plant and suddenly the scent of woodsy garlic hit the air with a vengeance.

I came back and explained what happened to Michael and he enlightened me by saying that the plant was ‘wild spring garlic’ and to him it was a bit of a nuisance. Especially if it grew near the bee hives.  {garlic honey anyone? Actually, that kinda sounds good!}

I went home that afternoon and secretly marveled over the idea of ‘wild spring garlic’.  The following weekend, the little farmer and I packed up a basket and the garden shovel and we went down to collect some of this chive-y plant to use in a soda bread recipe.

Nowadays, Geoffrey and I have an annual outing for ramsons. We have found their haven in the wood, where the flowering onion grows madly and looks like a blanket of snow amidst the ivy entangled trees.

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We’ve done many things with these gems, wild garlic pesto is easy and lovely, wild garlic infused oil works perfectly, I’ve pickled the bulbs and used them for double dirty martinis. Today, I decided to throw them into our favourite go-to pasta. I usually use regular garlic and lemon zest, but switched it up with the ramsons and grapefruit zest. Wild garlic + grapefruit should really get a room together because they absolutely sing. Serve this simple pasta with rhubarb cordial like we did {or a lovely chilled rosé would be divine}

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Irish Ramson + Kale + Grapefruit Linguine

Serves 4

200g Linguine {other any pasta, even asian rice noodles would be nice}
1 chicken or veg stock cube
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
2-3 large ramson bulbs {or 4-5 small}
Handful of ramson flowers {rinsed thoroughly}
200g of blanched kale
1 tbsp grapefruit zest (or lemon zest)
100g grated parmigiano-reggiano (or more to taste)

1. Boil water then add stock cube and linguine.
2. While linguine is cooking, sauté ramson bulbs in olive oil over low heat for 5
minutes until golden.
3. Add kale and cook for another 5 minutes, tossing together gently.
4. Stir in grapefruit zest and 1/2 of the parmesan.
5. Strain linguine, reserving 1/2 cup of stock liquid.
6. Add linguine and reserved liquid to sauté pan, stir through.
7. Serve with remaining parmigiano-reggiano and dress with ramson flowers.

I have a few bits of bacchanalia to share as well. First of all, Donal Skehan has just launched a magazine! Aptly titled FEAST, it is a dinner journal filled with delicious, beautifully photographed Irish food stories. I have recently been contributing recipes + photographs to the positively divine My Little Box, part of My Little Paris. For the moment, the boxes which are similar to the Birch Box, but also filled with a lifestyle +food magazine are only available in France and Belgium, but will soon be expanding to other parts of the world.  I recently discovered Mimi Thorsson’s magnificent Manger blog and can’t get enough of her gorgeously documented life of convivial food and family in France. Beth of  Local Milk blog came to visit Ireland last week and didn’t want to go home. She is a contestant on the new Masterchef series stateside, tune in! Another American girl/soon-to-be-an-Irish-farmer’s-wife shares her recipe for Kombucha. On a non-food related note, I have finally found a store in Ireland that rivals my lingerie lady at Bloomies. This is big news, I tell you.  Dublin Lingerie Co. is an online shop that sells pretty + quality underpinnings {that fit!}.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013

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Perhaps the most traditional of Irish baked goods would be soda bread. Despite this obvious fact, I had never ventured down the magnificent road of soda bread-making until now. After a few {gentle} requests, I decided to get my feet wet this week with a beautiful and simple Avoca recipe…a traditional, bare-bones plain soda bread, which turned out wonderfully, and begged me to make more.

Because this bread can literally be made in minutes, I decided I would experiment by adding in a savoury ingredient or two as well as trying my mother-in-law’s favourite “spotted dog” variety. For the blog, I settled on this combination of wild garlic and flax seed, whose flavours (and health benefits) speak nicely together and are just strong enough to contend with the heavy texture of the soda bread itself.

First, we needed to go down to the wood to forage for wild garlic, which grows madly in our few acres of mossy damp soil that lies untouched on the River Shannon. This wild herb has long lush leaves similar to the Lily of the Valley, but has a distinctive garlic or chive scent. After cultivating a few handfuls of fresh stems, we made a quick trip to the local natural food store to replenish our store of flax seed in our pantry.

I’m a colossal fan of flax. It is considered a superfood and has tremendous benefits because it is loaded with omega-3’s and antioxidants. Some even say it is one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. All I know is that it tastes kinda nutty (love a nutty) and if it can make us healthier, why not add it to an already well-appointed soda bread?

As we ambled through the woodland acreage, we spotted the wild garlic making its home next to tree roots, ferns and ivy…

We gathered the bright green leaves and brought them home for a wash and a fine chop

Then it was time to mix up all the ingredients, pat it into a round and cut a deep cross on it

(to keep the fairies out!)

 

I find it is best fresh out of the oven slathered with our farmhouse honey butter, but any butter will do…in fact, it really doesn’t need anything….just break a piece off and enjoy.

Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Sonia Mulford Chaverri.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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