SEASONAL SUPPERS

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD-FILE - JP McMA­HON

Sweet woodruff is pop­ping up in gar­dens and wood­lands all over the coun­try. Finally, spring has ar­rived. With the re­cent weather, the sea­sons are an aw­ful mess. Cold in spring, hot in au­tumn, the plants re­ally don’t know when to ger­mi­nate and grow. This is not only a prob­lem for us, but also in coun­tries fur­ther afield, such as Aus­tralia.

As you read this, I’m cook­ing out­side Ade­laide on Kan­ga­roo Is­land. It’s au­tumn here but it’s still dry. There’s been no rain for months. While Aus­tralia does have very dry summers, the wet season is im­por­tant for re­ju­ve­nat­ing plant life. Dan Hunter, of Brae Restaurant out­side Mel­bourne ( it’s 44 in the San Pel­le­grino top 50 restau­rants), says he doesn’t know how farm­ers keep go­ing with no rain ( Jan­uary has the low­est rain­fall in 10 years). While we don’t seem to have this prob­lem in Ire­land, we do have other weather is­sues. I’ve seen sweet woodruff in February most years. Nor­mally, it’s be­gin­ning to flower as we get close to May.

I love to com­bine it with an­other won­der­ful May in­gre­di­ent, Ir­ish asparagus. Drum­mond House ( pro­duc­ers of asparagus) tell me that de­spite the weather, it’s com­ing soon. I can’t wait to use it in Aniar. Maybe with a woodruff tea emul­sion and some toasted pump­kin seeds.

Woodruff tea is an an­cient Ir­ish herbal in­fu­sion for many mal­adies, but I pre­fer to drink it for its sweet al­mond and marzi­pan flavour. Woodruff grows well in your back gar­den, so it’s not nec­es­sary to go wan­der­ing into the woods in search of it. I planted one a cou­ple of years ago and now its in full flight around the gar­den ( some still see it as a weed).

Pick and dry the leaves and in­fuse into boil­ing water, as you would make tea. For 100ml woodruff tea, I blend in 200g of but­ter. Season with a lit­tle sea salt. Peel and grill or blanch your asparagus. Toast your pump­kin seeds ( or any seeds or nuts for that mat­ter) and then serve the lot to­gether. Woodruff is also a great ad­di­tion to desserts or lemon­ades. Al­ways use it dried, as the flavour is more intense.

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