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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 20 June, 2019
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From the Garden: The Hungry Gap must be filled and this kale and gnocchi broth will do the job

Katie Sanderson cooked this recipe in the Kale episode of this season’s GROW COOK EAT and the reaction was amazing, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

THE HUNGRY GAP happens each year much later than people think, arriving in late spring and early summer when the last of the storage and larder crops are used up and there’s only a trickle of new season veg.  

April and May are peak Hungry Gap months, and it starts to really bite the closer we get to June when the trickle of veg turns to a steady flow of broad beans, peas, beets and courgette.

At HQ, we always think that the Hungry Gap forces us to be more creative in the kitchen – this is undoubtedly true but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re still very much looking forward to the influx of new season crops next month.  

I’ve a similar Hungry Gap problem here at home, though JB our Head Chef at GROW HQ would I am sure laugh at that idea – he has, after all, around 1,500 customers a week to feed, when I just have 4.

Still, things are getting awfully scarce here. The freezer is now empty of the three winter stalwarts – the tomato sauces, celery and French beans. All the spuds, garlic, leeks and onions are finished.

The last of the celeriac and parsnip were pulled from the ground a few weeks back, the purple sprouting broccoli plants are finished and the last squash came down from the top of the dresser about two weeks ago.

Even the chard, perpetual spinach and kale which were so abundant from the tunnel over the winter and spring have now bolted and I had to pull most of the plants last weekend. There are a few jars of cucumber pickle and courgette chutney in the press, but they hardly constitute a good meal (though they do help to make a fine sandwich).  

There is one tiny saving grace. Remarkably, I still have a large bucket of carrots in the garage which we might get another few weeks from. These were sown last May and I lifted the last of the crop from the ground about 3 weeks ago.  

A year after sowing, they are still pretty much perfect thanks to the mild winter we had. Last year I grew some dark purple carrots as well as the standard orange ones, and they seem to store well.

The key with them in the kitchen is to avoid some of the standard carrot applications such as stocks (they turn the stock purple) and soups (the flavour doesn’t work).  But they are brilliant roasted or as carrot ‘chips’, and indeed served raw.

Of course, where there are carrots, there can always be a slaw.  Lacking any spring cabbage I’ve been swapping in all sorts of brassicas as the ‘cabbage’ ingredient and to be honest, pretty much any of them will work.

Some thinly sliced kale or chard and/or the stalks from chard or pak choi which bring a nice bit of crunch.

The key to a good slaw I think is to season the veg really well, before adding a little mustard (half a teaspoon say) and use half and half yoghurt and mayo (homemade is best if you can).

The Basics: Make your own plant feed

Nettle tea is easy to make and is a great tonic for plants.

Chop fresh nettle stems and pack them into a bucket, covering with water.  Cover with a stone or slab to keep the nettles submerged in the water.

Leave it for 2-3 weeks.  The resulting feed will smell foul, but is dynamite for plants as it’s full of nutrients. To use, dilute ten parts water to one part nettle feed.  

This will be particularly beneficial for leafy plants such as brassicas since it’s nitrogen rich. Fruiting crops like tomatoes will benefit more from a potassium-rich feed like that made from comfrey.  

The process (and dilution rate) is the same to make comfrey tea.

Recipe of the Week: Easy Gnocchi With Kale Broth & Cais Na Tire Cheese

Katie Sanderson cooked this recipe in the Kale episode of this season’s GROW COOK EAT and the reaction was amazing.  

Not surprising as it looks brilliant and tastes delicious.

It’s also a good way to create a filling Hungry Gap dinner using kale. To minimise waste Katie suggested roasting the kale stalks in a really hot oven with some salt and pepper to use as a garnish. She calls them ‘poor man’s asparagus’.

I always try to use the kale stalks whenever I cook with kale rather than waste them – they can be chopped finely and added to pretty much any dish (even a coleslaw if chopped very very fine).  

Ingredients:

  •  500g Rooster or floury potato
  • 150g Plain flour

  • 1 egg plus one yolk

  • Salt and pepper

  • 60g kale (Cavolo nero)

  • 2 cloves Garlic

  • Cais na tire cheese

  • 2 Shallots

  • 600ml Veg stock   

  • Parsley

Directions: 

Bake the potatoes in a really hot oven – 200c for 30 min. Cut the spuds in half and scoop out the insides while still warm and push through a shimmy to make super smooth.  Add the flour, egg and seasoning.

Don’t work the dough too much roll into a sausage shape on a lightly floured surface and then cut into desired shapes. You could add herbs to this mixture if you would like.

Put a pot of water on the boil and add salt. Place the gnocchi in the pot in three separate batches.

The gnocchi are done when they rise to the surface.  In another pot heat some olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until slightly caramelized add the stock and the kale. Cook for a few minutes.

Keep back a small amount of the broth but roughly blitz the rest. I really like to have some different textures within the dish.

Place the broth in the bowl with some gnocchi some of the rougher broth on the top some herbs a good sprinkle of cheese and a few glugs of olive oil.

 Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY.

© GIY Ireland 2019 – all rights reserved.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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