Smoky asparagus + wild garlic bucatini with almonds
Serves 2 or 4 as a starter
- 200g bucatini pasta, or other noodle shape, such as spaghetti or linguine
- Handful of wild garlic leaves (about 10g) (or a small bunch of chives and 2 handfuls of spinach)
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves (see above)
- 40g skin on almonds
- 1 tsp Pure Sea Salt Smoked Over Oak
- 1 unwaxed lemon, cut in half
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 400g), tough ends trimmed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- parmesan, to serve
- Black pepper & Pure Sea Salt in a Finer Flake, to serve
Everything in this dish shuts the door firmly on the dark, cold months of Winter. Look for wild garlic in damp shaded areas but wash the leaves really well before cooking with them as the punchy green herb is typically abundant in dog walking spots. If you can’t find wild garlic, or it’s out of season, use 3 garlic cloves instead of two, along with spinach and chives (suggestion outlined in method).
Most of the asparagus is given a flash in the pan with the aromatic ingredients but the remaining spears are peeled, before being entwined with the pasta once it’s cooked. The residual heat frightens the green ribbons into tenderness, without sacrificing any of the freshness.
Fill a large saucepan with water and salt the water generously. Place onto the hob to come to the boil.
Meanwhile, wash the wild garlic in plenty of cold water, then spin dry and roughly chop. Set aside. Alternatively, if you’re cooking this without wild garlic, wash and spin the chives and spinach, then roughly chop.
Finely slice the garlic cloves, and roughly slice the almonds. Sprinkle half of the smoked salt over the almonds, then chop into the nuts to roughly combine. Transfer the garlic and smoky almonds to a small bowl. Cut the pointed end off of one lemon half, then finely chop into rounds, removing the pips as you go. Finely chop the slices, almost to a chunky paste, skin pith and all. Set the other lemon half aside to squeeze over the pasta once it’s cooked.
To prepare the asparagus, set 2 spears aside. Cut the remaining ends into thin, 1 cm rounds, leaving 3cm of the feathery tips. Cut the tips in half lengthways. Peel the reserved 2 spears into thin ribbons, using a vegetable peeler and set aside in a small bowl.
By now the water should have come to the boil. Add the pasta, and use tongs to submerge every noodle, and swirl in the water to make sure they don’t stick to one another. Cook according to packet instructions.
While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and almond mixture to the pan and fry, stirring regularly for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is intensely fragrant and the almonds have started to deepen in colour. You should be enveloped by the heady scent of the smoked salt straight away. Add the chopped lemon to the frying pan, along with the asparagus pieces (but not the ribbons) and wild garlic (or spinach and chives). Fry, stirring occasionally, to make sure nothing catches. When the wild garlic (or spinach) is wilted and the asparagus is tender, after about 3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.
Scoop out about 200ml of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta in a colander, then return to the saucepan along with asparagus and wild garlic mixture in the frying pan. Over a low heat, add the pasta cooking water and turn continuously with tongs until a creamy sauce coats the pasta. Remove from the heat and add the asparagus ribbons, squeeze over the reserved lemon half and stir to combine.
Divide the pasta between warm bowls and scatter over the remaining smoked salt. Finely grate some parmesan over the top of each bowl just before serving, and finish with some freshly ground cracked black pepper.