A delicious, one pan sausage and sticky onion bake

Jess Murphy: Look to the garden for fresh inspiration and free ingredients

Nettle socca  

Nettle socca  

 

I love spring more than all the other seasons. There’s something exciting about it and it’s not all to do with the grand stretch in the evenings. You never know what will grow first in spring, but you can most definitely expect wild garlic and young nettles to make an appearance.

I don’t remember wild garlic or nettles from my childhood – the wild herb I remember most from growing up is watercress and how it used to grow in streams and brooks, prompting arguments over who had ownership of the best patch of it – but I love cooking with these Irish spring staples.

Nettles are rich in iron and, picked young and tender, there’s nothing quite like them. Just watch your fingers because even the baby ones sting.

When you come to a certain age the fruit-meat combo is something quite magical, like ham and pineapple on pizza. Everyone loves that now, right?

I love the first go at the season but after that, the recipes can get a bit, well, samey. The first of the nettles are only about a week or so away, so this week I’m making delicious little socca (chickpea flour fritters), which, for me, are the best way of cooking nettles.  

When I was young, my grandmother used to make us curried sausages using curry powder, onions and raisins. As a child, the fact that she used to put raisins in a savoury dish repulsed me, but when you come to a certain age the fruit-meat combo is something quite magical, like ham and pineapple on pizza. Everyone loves that now, right?

I once interviewed a chef who got the job just by mentioning the fact that she loved pickled nectarines with roasted pork. Nowadays people will know her as Crazy Red (Hannah O’Donnell), prominently mentioned on the Instagram page of Kai, our restaurant. She really lives up to her name, and cooking with her is a real pleasure. 

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I have never been able to remake the curried sausages the way my grandmother used to – and I’ve given it a good go. Instead, I have my go-to sheet pan sausages with sticky onions which gives the right kick of sweetness alongside the sausages.

I first had this kale salad in San Francisco. “Oh please! Raw kale salad,” I muttered under my breath, my eyes rolled to the back of my head. “Hippies!” Well I had it, and it was amazing and I was forced to admit that it’s worth repeating, so here’s my take on it for you. Enjoy

NETTLE SOCCA  

Ingredients 
500g fresh spring nettles  
3 cloves of garlic, chopped  
50g dill, chopped  
50g parsley, chopped  
100g chickpea flour  
2tsp of extra virgin olive oil 
100ml of water  
White pepper and salt 

Method
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Remove the nettle leaves from their stalks – wear gloves to protect your hands. Blanch for 20 seconds and then plunge into iced water. Strain using an old tea towel, squeezing to remove as much moisture as possible. Next, chop the strained leaves with the garlic, dill and parsley.  Add the chickpea flour to a bowl and whisk in the water and olive oil until there are no lumps. Put the nettles and herbs in this mix and allow to sit for an hour before ladling onto a hot frying pan in small amounts – around the size of a beer mat – and fry like a pancake. I love to serve this with whipped St Tola goat cheese and baby beets.     

SHEET PAN SAUSAGES WITH STICKY ONIONS

Sheet pan sausages with sticky onions
Sheet pan sausages with sticky onions

Ingredients
8 large roam-free pork sausages  
10 small onions, peeled  
1 stick of rosemary  
4tbsp Buckfast mustard  
25ml honey
Chopped thyme or curly parsley, to garnish 

Method
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl and then spread out evenly on a parchment-covered baking tray. Place in the oven for around 20 mins or until your sausages are browned and cooked through. Garnish with your choice of herb and serve.        

BLACK KALE CAESAR SALAD

Black kale Caesar salad
Black kale Caesar salad

Ingredients
200g sourdough croutons 
400g kale 
150ml mayonnaise  
1 large dash of Worcestershire sauce  
20g of anchovies   
2 lemons (for zest and juice) 
Black pepper  
1tbsp Dijon mustard  
200g Parmesan 
A few rounds of pickled red onion for colour

Method
If you are making croutons, you’ll need to cut some stale sourdough into cubes. Dress with Italian herbs (such as oregano and basil), olive oil, butter and salt. Bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes at 150°C. 

For the dressing, place the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, lemon zest and juice, and Dijon in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Remove the big, tough stalks from the kale and place the remaining leaves in a mixing bowl. Toss with the dressing. Add the croutons and Parmesan to the mix. Scatter the red onion over the top and serve immediately in a large family-style bowl.

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