Ramp up your spring menu

The first ramps of the season have finally started to appear at farmers’ markets, signalling that we may actually get a summer.

Ramps, in case you don’t know, are a wild onion similar to green onions or scallions but with flat, broad light green leaves with a purple tint. They have a delicious, uniquely strong onion-garlic flavour. They are sometimes called a wild leek and they can be used in similar ways. Ramps won’t be around for long so you may want to consider some preservation options.

A great place to start is to pickle the little devils. In a brine of sugar, water and good quality white wine vinegar with a kick from red pepper flakes, coriander, fennel and mustard seeds, the garlicky stalks will be a wicked addition chopped and added to your summer potato salads, served alongside some delicious charcuterie or even dropped into a Caesar.

Not feeling quite that ambitious? Try making a compound butter with the fresh ramps by taking 1 lb. of softened unsalted butter, and with a rubber spatula fold in the juice and zest of half a lemon, along with about six ramps washed and finely chopped and a pinch each of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Use a piece of parchment paper to roll the mixture into a log or freeze it by the tablespoon full on a parchment lined baking sheet.

When the ramp infused butter blobs are frozen solid transfer them to a freezer bag or a sealed container and store frozen for up to six months. Serve with fresh bread, use to sauté your seasonal asparagus or place under the skin of a whole chicken when you’re roasting it. Toss a couple into your mashed potatoes or risotto.

For the ultimate in rampy decadence drop some on top of a perfectly grilled steak and let it melt into the meat as you serve it. When you are enjoying an abundance of fresh ramps try adding them to a fresh carbonara sauce.

Start by sautéing pancetta with a splash of olive oil until crisp, add a few red pepper flakes — drain any excess fat and remove from the heat. In a bowl whisk together three whole eggs with three extra egg yolks, a decent splash of whipping cream, a handful of grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper.

Meanwhile, in salted boiling water cook your favourite pasta and 30 seconds before the pasta is cooked toss in a cup of frozen peas — drain the pasta and peas and return them to the pot. Add the bacon along with a bunch of finely sliced ramp bulbs and stir vigorously while you quickly pour in the egg mixture. The residual heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and melt the cheese, creating a creamy sauce. Serve it immediately and prepare for the standing ovation.

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