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Garden Cafe Recipe: Pasta, peas, pecorino and lemon

Our award-winning Garden Cafe has released a cookbook! Written by head chef George Ryle, ‘A Year in the Kitchen’ offers a look behind the scenes at the Garden Cafe and a chance to learn some of George’s recipes, tips and secrets to cooking well with the seasons: from summer skate and samphire to mastering the best pork chop crackling. Here George shares a recipe for spring.

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Pasta, peas, pecorino and lemon

Serves 4

For the pasta dough:
300g ‘00’ flour
100g semolina
200g whole eggs

For the sauce:
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
200g fresh peas, podded
150g pecorino, grated
(plus however much you want
to grate on top at the end)
1 lemon
Olive oil

Our use of pasta at the Garden Café has been nothing short of prolific. In fact, in a slightly surreal encounter, when asked what sort of food we do by a member of the royal family, one of our chefs boldly stated; ‘light stuff, mostly pasta’.

And, who doesn’t love pasta?

In all its forms it is the ultimate food of satisfaction, food that makes you nod your head in agreement; with its basic and simple charm. Gratification on a plate. On the menu at the restaurant we make our pasta fresh, in various shapes and sizes depending on the sauce. If you have a pasta machine at home then definitely give it a go, if you have the time. Personally, I find it a satisfying, almost therapeutic process; give yourself the time and the space to make it an activity, a project that you are looking forward to doing. It has to be said that it is less therapeutic and fun at work when you have to roll and cut 25 portions of pasta at 11 am, whilst trying to keep an eye on three other jobs. Fear not though, if you don’t have a pasta machine or the energy or time to make fresh pasta, then dried pasta is fine. Just make sure that you that you get your hands on some that is good quality, preferably one with a matte, slightly rough surface. It will encourage the sauce to cling to it. You will definitely notice the difference.

The sauce here is really straightforward. It sings all of the high notes of those early summer weeks, lazy days and hazy nights, energy and frenzy abound – a good plate of pasta for your lunch, sitting outside, in good company, all washed down with wine; good white wine. You can picture the scene, right?

This particular shape of pasta is called maltagliati, which translates as ‘badly cut’. They are little irregular shapes and sizes, cut or torn away from the main sheet. It’s a fun shape and one that, for some reason, works especially well for this dish. But if you prefer a different shape of pasta then by all means go for it.

Ideally, the pasta dough wants to be made the day before it is going to be eaten, but at least 6 hours before. It needs a rest after all that kneading. To make the dough, mix the flour and semolina together in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs together thoroughly. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour the eggs in a little at a time. After adding each splash of egg you need to incorporate some of the flour, then add more egg and incorporate more flour and continue in this rhythm until all the egg and flour are incorporated together. Then tip it out onto a clean work surface and begin to knead the dough. It should feel quite dry and require a fair amount of effort to knead. Knead for about 5 minutes, basically until all the flour and egg are well combined and the dough is consistently yellow in colour. Wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge overnight.

The following day, when you come to roll it, you want it to be room temperature, so get it out of the fridge at least a couple of hours ahead of time.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, peel and dice the shallot and slice the garlic cloves. In a suitable pan, add the shallots, garlic, a good glug of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and let them soften slowly on low heat, you want to avoid any colour, so go gently and stir regularly.

Once they have softened add the peas and a splash of water, turn the heat up and cover with a lid. Cook like this for 2 minutes then take the pan off the heat and carefully transfer the softened peas to a food processor. To this add the zest and juice of the lemon, the grated pecorino, and three twists of black pepper. Pulse together, in short bursts, until you have something that resembles a loose pesto (for me, slightly too chunky is better than too smooth). If it is looking a little dry then add a touch of water. Check for seasoning and adjust the salt, pepper, and lemon if necessary.

Back to the pasta. Bring a pan of well seasoned water to a boil (people say that it should be as salty as the sea).

Before beginning to roll the pasta, make sure you have both ‘00’ flour and semolina to hand. On a lightly dusted surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the pasta dough until it is thin enough to fit into your pasta
machine. The pasta machine that I am used to using has a dial to adjust the thickness that goes from 1 to 10. On this machine, I begin rolling the pasta through on 10 (the widest setting), passing it through twice, and then twice at 8. At this point, I fold the dough. Taking the dough from one end and folding it into the middle and then folding the other end over the top of it. Repeat this step until the dough has been folded three times. This process of folding helps to build the glutens in the dough and leaves you with pasta that has a great texture. After the third fold of the dough, you can pass it twice through all the even numbers on the dial until number 4 – if at any point the dough is getting stuck or feels a little wet, then give it a dusting with the flour. It should then go through twice at 3 and twice at 2, before dusting with some semolina, just to prevent any sticking. At this point you are ready to cut or tear the pasta; strips, squares, triangles, or rhombuses – have fun with it.

We are nearly there.

Gently heat the pea mixture in a pan that will accommodate all your pasta once cooked. The pasta only takes 90 seconds to cook and once it is ready and tossed with the sauce needs to be eaten straight away, so make sure bums are on seats and glasses are full. Make sure the water is at a rolling boil and then drop in the pasta and give it a little stir. After 90 seconds, dip a cup into the water and take some of the starchy pasta water, which you will need later. Drain the pasta in a colander and tip it into the pan with the peas. Stir the sauce and pasta together, lubricating with some of the pasta water as you go. The starchy water will help to give the sauce and the pasta a lovely glossy finish. Check for seasoning and then serve.

You almost certainly want to grate some more pecorino over the top of it.

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