It is timeÂ again for Paper Chef, the food blog competition that requires us to create something orginal and delicious using four secret ingredients. I managed to win the April edition, and this month’s episode tasked us with using local lamb, English peas, leeks and buckwheat.
Lamb? No problem. I had some lamb shanks from a lamb raised in the Delta left over from our Big Fat Greek Party in April. Peas? Got ‘em. Leeks? Hmm. Out of season for me, but I found a loner tucked into my garden, and had several frozen in the box freezer. Buckwheat? Problem.
I have never used buckwheat in my life. I have only eaten it in pancakes. What to do? My initial thought was “crepe,” since the Russians do buckwheat crepes I think. (By the way, buckwheat is neither a legume nor a grain. It’s related to sorrel and rhubarb.) But I am not good at making crepes. I am good at making pasta.
And as it happens the Italians occasionally make buckwheat pasta, so I knew what I had to do: Spring lamb sugo. Yes, that oxymoron of a dish, “spring” sugo. Sugo is a heavily concentrated sauce made by cooking the hell out of meat with some wine, broth and aromatics, then running the lot through a food mill — leaving some yummy meaty bits behind.
So how is this dish springy? First, I decided to play with some bright aromatics by adding ginger to the braise. I also included four leeks as well. I lightened up the cooking liquid by using white wine (a Lodi Viognier) instead of the customary red. And then, at the end, I tossed in fresh peas and finely minced baby leek, as well as some peppermint from the yard.
So there you have it. A deceptively simple, yet ragingly time-consuming pasta dish using fresh buckwheat tagliatelle, local lamb shanks, lots of leeks and a double handful of peas from my garden.