Conchiglie with runner beans, parsley pesto and goats’ cheese

A: Rudyard Kipling in his poem “The Glory of the Garden” talks about the hard work and determination in upkeep of our gardens:

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made

By singing: – ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade,

While better men than we go out and start their working lives

At grubbing weeds from gravel-path with broken dinner-knives.

There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,

There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick,

But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,

For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

The joy of gardening surely comes twice a year: at springtime when new life begins in the garden and again in summer and autumn when the flowers and fruits are at their prime. Talking about fruits, there is inevitably a time of glut in the garden. Runner beans are such prolific growers, that every year we end up with a few weeks in summer when there is an abundance of runner beans. I have to keep some dishes up my sleeve to make good use of the runner beans.

We grow the stringless variety which is much easier to chop and cook. The runner beans are great for nitrogen fixation in the soil. So we rotate the position of growing the beans every year in the vegetable patch in order to enrich the soil. This is one basic lesson from childhood botany/biology that we see being so useful in the garden.

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Garlics are quite easy to grow and there are many benefits of growing them in the garden. They are hardy and help to keep pests at bay. Also fresh garlics have completely different taste to the dry ones we buy from the shops. Here I have dug up some single clove garlics which go very well in this pasta primo.

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Cooking this dish essentially involves two steps: (i) making a pesto with fresh flat-leaf parsley and lemon zest, and (ii) boiling the vegetables and pasta. To remember easily, I use equal quantities of pasta, potato and runner beans. Here are the ingredients for 4 portions with a cooking time of about 15 minutes for the pesto and 15 minutes for the pasta.

For the pasta:

250 gm of conchiglie pasta

250 gm of baby new potatoes or Charlotte potatoes cut into 5 mm thick circular pieces

250 gm stringless runner beans chopped with a slant into 2 cm length diamond shaped pieces

For the pesto:

40 gm walnuts lightly toasted

40 gm fresh flat-leaf parsley very finely chopped

2 finely chopped garlic cloves

40 gm finely grated hard goats’ cheese

Juice from half a lemon

Zest from half a lemon

1 tsp Sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, maybe a bit more if you prefer

80 ml extra virgin olive oil

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First make the pesto by gently mixing all the pesto ingredients with the olive oil. Break the walnuts to small pieces so that it is uniformly distributed in the mix.

Secondly work out how long you need to boil the pasta. In my case I need to boil the conchiglie for 14 minutes, the potatoes for 10 minutes and the runner beans for 4 minutes. So I bring the sufficiently salted water to boil in a large pan. When bubbles start to appear at the bottom of the pan, I add the conchiglie and bring the water to boil again. After 4 minutes I add the potatoes and keep the water boiling. After another 6 minutes, I add the chopped runner beans for the remaining 4 minutes. As soon as the total boiling time is over, I drain the water out by transferring the pasta and vegetables in a colander.

All that remains now is to mix the pasta with the pesto and taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper. When happy with the taste, serve with some extra grated goats’ cheese on top.

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