In today's world of convenience foods and year round availability of all manner of produce it is hard to imagine the constraints of the 'hunger gap' our ancestors endured when the previous season's brassicas bolted and new crops had yet to reach fruition. In those days people had to fall back on stored potatoes and preserves and it must have been a blessed relief when the first lettuces and broad beans started to appear in the Spring.
Even in the 21st Century it is good to have a few 'store cupboard' recipes to hand for those occasions when you fail to get to the shops or find yourself besieged by unexpected visitors. Few can be more simple or tastier than the Roman staple of spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino – a timeless amalgamation of pasta, garlic, olive oil and chillies. The desired quantity of bronze die cast, durum wheat spaghetti should be boiled until al dente in a generous volume of well-salted water before being drained. While it is cooking finely chopped red chilli pepper and garlic should be gently warmed in olive oil until the garlic is golden in colour. The spaghetti should then be tossed with the oil chillies and garlic and served immediately topped with chopped flat leaf parsley. I would serve that with a glass of medium-bodied rosé, such as the Vin de Corse Sartène Rosé: Domaine Saparale 2014, featured in our April Wines of the Month.
Another simple and inexpensive dish well-suited to this time of year is wild garlic pesto. A generous bunch of freshly-foraged wild garlic leaves should be compounded with a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, grilled pine nuts, grated pecorino and / or parmesan, lemon zest olive oil and salt and pepper. Recipes are widely available but I'd trust your instincts 'quanto basta' on quantities. Purists deploy a pestle and mortar – the name originates from pestare – to pound, which can be therapeutic if you've had a tough day, but I find a food processor does the job quickly and efficiently. I would serve that with farfalle or fusilli, that will hold the sauce well, a little more grated cheese and a twist of black pepper. Wine-wise a light, fruity red such as Beaujolais Villages: Arnaud Aucoeur 'Sélection de Vieilles Vignes' 2014 would be an apposite accompaniment. Should the weather turn cooler and the fare need to be more substantial, then the herby Domaine Saint Gayan Rasteau would make the perfect match.