The silver lining to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud shutting down all flights and my extended stay in Italy has been to see my father’s peonies come into bloom. They were one of his passions. Officially we agreed on 5 tree peonies; but he snuck in another 3 herbaceous ones and now I notice a group of 3 seedlings that have volunteered around a Mount Etna broom seedling he planted. I wonder what the collective noun for peonies is? They remind me of flamenco dresses – how about a petticoat of peonies?
Collective nouns are on my mind as there’s an enchantment of nightingales in the valley surrounding the church. Their mellifluous trilling woke me at 2.30 this morning; in winter there’s complete silence at night (apart from the occasional gun shot as maniac hunters stalk wild boar) but now they’re back it means spring is definitely here. All that is missing are the fireflies; Google says the collective noun for them is a sprinkle, but why not a glitter? Somehow sprinkle, or sprinkling, are words that sound better in a culinary context. It definitely doesn’t describe the Tinkerbell convention we see every year in the olive trees below.
Staying on longer than I thought has also meant a fridge I’m reluctant to refill, but have still got to think of something to eat. This pasta dish is just the thing. It is a lazy version of a recipe my mother passed on to me, who says she found it in the Silver Spoon Pasta book.
For two people:
200g dried, short-shaped pasta – penne or broken up tagliatelle
1 chunky garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rosemary spikes, chopped or thyme leaves
About 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A 450g jar of chickpeas
Grated parmesan to taste
Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water. While this is cooking soften the garlic and rosemary in the olive oil. Strain a jar of chickpeas of nearly all their liquid and stir them into the mixture. Continue to cook over a low heat for around 5 minutes. Get a large wooden spoon or potato masher and break up the chickpeas to make not a puree, but a sort of chunky mush, where about half the pulses still look a little like chickpeas.
Strain the pasta, leaving just a little water behind. Stir through the chickpeas and finish off with a generous sprinkling of grated parmesan.