We had a challenge on our hands this week.
An egg dish which would leave shells to decorate.
A flour, salt and water based dish the leftovers of which could be used for art supplies...
But in the end, it simply had to be fish.
Fish is THE dish for many this time of year for cultural, religious and traditional reasons and sourcing great fish is never a problem in Letterkenny, with Killybegs - our largest fishing port - not far down the road, Mulroy Bay Mussels up the road and some of the finest oysters, cockles, crab, cod, lobster, trout and Wild Atlantic salmon within a giants throw.
But a seasonal ingredient that gallops [a little in-joke] its way into our minds this time of year ruined our plans.
In some patches the smell appears as early as February, with the first growth ready to be used by Mid March.
Some don't notice it until it flowers.
Others smell it and associate it with Garland/Reek Sunday - a traditional festival in the North West of Ireland celebrated in late July.
But you don't need a keen eye or green fingers to know it is wild garlic season - the pungently fresh garlicy aroma wafting from woodland tells you.
But, we've talked before on the blog about the unpredictable nature of local produce and wild garlic proved the perfect example as we followed the air and ventured off around the Estate.
Not a regular feature on our menu, it has come up a lot in conversations about the smells, colours and sounds we associate with food and our sense of place as we continue to find ways to bring a spirit of The Church to your home, especially as we were planning our Easter Weekend Special Menus.
The plan was that our usually reliable patches on the Estate would be ready to show you how to make a simple wild garlic pesto to go with a slice of white fish like hake.
Alas, every piece of woodland has it's own timetable and having pulled a few leaves and realised they weren't quite ready to make the wild garlic pesto we'd planned, we had to make regular pesto instead.
But the hunt will continue and as soon nature is ready, we'll share something wild and garlicy with you.
Recipe: Pan Fried Hake with pine nut and wild garlic (or basil) pesto, cassoulet of pulses and an aubergine crisp (for decoration)
What you'll need:
For the Pesto:
Wild garlic pesto
1 large bunch wild garlic or basil, washed.
1 small bunch curly parsley, washed.
60gm Toasted pine nuts.
60gm coarsely grated fresh parmesan.
150 ml olive oil.
Dash of lemon juice.
Sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Place all ingredients bar seasoning and olive oil into food processor, blitz until broken down and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil and season to taste.
For the Hake:
1 piece fresh hake - scaled and pin boned.
Splash of olive oil
1 knob of butter
Heat a non stick frying pan to hot, splash of olive oil, reduce heat to medium and place fish skin side down. Throw in a knob of butter, spoonining over the fish.
Once you have a golden skin colour, flip the fish over and repeat.
Place in a pre heated oven at 180 for approximately 5 mins, the fish should feel firm to touch.
Top tips from our chefs for the cassoulet:
You can use tinned pulses such as canellini beans, chick peas and butter beans or whatever you prefer but avoid kidney beans.
Make a ratatouille of peppers, aubergine, onion, courgettes, garlic, tomato puree with a little water. Stir in the pulses and gently heat.
Use this to set your Hake on.
That's it for this week on The Church blog.
When is wild garlic available near you and how do you use it? Let us know in the comments below.
We are back in our kitchen on the Rockhill House Estate on Friday from 5pm - bringing you all your favourites from The Church Restaurant, Bar and Café to takeaway and enjoy at home with contactless collection or contactless delivery in Letterkenny.
Until then, take good care of yourself...and enjoy the aromas of Spring,
The Church Team