On first meeting you might think her rather pushy and a bit of a thug. Without any consideration for her weaker and less assertive neighbours, she self seeds mercilessly, germinates relentlessly and will smother all in her substantial radius with her sheer bulk. She can ruin a seedbed in no time at all, as she springs up out the earth seemingly fully formed, blithely shouldering aside delicately placed carrots (damn!); she can prise cracks in the path, and to top it off brings us more sensitive types out in an itchy rash.
But take your time to get to know her, and borage is full of hidden charms. She flirts outrageously with bees and they cannot resist her as she provides welcome food for them even in the depths of winter. Her blue flowers are delicate and pretty and taste like cucumber (before they are ripe, writes Patience Gray). They look beautiful frozen into iceblocks and tumbled into a summery gin and tonic or Pimms and of course, as a garnish.
But most surprisingly those stiff hairy leaves are edible, and even more surprisingly they are completely delicious. There are many weeds and leaves out in the garden that one could eat; whether one would choose to is another matter. But borage leaves are lovely; cucumber-y, with a hint of mint, more or less intense depending on the age of the leaves and the weather. The texture too; the fleshy spine of the leaf has a succulent crispness that is beautiful against the softer green of the leaves (er…when blanched. Nothing soft about borage leaves in their natural state!). Borage is often mentioned in traditional Italian recipes, and a couple of guests here have told me of eating amazing borage tarts and tortellini when travelling there (the vision of which inspired this recipe). Best of all, plant her once, and you never need worry about planting again. Nor will your neighbours.
Find a nice shady tree to eat under, sprinkle with borage flowers and serve with a Pimm’s Cup.
220 grams Tipo 00 flour
One brown onion, finely chopped
A very generous fistful of young borage leaves
Half a cup of shelled pistachios, pounded in a mortar and pestle to fine crumb size plus a little extra for finishing
A handful of best quality white sourdough bread (for example Irrewarra), soaked in water and then squeezed to removed excess liquid
Half a cup of borage flowers
A dessertspoon of plain yoghurt
A few tablespoons of fresh chopped mint plus a little extra for finishing
A large clove of garlic, chopped
Lots of unsalted butter
Sea salt and pepper
Slowly sweat the onion in a few tablespoons of oil, a knob of butter and a pinch of sea salt until soft and sweet but do not allow to brown (c. 20 mins). Scrape into a large bowl and set aside.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil and blanch borage leaves for a minute or so until tender. Drain and squeeze as much as you can out of the leaves and finely chop. Place in bowl with onions.
Crumble the softened bread into the bowl with onions and borages leaves, and add the pistachios, yoghurt, and mint. Using your fingers, mix together until well amalgamated and season with salt and pepper.
Add a little sea salt to the flour and tip onto your work surface, making a well in the centre. Pour in the two eggs, lightly beaten, and using a fork, mix the egg and flour together into a stiff dough. Rest in the fridge for 30 mins. Using a pasta machine, roll out the pasta to setting 7 on the machine (for a lovely, light ravioli).
Place a scant teaspoon of filling along one side of each pasta sheet, about 2 cms apart. Fold the other side of the pasta sheet over so that it covers the filling, and working carefully to ensure no air is trapped in the pockets, use your fingers to seal the edges around each piece of filling and cut to size. Cook for 2-3 minutes in a large pot of salted water.
Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, and add around 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pan. When it begins to brown, turn the heat down and add the chopped garlic and a little sea salt and continue to cook until the butter and the garlic are a rich golden colour. Remove from heat and pour over cooked ravioli.
Serve with extra mint, the borage flowers, pistachios, parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice.