Archive for ‘Asparagus’

May 29, 2013

Last Night’s Dinner: Asparagus with salsify and hazelnut ravioli

Asparagus with salsify and hazelnut ravioli LO RES

It’s still the season for British asparagus (and yes, I believe it’s running slightly late this year, along with much of nature). Today we used up some local asparagus spears to accompany a homemade ravioli filled with a mix of black salsify, hazelnuts and ricotta. It’s a variation on a theme by our old favourite Denis Cotter, with a few ingredients changed, and it was rather delicious. I’ll write up more about homemade pasta soon but in the meantime, here’s what we did for this dish.

Serves two.

First, the ravioli filling: preheat the oven to 180c. Peel and dice around 100g of black salsify and boil in a small saucepan until tender. Scatter the salsify on an oven tray and place it in the warm oven to ‘dry out’ a little for around 10 minutes (you don’t want a soggy filling in your ravioli). After removing it, mash it with a fork. Leave the oven on.

Blitz 25g of hazelnuts in a food processor and transfer to a bowl, mix in the salsify mash, a large dessert spoon of ricotta, a large pinch of grated or ground nutmeg, season with a little salt and pepper and combine well. Set aside.

Now for a little ‘sauce’: squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a small pan, add some strips of lemon peel and 50ml of white wine plus a pinch of saffron strands. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 3 minutes. Remove the strips of peel and add around 30g of unsalted butter. Stir until it melts. Keep this warm, but don’t let it boil.

Filling the pasta: a general way of making the ravioli is with two equal size sheets of thinly rolled pasta dough. Take the first and carefully place teaspoons of the filling on it, around 2.5cm apart. Brush the pasta with water or egg wash and place the other sheet on top. Press it down, making sure there are no air bubbles. Now use a ravioli cutter or knife to cut out square ravioli.

The asparagus: we used thick spears, woody ends snapped off, cut lengthways. Thinner ones can be left whole.

The tomatoes: slice a handful of cherry tomatoes in half and place them on an oven tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with a little salt and place in the oven.

Now bring it all together. First put the asparagus in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for around 5 minutes until just tender. As it’s cooking, cook the ravioli for around 4 minutes in a large pan of salted water. Drain, return to the pan and add the lemon butter. Stir.

To serve, place the ravioli in wide bowls, place the asparagus on top, pour over any remaining lemon butter, add the tomatoes and finish with a scattering of chopped hazelnuts.

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April 25, 2013

Spring pickings

Finally (whisper it) it looks like spring has arrived. Time then, for a round-up of some of the better vegetarian recipes that have featured in recent weekend supplements and more.

Quinoa Salad with Mint and Mango

As soon as light nights come around I’m all for leaving aside the root vegetables and spicy stews of winter and marching into the warmer weather with a light supper. This ‘salad’ from Paul Rankin over at the BBC could work, I suppose, as an accompaniment to a heartier dish – Rankin suggests grilled halloumi – but on a warm evening, or at lunchtime, the mix of zingy flavours and protein from the quinoa would do just fine on its own. The recipe is here.

Chard open omelette

Feta and greens is a favourite combination over at ETP Towers, so this ‘open’ omelette from chef Bill Granger over at the Independent is a winner for us. It shouts ‘lunch’ of course, but some hushed sweet nothings could tempt me to turn this into a brunch dish, especially with a little drizzle of chilli sauce. The recipe is here.

Japanese asparagus and duck’s egg omelette

Also over at the Indy is this rolled up omelette that gives us all something different to do with asparagus this season – the sweet and nutty spears chopped finely with spring onion. Not everyone will find the Nanami Togarashi chilli flakes that chef Mark Hix suggests, but I’m sure your common or garden chilli flak will suffice. The recipe is here.

Asparagus with pastry wafers and butter sauce recipe

Sticking with asparagus, this recipe from Rose Prince at the Telegraph keeps it simple, highlighting that ‘Best of British’ asparagus, while adding a more substantial, even luxurious, touch to a light lunch. It’s rare I’ll eat puff pastry. It’s equally rare that I’d complain about having to. And here it is, a precious airy pillow on which those asparagus spears can rest. The recipe is here.

Vegetarian mezze

Have you noticed how cauliflower seems to be making a comeback? Regular readers of Earth to Plate will know we love it here, but it’s good to see this often overlooked vegetable getting tome respect. It features here as one of three ‘small-plate’ mezze dishes by Yotam Ottolenghi: Fried Cauliflower with Pine Nuts, Capers and Chilli is followed by Honey Roasted Carrots with Tahini Yoghurt and Aubergine and Parsley Pesto. Just pass me some warmed pitta. The recipes are here.

June 17, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Asparagus and Parmesan Frittata

Every year, without fail, the local asparagus season surprises me. I know what it tastes like and I know how I like to eat it, so why should it catch me unawares? I think the answer is that I also end up eating asparagus at other times of the year. Sometimes it’s in restaurants that claim they build their recipes around local, seasonal produce. But asparagus in London in November? I think not. Then it appears in stir fries and risottos: thin, woody, tasteless stalks from Peru or Thailand. Pah! Sometimes, like a fool, I even buy it myself.

So, every year, when the really good stuff comes around in May, I’m taken aback all over again at how fresh, juicy and earthily green, local in-season asparagus can be. The problem is that after a few meals of it I can get bored. I know the season will be over soon, but I’m tired and I don’t want another risotto, or another plate of steamed asparagus with new potatoes, or the stalks chargrilled with a grating of parmesan… etc etc. So, each year I come up with something new. Last year it was asparagus egg and chilli tomato. This year, a quick lunch of an asparagus-based fritatta. (Look carefully and you’ll notice that we kept the winning combination of the veg, eggs and cheese and simply reformulated it). So easy it hardly needs a recipe, we made this as a man from the phone company was fixing our broadband. Amounts, and the size of the pan, will depend on how many you want to feed… I’ll leave it up to you.

First, finely slice a red onion and begin to fry it gently in a little olive oil in a frying pan. Cook until it has softened – around 8 minutes. While it’s cooking, roughly chop the asparagus stalks. If they’re thick, halve them lengthways too so that they don’t take too long to cook through. Add them to the pan and cook for a further 8-10 minutes. Beat some eggs and season with a black pepper. Next, grate a handful or so of parmesan and mix it into the eggs. Add to the pan. Stir a little, coating the asparagus and onion – try to distribute the veg evenly through the egg mixture. Leave to cook on a low heat. Turn on your grill to high. When the edges of the frittata begin to crisp and turn gold but the top is still not quite set, take the pan off the heat and hold under the grill to set the top. When it’s gold, you’re done.

Serve hot, warm or cold.

May 8, 2012

Recipe: Mark Hix’s Asparagus, Radish and Fennel Salad

Yes, it’s been quiet over here at ETP Towers. Actually, scrub that: it’s been busy. Day jobs and gatherings with family and old friends have taken us away from the kitchen rather a lot recently.

One thing we haven’t missed out on, however, is new season asparagus. A trip to the Cotswolds brought us almost to the Vale of Evesham, where some of the UK’s best asparagus is grown. We had some and my was it good.

If you’re bored of steaming, boiling and grilling those sweet green stalks then (generally meaty) chef Mark Hix has another way of getting your fix: eating asparagus raw. It also marks a second appearance of radishes on this blog. Yippee!

The recipe is utterly simple, totally tempting and over here.

July 9, 2011

Recipe: Yotam Ottolenghi’s summer minestrone with basil cream recipe

…and while we’re on the subject of summery soups infused with basil, here’s a light little number from Yotam Ottolenghi in the Guardian today.

June 26, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Fricasee of mushroom, broad bean, new potato and asparagus

Saturday 11 June

We invented this dish as a result of wanting to bring three in-season ingredients together in one dish: asparagus, broad beans and lovely baby Jersey Royal new potatoes. Simple, with the addition of some lightly cooked button mushrooms and some careful arranging on the plate. It really does look so fresh and vibrant with the joys of early summer that it deserves some TLC as you’re plating up to capture the glorious colours and make each mouthful a true representation of the dish.

You’ll no doubt know how to cook each of the ingredients here and with this dish they remain cooked separately and only brought together on the plate. So, first, get your new potatoes boiling (slice in half any that are larger than a mouthful). You’ll want about 7 or 8 small potatoes per person. Then boil a couple handfuls of podded broad beans for three minutes. Drain and slip the little green beans out of their withered outer cases. Set aside. Now steam four asparagus spears per person until they’re just about tender, chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Finally, fry a few mushrooms per person in a little olive oil with a finely chopped clove of garlic. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon as they’re frying. When they’re nearly done, add a little single cream, mix in, season, mix again and take off the heat.

With the potatoes done, plate up quickly. Start with the largest items (potatoes) and leave the smallest (broad beans) to last, making sure to intersperse each item attractively around the plate. And there, you’re done.

One last tip – it’s really important not to overcook a thing on this plate. A plate of grey slop just won’t cut it.

Eat and enjoy. We did!

June 2, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Asparagus, Egg and Chilli Tomato

Tuesday 17 May

English asparagus at this time of the year is the best proof possible that eating vegetables in season makes sublime sense. Steam it and serve with some Jersey Royal new potatoes and a little butter – perfect. Then there’s the Jamie Oliver inspired chargrilled asparagus and parmesan salads that became popular a few years ago. We also like asparagus with a poached egg on top. But what else to do with this handsome stem?

This easy supper brought two dishes together – the complementary pairings of asparagus and egg, and egg in a setting of a spicy, tangy, chilli-infused tomato sauce or jam.

The chilli tomato here was literally a large handful of halved cherry tomatoes, softened ever so slightly in a little olive oil with the addition of some chilli flakes. The tomato ‘sauce’ is poured over a halved soft-boiled egg, which sits atop some spears of griddled asparagus, which sits atop some roughly chopped watercress (spinach or gem lettuce would be fine). And yep, we sprinkled some parmesan shavings on top at the end. Easy.

May 11, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Spring vegetable paella

Friday 6 May

I think a lot of British people associate paella with being a seafoody dish, probably because of summer holidays on the Spanish coast. In fact it’s originally a regional dish from Valencia and, over time, has been made with almost anything that you can throw into a pot – snails, rats, pork, chicken and, yes, seafood, as well as a whole host of vegetables. Peppers, butter beans, artichokes and cauliflower are all popular additions to a paella. Ours tends to change with the seasons. In winter, a paella with cauliflower, peppers and butter beans is a fantastic thing. This spring, I threw the some of the contents of our seasonal veg box at it, plus a few other bits and pieces from the fridge. Not exactly traditional, perhaps, but then dishes like this can be varied ad infinitum.

A paella differs from a risotto in that, as the rice is cooking in its broth, you don’t stir it. There’s no sauciness to a paella, it’s a much drier dish than a risotto and so more closely resembles a biriani. Indeed, an authentic paella – especially one cooked outdoors over charcoal, will develop an almost crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pan. Oh, and you need to use either calasparra or bomba varieties of rice or it won’t work.

Our version this week? Sautee a finely sliced onion in olive oil in a wide, shallow pan until it is golden and soft. Add a thinly sliced bell pepper to the pan (seeds removed of course) plus a clove of garlic and cook for a further five minutes or so. Add the bomba or calasparra rice and coat in the olive oil. Add a generous glug of sherry or white wine, or a splash of sherry vinegar of white wine vinegar. Cook for three minutes. Now add a good pinch of saffron strands, a large teaspoon of paprika, a small teaspoon of smoked paprika and half a teaspoon of turmeric. Oh and a bay leaf. Stir in the spices to coat the grains of rice. Add hot water until it comes up a centimetre or so above the rice. Turn down the heat slightly and leave (really, don’t touch it!) until the broth has been absorbed. When it’s done the rice grains should have a pleasing sheen to them and be individual, separate, glistening grains and, while cooked, not puddingy. It will take about 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, lightly steam a few asparagus spears, refresh under cold water and set aside. Then blanche and shell some broad beans. As the rice nears the end of its cooking add the beans and some (tinned – they’ll be fine) artichoke hearts. Be careful not to move the rice around to much as you add the veg. They just need to be warmed through, that’s all.

When the rice is cooked add some quartered cherry tomatoes, wedges of lemon (squeeze them slightly into the dish) and place the asparagus spears on the top. Serve.

We always make too much of this and are quite happy to eat the remainder the following day. It works really well.

As for quantities, I’m going to talk about recipes and quantities soon, honest.

April 22, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Butter beans, leeks and asparagus

Thursday 21 April

Last night’s concoction came about after staring long and hard at the contents of our weekly delivery from Abel & Cole and then leafing through some of our recipe books. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests a white bean and leek salad, and this is an adaptation. A very simple spring supper.

To begin, soften the leeks in a large pan with some butter and olive oil. (I think we used to call this ‘frying’, but no one seems to advise ‘fry’ in recipes any more. You can soften, wilt or cook, but you can’t fry.) Then add two cans of butter beans. Season and cook for ten minutes until the beans take on a little colour. You can then boil, steam or grill a bunch of asparagus – which makes a warm salad bed for the beens and leeks. For a little tang we drizzled the salad with a mustard dressing made from Dijon mustard, olive oil and a little white wine vinegar. That should really have been cider vinegar but we didn’t have any.

A taste of spring.

April 12, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Spring risotto

Monday 4 April

I was inspired by a feature at rufusguide.wordpress.com to make a risotto and, what with it being Spring, some light, fresh greens seemed the thing to add. I love a risotto with in-season British asparagus and peas – all just al dente so you get a little crunch among the nutty grains of rice and oozing, savoury sauciness. I added some baby spinach leaves to this risotto, too. Rufus gives a pretty good assessment of how to make a good risotto here. I’ll just add that no one wants a risotto the texture of rice pudding, so don’t overcook it. Neither should it be claggy – please don’t bake your risotto as Delia Smith does. The grains should be loose but still have, I think, the tiniest bit of bite to them and, while creamy, it shouldn’t be sweet – think savoury and season accordingly but carefully. A rich flavour needs develop in the liquor that thickly surrounds the grains – this will usually be a combination of olive oil, butter and parmesan, added as the rice settles after cooking. And lastly, in most cases, don’t add all your vegetables (whether asparagus or mushrooms or tomatoes, among many) as the rice starts to cook. Greens can be added near the end; mushrooms – for a mushroom risotto – can be pan fried first and scattered on top to serve, as long as you cook the rice in a stock made with dried mushrooms; tomatoes too can be run through the rice at a late stage – so roast them perhaps, with thyme or rosemary, or make a small tomato sauce to stir in. The options are endless. And lastly, for the love of food, please use proper risotto rice. Long grain rices and paella rices are all very wonderful, but no use whatsoever for risotto.