Posts tagged ‘season’

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.

April 11, 2012

Today’s lunch: Broad bean, radish and parmesan salad

It hasn’t known whether it was winter, spring or summer today. Today’s delivery of a veg box, however, proclaimed that the sun must shine and brought us broad beans, a luscious lettuce and bright pink radishes among its many treats.

I fully admit that when we receive radishes in a veg box they often wilt for a week in the fridge and get thrown. I don’t know why, because a radish is a lovely little thing that can add a peppery bit of zip, crunch and warmth to many a plate of food. Rather than let them go to waste this week, I decided to use them straight away in a simple salad.

First, de-pod the broad beans and simmer them in a small pan for four minutes. Once drained, let them cool for a couple of minutes before slipping the bright green beans from their tougher outer skins and set aside.

Next, top and tail the radishes with a sharp knife and half them lengthways before giving them a quick rinse. Next, melt a little butter in a large frying pan and add the radishes, turning them once in a while until they just start to brown at the edges. Add the broad beans and cook for one more minute.

While the radishes are cooking, roughly chop some sturdy salad leaves (gem or rocket, for example, will both do fine) and dress them with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. Place the leaves in the bottom of shallow bowls then add the radishes and beans. Top with shavings of a good parmesan or pecorino.

It almost feels like summer.

March 18, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: A warm purple sprouting broccoli, quinoa, chick pea, tomato and goat’s cheese salad

There are some of our favourite ingredients combined in a warm salad here, so, for us, what’s not to like? It’s a very simple thing that can define a mood, or short time of year (erm, March?) when winter is just about over and signs spring is about here – a time after the year’s first warmth from the sun but before the last frost. That’s the time when purple sprouting broccoli appears. Sometimes we have it in wintery stews, but here it almost nods to summer, in a just-warm, almost room-temperature salad, with fluffy grains of quinoa, oven-dried tomatoes and goat’s cheese that tell you summer is not far away.

The recipe is not much more than an assembly job. First, roast the tomatoes on a low heat for as long a time as you’ve got (around 45 minutes at least) – they should dry out a little rather than cook to mush. As they’re cooking, roughly chop and steam the spears of broccoli for 5 minutes or so and cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions in a light vegetable stock. Leave both to cool slightly. Scatter the quinoa into a wide salad bowl and stir in a tin of chick peas, then add the broccoli and, finally crumble in some goat’s cheese. C’est ca.

August 16, 2011

Recipe: Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

Yes, you read right. We were looking for a quick pasta and courgette dish, given my earlier comments regarding the abundance of those deep green, erm, truncheons at this time of year. First up on the internet came a recipe from our old friend Yotam Ottolenghi, although from a not very local source, namely the New York Times.

The recipe, which in a British translation is for Penne with Courgette and Mozzarella, is here and very good it looks too.

August 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Puy Lentils with Roast Courgettes, Green Beans and Parsely

Sunday 7 August

Courgettes are everywhere in early August and, I confess, it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve really taken to eating them. Earlier this year we tried them as fritters, rather like the corn ones in the post before this. The courgette fritter recipe is here.

This Sunday we wanted a fairly hearty supper with some summery flavours to boot and this was a simple solution.

First, for two people, slice 2-3 medium courgettes into thumb-sized batons. (What? Okay, halve the courgettes lengthways, then halve them across their middles, then halve them lengthways again.)

Place the courgette batons in an ovenproof dish, lightly toss them with some olive oil and some salt and pepper and place them in a preheated oven until they’re golden of flesh but not completely browned.

While you’re doing this, in a large saucepan boil around 2 cups of puy lentils in vegetable stock until they’re tender – about 25 minutes. Also, very finely slice a large onion and fry until translucent in a little olive oil.

Next, roughly chop some fresh green beans – we had a mix of runner and french beans (okay, and some yellow and black skinned beans too) – and steam them for 4 minutes before refreshing them under a cold tap.

When the lentils are cooked (drain them if there is much water left and return to the pan), add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, stir and leave for 2 minutes. Then stir in the onion. Next stir in the courgettes.

Finally, stir in the chopped fresh parsley, season if needed, and eat.

August 9, 2011

Love your local shop

Cansdale Ross & Co is the epitome of a local shop, no doubt facing all the concerns that small, independent businesses face when they haven’t the buying power of the big boys. How do we help them? Use them!

This, our new little local greengrocer in Wivenhoe, has already helped us out for vital ingredients on more than a few occasions. Local produce abounds – where possible – and everything tastes like fruit and veg should. Nothing has been over-chilled (frozen, even), so stone fruits don’t turn to mush the minute they reach room temperature like supermarket peaches, nectarines and plums so often do. Peppers are red and green of flesh and don’t spit water at you when you slice them. Tomatoes are bursting with summery goodness. Onions are the essence of savouriness. Herbs are green and fresh. The eggs are from happy hens on a local farm.

And they stock our favourite chilli sauce.

It’s pretty cheap too. So what’s not to like? I know some people will complain that occasionally the stocks are low or that ‘you can’t get everything there’. Well, of course. It’s a little, local shop, not a supermarket, and buying fresh produce there is all the more pleasurable for it.

My favourite purchase so far? Four juicy ears of corn from a wicker basket piled high with it. Delicious!

August 8, 2011

Recipe: Brown rice, courgettes and mint

On first glance I thought this recipe, here, for brown rice, courgettes and mint had two things going against it.

First, as you might have realised, I don’t always trust Nigel Slater’s cooking. Amongst other things, I often feel he misses a trick and rejects obvious ways to pep up his food in favour of his own nostalgia-filled peccadilloes.

Second, I firmly believe anything you might want to call ‘risotto’ should be made with a proper risotto rice.

So, this recipe fails twice before we’re even off. But… it looks rather nice. Nutty, summery, rustic, with a hint of old-skool veggie health food that suddenly looks almost vogueish. I think we’ll try it.

August 4, 2011

Last night’s Dinner: Greek salad

Wednesday 3 August

…yesterday’s lunch, actually, and in contrast to this very wet morning, yesterday the sun was wilting the leaves of the hydrangea we brought from London with us and the skies above the Colne were an unbroken blue. What better for lunch than a Greek salad al fresco?

I’m sure everyone has their own way with a Greek salad. Even we make better ones and worse ones. It really depends on the quality of the ingredients. Ours, here, benefited from a mix of perfectly ripe little cherry, sungold and plum tomatoes from Cansdale Ross & Co, up the road in Wivenhoe. The very essence of a summer lunch.

I halved the smaller tomatoes and kept the larger ones variously chunky to add some range to the look and feel of the salad. Red onion? Yep – slice it finely and soak it for 10 minutes or more in a little red wine vinegar to take the sting from it. I didn’t use olives but did add a few shredded leaves of a little gem lettuce (‘Heresy’ I here you cry). Cucumber should be roughly diced and then all the ingredients mixed together ready to be topped with some large chunks of feta cheese (you can break it up with your fork as you eat). I’ve seen some people add fresh mint to a Greek salad and, don’t get me wrong, mint and feta are a good match, but it feels a somewhat contrived concoction and surely the best – and most traditional – herb to add at the end is a small scattering of dried oregano. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

On such a hot and sunny day we could easily have accompanied this with a refreshing glass of Vinho Verde from the Village Delicatessen (which I saw temptingly described as a good ‘lunchtime wine’). But we had work to do and the wine had to wait.

Need more inspiration? There’s a good account of Greek salads in the Guardian, here.

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!