Posts tagged asparagus

Raw Citrus Salad

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f you’ve been (un)lucky enough to experience the heat wave that swept the UK last week then you’ll probably agree that appetites change from being food dominant to a welcome craving for frosty, cold and delicious beers. Iced rose if thats more your thing, or perhaps just a freshly made lemonade in the sunshine. However, food still has its place but freshness, lightness and nothing too heavy takes the culinary crown. This salad was perfect after what was probably the hottest day of the year so far. After trawling over London for a meeting – which at the time felt dramatically reminiscent of a desert voyage – I was in no fit state for cooking anything too warm later that evening….

This therefore seemed the perfect opportunity to make a fresh salad but one to replenish the nutrients. And time to crack out an ingredient that’s been waiting patiently in my pantry for the past few months. A little gift from overseas from the Norwegian’s.  I’ve not seen a oil like this before but have been delighting in it since. Whilst I’ve tried flavoured oils in the past which I’ve found to be either bland or synthetic, this little oil/balsamic combo – mandarin oil with an epic peach and apricot balsamic – served neat and combined in equal measures with some crusty bread for dipping was amazing! I instantly thought seafood, fennel, and raw salads….after thoughts of frosty beers and rose. I did mention it was very hot…

With a lack of garden space or even a balcony in London (sympathy welcomed) there was sadly no place for a BBQ here. But if you do then this would be an amazing salad served with charred barbecued squid or octopus. Or keep it simple and griddle your asparagus or sea bass. The smoky bbq flavour is perfect for anything citrus here.

Like I said, its a meal for a hot day…minimal effort, more an assembly of flavours. Feel free to add in any other ingredients of choice or fish and seafood.

*NOTE – if you’ve no time to pop to Norway for these delights, a really good extra virgin olive oil with either a generous squeeze of lemon/lime/orange would work a treat. Try adding a few very thin slices of orange segments or grated zest too. Blood orange if you’re feeling extravagant.

Serve 2

  • 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced wafer thin (using a mandolin if you have one)
  • 1 handful walnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
  • Small bunch fresh basil and mint, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon/orange/lime
  • Extra virgin olive oil and 1 orange OR flavoured citrus oil or equivalent to above
  • 2 sea bass fillets (or as above, squid, octopus etc)
  1. Hest a frying pan/griddle pan to medium high and add a splash of light olive oil. Griddle the asparagus spears to just take off the rawness for a few minutes until beginning to char. Season and remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the celery, shaved fennel, toasted walnuts and finely chopped herbs.
  3. When the asparagus spears have cooled a little, add them to bowl.
  4. Season and grate in the zest of half the lemon.
  5. The next bit if up to you. Add the citrus oil, and the juice of half a lemon or add the juice of an orange/lime and some plain, extra virgin olive oil. Its all about taste. You need a fresh citrus flavour but it needs to be balanced.
  6. Set aside once done. Fry your fish and serve atop your fresh salad.

I served mine alongside some roasted carrots …I’ll admit this isn’t supporting the cooling and ‘non hassle’ trend I championed above. What can I say, the frosty beer worked a treat…

  • Slice 2-3 large carrot into chunky diagonal chunks
  • Season and drizzle with olive oil
  • Scatter with 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • Roast for about 25 minutes until starting to caramelise and soften. Check after this time and leave in longer if needed.
  • 5 minutes before they look ready, add 1 btsp running honey and combine. roast for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and served, slightly cooled, with your citrus salad (also lovely to add chopped parsley and crumbled feta/goats cheese)

 

Asparagus and Hollandaise

This is summer on a plate. Asparagus from the allotment, fresh eggs from the hens and some tasty fresh fish. Asparagus and hollandaise is a classic summer dish and perfect for a starter. However I served mine with some boiled jersey royals with butter, chives and mint and some fresh fish. You can add herbs to your hollandaise, chives are particularly nice or just have it as it is with no tampering!

Serves 4

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Asparagus
  1. Add the white wine and lemon juice to a saucepan and heat until it begins to simmer. Then remove from the heat.
  2. Add the egg yolks to the bowl of a food processor and turn on and blend for a good minute. Then, with the motor still running, add the vinegar reduction and a pinch of salt.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan until liquid and creamy and pour into a jug with a spout.
  4. With the motor still running, pour the warm butter in a very thin steady stream to begin with to emulsify with the egg and thicken. Continue slowly adding the butter (it takes a good few minutes) and the sauce will start to thicken. As it thickens and you have added at least half the butter, you can add it in a quicker stream.
  5. Once all is added, stop the motor and taste. It needs to have a tang so add more lemon juice if needed.
  6. Cook your asparagus in salted simmering water for 2 minutes and drain. Dip deliciously into the hollandaise!

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Double Happiness

Summer seems to have arrived! Perhaps its temporary but with no more exams and job hunting understandably postponed I’ve been making the most of some refreshing cocktails. This one is aptly named ‘Double Happiness’ enjoyed with the first seasons pickings of my dad’s home-grown asparagus.

Serves 4-6 (Adapted from ‘Vogue- Entertaining and Travel’)

  • 120g caster sugar
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 20 lychees (I used canned ones)
  • 4 mandarins/2 oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 125ml lemon juice
  • Vodka or gin
  • Crushed ice to serve
  1. Mix the sugar and the water to dissolve.
  2. Add the lychees and the orange pieces and leave to cool.
  3. Once cooled, add the lemon juice and a splash of the lychee syrup if you like. Crush the fruits lightly to release some of their flavour.
  4. The original recipe called for this to be divided into 6 and mixed with 60ml of alcohol to each serving….However I did it to taste and added 30ml of gin/vodka to roughly equal parts juice. Add crushed ice and serve in the sun!

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Salmon and Dill Ravioli, Lemon Buerre Noisette

 

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Only a few weeks after returning from my gap year travels I was disappointed in myself that I had gone all my (then) 18 years and one hearty gap year without ever having been to Italy! Venice and Florence had always been on my list of destinations……the land of food. So a quick ticket and a hostel bed later I found myself in the middle of Italy with a heavy bag and apron for company. Naturally with my priorities in the right place) I had both a Venetian and Tuscan cookery class booked and under my belt.

If I’m honest, I’ve never been a huge pasta fan but what could be better than making it yourself in the sunny Tuscan hills? I spent what has to be the most charming, authentic and relaxing day in a Tuscan cookery school just outside Florence on their magical estate. With wine in hand on arrival (their priorities were right) I cooked a 4 course meal using wines and rich olive oils from their own estate and learned how to make pasta. It was a day to remember. (For details see below).

However, not being a pasta fan I have not revisited the pasta section of the charmingly translated and authentic cookery book from the school- until now. I thought I’d deviate from the traditional spinach and ricotta variety I made in Florence and invented my own. For pasta lovers, making it could not be easier- I don’t even have a pasta machine! Whilst I would recommend one, as rolling it to a thin consistency did shamefully strain and unearth some hibernating arm muscles, but it was delicious. Fill your ravioli with whatever you like and coat in any sauce that takes your fancy! I’m now off to re-make the other dishes I so greedily enjoyed back in those sunny hills….watch this space

Serves 2-3

  • 200g ‘OO’ flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • Small handful of chopped dill
  • 2 salmon fillets, smoked (Mine were raw but lightly smoked which was a nice addition, alternatively used precooked smoked trout for the same texture and flavour but non-smoked salmon fillet work fine also)
  • 2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche/ricotta
  • 1 lemon, zest and 1 tbsp juice
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • Bunch of asparagus, chopped

1. Start with the pasta. Make a heaped mound of flour on a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Break in your eggs and a pinch of salt. Use a fork to whisk the eggs in a circular motion and then gradually bring in the flour from the sides bit by bit to incorporate it into the doughimage2. Once it has all be added (its may need a splash of water or wine to add a bit more moisture) knead into a ball. Add the chopped dill and then knead with the heal of your hand for a good 15-20 minutes until the dough is really smooth and it feels elastic.image

3. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cook the salmon in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until just cooked but still moist. Discard the skin and flake into a bowl with some seasoning, the finely grated zest of the lemon and a squeeze of the juice. Leave to cool before stirring in the creme fraiche.

5. Once the dough has rested, remove from the fridge and use either a pasta machine or some elbow grease and a rolling pin to roll out so it is really thin.

6. Cut out circles with a pastry cutter and spoon teaspoons of cold salmon into the middle. Fold over into a half moon and sandwich together and seal with a fork.image

7. Place onto a lightly floured/.polenta coated plate.

8. Cook your asparagus spears for a few minutes and then drain and keep warm. Additionally, heat a splash of oil over a high heat and fry the capers until crisp and drain on kitchen paper.

9. Bring a large heavily salted pan of water to the boil and drop in your pasta. Simmer briskly until cooked to your liking (about 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the pasta) and they will rise to the surface when they are nearly ready.

10. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large frying pan on a high heat. When it starts to sizzle, stir and allow it to turn a brown nutty colour and release a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice

11. Drain the pasta and serve, with the asparagus spears and drizzle generously with the lemon butter sauce. Scatter with the capers and a grating of lemon zest.

Buon Appetito!

The cookery course I did in Florence was ‘The Good Taste of Italy’ day course found here. I didn’t stay in the accommodation on the estate but I wish I had, its worth a look as they also do cookery holidays where you are housed in their stunning villa and fed silly.

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The Venetian course I did was outside of Venice and was very different. It took a more homely and casual approach set in the house of an Italian Mama. Advertised to teach you to ’cook like an Italian Mama’ it was certainly the most authentic course I could have done and there were only 3 of us in the class. After being collected, we shopped for our ingredients and picked our vegetables and herbs form their own healthy allotment before being welcomed generously to their kitchen to cook up a feast.

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