We were in Norfolk last weekend, to celebrate the 7th birthday of our grandson. A very nice time was had by all, and on our way home on Sunday afternoon, we kept an eye out for roadside stalls, looking for asparagus and strawberries. Nothing on the roadside, but we stopped at a huge farm shop somewhere … in the South Holland district in Lincolnshire, according to Foursquare.
Two bunches of asparagus at £1.50 each, and two caulis for a quid. So all that lot for £4.00!
One bunch of asparagus went into a quiche, with three eggs, some milk and some rather elderly brie, chopped up. Also a shallot fried off in a little butter, and some chopped chives. That did supper with some Jersey Royals, and lunch the following day.
The second bunch was stir fried with chilli and ginger, one of our absolutely favourite dishes.
One cauli was last night made into a veg curry, which will do at least two more days (if I can find some freezer space!), and the other will be enrobed in cheese sauce for tonight’s supper.
No strawberries (just a little bit too early, I guess), but all the same – that’s really cheap living (although I suppose it’s rather far to go if we weren’t passing …)
We love asparagus, but we only eat it in May/June, when it is British grown – somehow imported stuff doesn’t taste the same. Well, it doesn’t taste of anything, really. So we tend to gorge a bit when the local stuff is in season.
I picked up two bunches from a roadside stall in Norfolk on Sunday, and we ate the first last night. While the pasta water was coming to the boil, I trimmed the asparagus spears, and put them in the steamer basket as 150g of fusilli was cooking. Made a rapid dressing of lemon juice and 30ml of olive oil, grated about 30g of parmesan, drained the pasta, and stirred it all together with lashings of freshly grated black pepper.
Took 15 minutes start to finish, and was lovely and summery. Approx 475 calories per serving.
Trying hard to do different things for lunch at the moment, and here’s today’s effort. In the fridge lurked a smallish bunch of asparagus, and about 1/4 of a small cauliflower.
Pete finely chopped a shallot, some garlic, a red chilli and some ginger, and cut the cauli into little bits, including the stalk. We simmered that for about 4 minutes in boiling water, while I fried the asparagus in some groundnut oil in the wok. Added the spicy bits and fried some more, then fished the cauli out with a slotted spoon and added it to the wok, with a tiny bit of its water, flung in some Tamari, and left it to bubble down.
Quickly cooked some rice noodles, slung them in the wok to mix up, dished into bowls, scoffed. Very nice, and took about 12 minutes start to finish. Those red chillies are damned hot, mind!
We were delighted to spot some UK asparagus in Morrisons yesterday – it seems very early to me, but there it was, and we bought two packs; we only eat British asparagus, so we tend to gorge on it a bit when it’s here!
Last night’s dinner was already planned – some pork stuffed with basil and mozzarella; I’d actually bought these from the wonderful Fields of Anlaby when we had no kitchen, and we never got round to cooking them, so I’d taken them out of the freezer for Sunday’s supper. We accompanied the pork with, yes, steamed asparagus and some roast potatoes.
Tonight, I’m going to chargrill the other bunch, and have it with pasta, lemon juice, walnut oil and parmesan. Om nom.
“What’s this?” you cry; “two posts in one day? You’re spoiling us.”
We are going to a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. and thought we’d eat our main meal at lunchtime, and just grab a sandwich before we go out. I bought a bunch of English asparagus at the greengrocer yesterday – don’t suppose there’ll be much more this year, so must gorge while we can. We have a handful of standard recipes we cook with it, but fancied a change. So:
Trimmed the asparagus and put it in a baking tray lined with foil – I generally do this now, as the washing up is so much easier. Drizzled it with a generous quantity of olive oil, and sprinkled some sesame seeds on it. Pete finely chopped a couple of cloves of garlic, which were duly added, then I mussed it all up with fingers; sometimes that’s the only way to do it.
It went into the oven at 180C for 15 minutes, while I cooked some fusilli to accompany it. Then further inspiration struck, and I whipped up a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
Pasta, covered with asparagus, covered with the dressing. It really was rather nice, and there’s still half a bunch of asparagus left!
There are some foods we only eat when they’re in season in the UK, and asparagus is one of them; thus we tend to rather gorge ourselves on it at this time of year. Although we are back on a veg box, we couldn’t resist a big bunch of the glorious green stuff while we were mooching along Gloucester Road last weekend.
As my regular reader (waves to Giles!) will know, we like risotto – for two people, 5oz of risotto rice and 1 pint of liquid (and yes – I know I should go metric on this, but it’s easy to remember), and you’re away.
So – chopped up a red onion and sautéd it in some olive oil, while I chopped half the asparagus into manageable lengths, and cooked it for five minutes. The liquid was the juice of half a lemon, about half a pint of apple juice, and topped up to the pint with water. Usual process – add rice bit by bit, add stock till rice plump, rinse and repeat. Before the last add, I hurled in the asparagus, and a dash of salt and pepper.
At the end, I stirred in half a block of feta cheese. Fab.
Last Friday, Pete and I skived off for the day in order to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and went down to deepest, darkest Somerset. En route to Porlock, we screeched to halt at a sign advertising “locally picked asparagus”, and bore home a bunch that was reassuringly expensive.
On Saturday, the local farm shop had Axbridge strawberries too.
So we roasted the asparagus in the oven with olive oil and sesame seeds, and ate it with angel hair pasta and feta. The pasta stuck together a bit – I should have added some oil when it was cooked – but it was sublime. And the strawberries were consumed with brownies and double cream.
We had friends over for Eurovision on Saturday – we cooked up an Indian feast: beef in coconut and black masala, split moong dhal, cucumber/carrot/red onion raita. There was a stack of rice left over, and a bunch of asparagus to eat.
Trimmed the woody bits off the asparagus, cut the stalks into thirds, and blanched for five minutes or so.
Chopped garlic, spring onions, fresh ginger and a red chilli, and stir fried for a minute or so. Added the asparagus and some soy sauce, and fried for a few more minutes. Added the cooked rice and stirred it about, then added an egg beaten with a dollop of sesame oil, and stirred *that* around using a chopstick (to distribute the egg).
Absolutely gorgeous – really fresh and light.
Choice of rhubarb crumble and/or chocolate/walnut/coffee cake to follow. Groan.
Now, you may thinks this an Abomination, but trust me – it’s gorgeous. We only eat English asparagus, as we feel the imported upstart has no flavour, so we tend to gorge on the stuff when it’s in season. This was the first bunch of 2009, and this is one of our favourite things to do with it.
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled and lightly mashed
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly mashed
1 dried red chilli, coarsely crumbled
900g asparagus, peeled and cut into thirds
4 tbsp vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
heat the oil in a wok over high heat, then add ginger and garlic. Stir quickly, and add the red chilli. Stir once, and add asparagus. Stir fry until the asparagus turns deep green and is coated with oil. Add the stock, soy sauce, salt and sugar. Stir, bring to the boil, then cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 3-4 minutes until asparagus is just tender.
uncover, and boil away most of the liquid. Add sesame oil, stir once and serve.
Make an omelette! Three eggs, some asparagus blanched for about 4 minutes, salt, pepper and some shavings of gruyere. Lovely.
Had it with home made soda bread – this is a useful recipe, as you can use pretty much any combination of bread flour, and it will work. And it has no yeast, so is very quick.
450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
400ml buttermilk (use plain yogurt if you haven’t got buttermilk)
Preheat oven to 230C/450F/gas 8
Sift flour, salt and bicarb into a bowl. Make a well, and add buttermilk.
Using one hand, slowly incoporate the flour into the milk to give soft, but not sticky dough. (Or cheat – use a mixer with a dough hook :).
Turn onto a floured board, and knead lightly for 1 minute until smooth. Shape to a round about 4cm high. Cut a deep cross from one edge to the other.
Place on a floured baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C/400C/Gas 6, and bake for a further 30 minutes. To test if the bread is cooked, tap the underside of the loaf – if it sounds hollow, it’s cooked.
Cool on a wire rack, eat with good butter. Gorgeous.