Asparagus and Jersey Royal Spring Salad

A month or so ago the first of the British asparagus hit my local greengrocers. Little bundles of the tufty spears piled high, all in need of a quick steam and toss with golden salted butter. All for the reasonable price of £4.20. I think not.

It’s something I’m yet to get my head around, paying such a premium for produce from our own country, when you can buy a pack from Peru or Mexico for a mere £2.

Where’s the logic in that?

I just had to practice my patience for a little longer, only a week or two, and now of course it will feature in every meal possible up until the end of June. I know it’s available to us year round, but when trying to eat seasonally there’s nothing more exciting than the first encounters of our British grown produce. It marks the new season, along with the newborn tiddly lambs and daffodils sprouting everywhere, asparagus means spring really does feel official.

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It’s such a versatile veg too, and if you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out. Along with your buttered soldiers try some asparagus to dive in your dippy egg. The nooks and crannies in the spear grips onto that golden yolk, and not forgetting it’s one of your five-a-day already in the bag. The first arrivals tend to be thinner, perfect for serving simply with a crack of black pepper and sea salt. Shave with a speed peeler or mandolin (watch those digits!!!) and serve as a tangle in a salad. Towards the latter end of the season it starts to become woodier, so lends itself to being grilled or roasted for some charred tips and smoky edges sitting perfectly beside some protein like salmon, steak or chicken or in a big veggie bowl with a dip.

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The week following Easter I spent some quality time with my mum, doing what we do best – coffee shop crawls and a bit of clothes shop perusing (the big venture for a dress for my mum for a wedding). The weather was a bit grim and grey but to make the most of a bad thing off we went out for a scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam and a pot of chamomile tea. The tea rooms we visited are set deep in the countryside, surrounded by rolling green hills, I cannot imagine how beautiful it would be on a bright sunny day. To kill two birds with one stone (so they say) we also went to a nearby farm where they have a shop selling all homemade produce which I’ve been meaning to visit for a good while (in the past I just sent my dad). A haven for homemade sausages, bacon and black pudding all using local, free range, rare-breed pork, smoked fish (all smoked themselves), eggs, jams, chutneys and smoked cheese. It really is in an old cow shed – as the name suggests – but there’s so many magical products nestled inside. I managed to bag a couple of boxes of eggs, all of which are mixed colours and sizes coming from the different breeds of chicken (and of course the yolks are golden), a couple of packets of sausages and some smoked peanut butter (I’m thinking sticky satay chicken wings or aubergines!). Sadly I missed out on the wild garlic pesto. I know, I’m annoyed too. I had dreams of smothering it over pasta with some roasted tomatoes, rocket and Parmesan. But it only means I have to go back soon. Not really sad about that. Not. At. All.

I had plans that night for a super chill meal for my mum and I. Ideas of a salad, but warm, hearty and full of veggies, felt necessary. Also I fancied a bit of stodge, so new season Jersey Royals were a no-brainer. The asparagus was roasted, and the potatoes boiled whole then both tossed in a nutty herby dressing whilst still warm to absorb the oils and flavour. The dressing was a kind of pesto/salsa verde mash up, loads of watercress, parsley, mint and dill, capers, lemon and toasted pistachios because you can’t have enough green. I reserved two of the asparagus spears and shaved them into thin ribbons, mixed with cress, watercress and some jammy yolked eggies, this truly was the ultimate spring salad.

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Asparagus and Jersey Royal Spring salad

If you don’t have all the herbs for the dressing just use extra watercress and up the amounts of the ones you do have. Some wild garlic would be an excellent addition, some basil too – if it’s looking a bit sad. If you’re struggling to get hold of some asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli (broccoli rabe I think it’s called in America), tenderstem or your bog-standard broccoli would even do the trick at a push.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • Jersey royals – around 8 or 10 depending how hungry you are
  • Bunch of asparagus
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 packet of cress
  • 1/2 bag of watercress

Dressing

  • 1/2 bag of watercress
  • Small handful dill
  • Small handful parsley
  • Small handful mint
  • Fennel fronds (optional)
  • 2 tbsp capers (in brine, rinse if in salt)
  • Handful pistachios (without shells
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Turn the oven to 180 C
  2. Wash the Jersey Royals and place in a pan of cold water with a big pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then turn down to bubble for around 20 to 30 mins until tender.
  3. Meanwhile boil the eggs. Bring a pan of water to a vigorous boil, add some salt, then dip the eggs in the water briefly, remove and then fully submerge and leave to cook for 7 minutes. When the timer is up, stick the eggs in ice cold water to stop them cooking further.
  4. Reserve two asparagus spears for later, and with the rest snap off any woody ends and put in a roasting tin with a drizzle of oil and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 10 to 15 minutes until tender and crisp on the edges.
  5. To make the dressing, finely chop the watercress and the herbs and place in a bowl. Next chop the capers and mix in with the herbs. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, the mustard and red wine vinegar and a little water to make a thick dressing, the same consistency of a pesto. Check for seasoning and add more lemon or vinegar if you think necessary.
  6. When the potatoes have cooked, drain the water and leave to steam dry for a minute or so. Slice them in half and place on a platter with the roast asparagus and half the dressing. Toss together until everything is coated.
  7. With the reserved asparagus get a speed peeler or mandolin and shave thinly, put on the platter along with the watercress and cress. Toss again and dot the remaining dressing all over.
  8. Crack the eggs and peel them, they should be cool enough to handle. Slice into quarters and place on top of the salad.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

If you’re ever in the Peak District area do make a visit to The Old Cow Shed in Chisworth and The Woodlands Tea Rooms in Charlesworth for a traditional afternoon tea or lunch using locally sourced produce.

I’d love to hear if you’ve managed to get your hands on some wild garlic or how you make the most of asparagus when it’s back in for the ever so short season.

All the love

X

 

Carrot and lentil patties

If you know me fairly well, then you will know of the huge pile of cookbooks I own. Let’s say two huge piles. It’s become a bit of an addiction of mine. I’m that person who reads cookbooks from front to back and whenever I have a spare moment will happily flick through. Each birthday and Christmas I will, rest assured, add one or two new additions to my collection and swiftly forget about the others. Brutal, I know. I do have my absolute favourites though, that I return to time and time again, the tried and tested which are guaranteed to please. But even those recipes are few and far between, saved for when we are feeding guests or want a dish that I know will be a knockout, no stressin’! The rest of the time is dictated by what I’ve seen on blogs, TV, Instagram and most importantly the contents of my fridge.

That’s where the magic is!

 

At lunch I always feel the need for a falafel or patty, whatever you name it, something to finish off my bowl of veggies and grains and that will sit nicely with that obligatory hummus dollop. I always have the intention of making some but then get too hungry so end up going without or I don’t have any beans or grains already cooked (the whole point of a recipe like this is for making something out of the leftovers). Often too, I’ve had the intention of making a big batch to freeze but they end up dry, only palatable if smothered in a TONNE of dressing (make it a tahini one and its not a bad thing). I suppose given that I don’t follow recipes and add a little bit of this, take out that as we don’t have any in the cupboard, it’s guaranteed that many of my attempts will end up in the bin. It’s all a process of learning, except for those times when you don’t remember your mistakes and make them numerous times. The EXACT SAME ONES. Been there.

 

 

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Pre-bake, with a dusting of polenta for that much needed CRUNCH

 

This occasion however was a day for success. Thank the food gods. 

These carrot and lentil patties, came out unscathed, crunchy on the outside, and just what my lunch bowl was needing. Here I used some french lentils that I had overcooked, but any other beans or lentils would suffice just make sure to give them a bit of a mash first. The grated carrot could be changed to courgette or beetroot, any fresh herbs, omit the cheese all together or use more or less (I would’ve added more but it was the end of the block) feta would be nice, as would cheddar or some Parmesan. I haven’t tried making something like this without egg, it’s a great binding agent, but I’d assume a flax egg would work in the same way. And if they don’t hold together, well it just won’t be a plate to photo for Instagram I suppose. Sandwich in between your favourite bread or in a wrap, these would also be brilliant bites for a savoury energy ball. I find snacks rely too heavily upon dates and nuts, so one or two of these would be a great alternative.

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Carrot and lentil patties

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated/crumbled cheese
  • Handful of fresh herbs, any mixture of basil, parsley, coriander, mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Polenta for coating
  • Oil

Method

  1. Put the lentils in a large bowl and mash slightly so half are crushed and half are still left whole.
  2. On a box grater grate the carrot and add to the bowl along with the cheese.
  3. Finely chop the herbs and add to the lentil mixture along with the spices, oats and some seasoning and mix well.
  4. Crack in the egg and mix again to form quite a wet mixture.
  5. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 mins to firm up slightly.
  6. Heat the oven to 200/180C fan and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or a silicone sheet.
  7. With damp hands form the lentil mixture into 8 patties and place on the baking sheet.
  8. Brush with some oil and sprinkle over the polenta, this is what will give the crunch.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 mins until firm and slightly golden.
  10. Will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for a few months.

Side note: if you plan on freezing the patties, bake for a little less time, around 10-12 mins then leave to cool before freezing. Place back in the oven when you want some from frozen until crispy and piping hot in the middle, this will ensure that they won’t dry out.

 

So here’s to happier lunchtimes and turning those droopy leftovers into something new.

Get rolling those patties!!

XX

Radicchio, courgette and goats cheese cauliflower pizza

So in the fridge you have a small chunk of cauliflower, a courgette, some radicchio and some stray basil. Not enough to make a mean veggie bowl filled with grains and a killer dressing, and we’d eaten pasta the night before so that was off the books. My mum isn’t the biggest fan of cauliflower unless I completely mask it with loads of spices, and no avocado is just real sad. You see come Friday it’s the end of the week and the day when I always like to cobble the leftover contents together, and miraculously make a veggie meal for my mum and I. Thank god it’s also the day when my dad goes out to the dirty beer shop (AKA the pub) so doesn’t eat with us, meaning less panic on my behalf due to the lack of meat.

(That’s not to say that I don’t eat meat, im not vegetarian or vegan I just prefer to eat plant based the majority of the time)

I kept wandering to the fridge that day, back and forth racking my brain for what to make for dinner that will use up the odds and ends, but obviously still taste really good. Peeking into the corners and behind the drawers in hope that something had fallen and become lost, no luck there, and if it had, probably would be from a few weeks back and starting to digest itself. Only one thing was on my mind, it had to be pizza. Cauliflower pizza that is. I’m not one to say that this is better than the real thing and you would never know it doesn’t contain gluten, as A. it’s not and B. you would. A proper pizza when done well, a slow risen dough to produce a thin crispy crust, puddles of mozzarella, fresh herbs and a smatter of a tomato sauce, if that’s what you’re expecting cauliflower pizza will never live up to that standard. It’s pretty shameful to even compare it to pizza, it shouldn’t be a substitute for when you’re on a ‘health kick’ or ‘detox’, both should be eaten with enjoyment because they both taste pretty fabulous. It’s same same, but different!

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I’ve made this pizza many times, for a Friday night, shared with my mum over a glass of wine. I make a thick tomato sauce spiked with a heavy helping of garlic and fiery chilli along with some oregano and a squirt of tomato purée for some depth. Sometimes I’ll whizz up a pesto with fresh herbs, masses  of lemon and a handful of nuts and some oil, lovely drizzled over before serving for that fresh and zingy hit. The toppings are completely adaptable. This time we had roasted courgettes, radicchio and tomatoes, but try a selection of peppers, mushrooms, roast aubergine, artichokes, capers, olives and sweetcorn (which caramelises and goes slightly crispy, we fight over those bits). Then a good scatter of cheese, feta is always a guaranteed pleaser, but some goats cheese is rather good too. Then just before serving a large handful of some vibrant greens like watercress or rocket, drizzle with oil and a squeeze of lemon. Simple, full of veggies, uses up odds and ends and most importantly tastes really very good.

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Radicchio, courgette and goats cheese cauliflower pizza

Adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley’s Flower Power pizza

Ingredients

Pizza base

  • 140g cauliflower
  • 1 egg white
  • 50g gram/chickpea flour
  • 40g buckwheat flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1/2 tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Big pinch of chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Toppings

  • 1 courgette
  • 1/2 radicchio
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cheese, I used a hard goats cheese, but feta, soft goats cheese or mozzarella would also work nicely
  • Pine nuts, toasted
  • Fresh basil
  • Salad leaves, I had a mix of rocket, watercress and spinach
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan. Chop the courgette into rounds, drizzle with oil, place in a roasting tin in the oven for around 20-30 minutes until golden and caramelised
  2. Next make the base. Put the cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until it looks like couscous. Add the other ingredients and whizz until you form a damp dough.  If you don’t have a food processor you can grate the cauliflower on a box grater then mix with the other ingredients in a bowl, this will just take a little longer.
  3. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and grease lightly with oil. Spoon the dough on the sheet and spread out thinly, leaving a slightly raised edge. I like to keep it circular for aesthetic reasons (we do eat with our eyes) and around 25cm diameter is a good size to aim for.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 mins, flip over and bake for 5 mins more.
  5. Meanwhile for the tomato sauce, add some oil to a saucepan and place on a low heat, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan and sizzle until it starts to turn slightly golden.
  6. Squeeze in the tomato purée and cook it for a few minutes, then tip in the tinned tomatoes mush them up with a fork, fill the tin halfway with water and add to the pan also. Add the oregano and chilli flakes and simmer until thick and spreadable, check for seasoning and set aside.
  7. Flip the pizza base so it’s the right way up and spread in the tomato sauce, leaving a rim around the edge.
  8. Slice the radicchio thinly and the cherry tomatoes in half, and place on the pizza along with the roast courgette and some chopped fresh basil if you have it.
  9. Grate the cheese (if it is a hard one) or crumble as much as you like over the pizza, then place back in the oven for 10 mins.
  10. When it’s cooked, serve on a board with a drizzle of oil and a handful of salad greens.

I’d love to hear what your favourite way with leftovers is, or your favourite pizza toppings. And it is true that leftovers make the best meals, always far better the second time round  (especially if paired with a nice glass of wine).

Happy munching my lovelies

X

Soup for the soul

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Rummaging through the fridge I found a lump of cheese, wrapped tightly in clingfilm (thank GOD, think of the odour) yellowing on the edges and blue tufts sprouting up in many patches. I thought to myself, “I don’t remember this blue cheese, I know we have a Stilton but that’s with all the other cheeses in a paper bag”. Then it clicked, yep it’s that Peakland White Stilton that I brought home from work as I dropped a huge chunk on the floor.          

.It wasn’t intentional.

I am that person. I’m not wasting it, there’s always a home for dropped sausage rolls, ciabattas and Peakland White Stilton Cheese. << What I’ve collected so far and I’m sure the list will grow longer.

A cheese that’s supposed to be a creamy soft white in colour is mild in flavour with a slight pepperiness you would get from a mature Blue cheese. It was destined to be made into a soup.

However the little bacteria suckers beat me, they’ve been feasting on it for a good while now…I’m going to leave them to it.

 

So here’s a quick and easy soup recipe to use up some cheese leftovers. I’m sure we all have a fridge full at his time of year, when you can’t bear the sight of any more cheese and crackers or cheese and a slither of Christmas cake. I’ve used Cropwell Bishop Stilton, but any blue cheese would work really well. For example, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Harrogate blue, Yorkshire blue, I could go on and on (I do work in a deli with cheese!!) or even that white Stilton that was waiting rather too patiently. Just be sure to taste before you serve as some blues are much stronger so you might need less, and others are creamier and less piquant.

At this time of year, a soup is on the lunch menu weekly, preferably served with a slice of warm-in-the-centre sourdough from my local bakery and a big smattering of butter, or some rye toast (I like Biona rye), possibly a smear of hummus, perhaps even baked sweet potato wedges dipped in hummus. It makes the perfect satisfying lunch and you can rest in peace knowing there was a good amount of veggies thrown in the mix. I added a few large handfuls of spinach as I wanted to UP the veg quota, if you’d rather stick to the traditional, leave out the spinach all together and possibly use two heads of cauliflower, or to go along with the green thing use broccoli instead. Just make sure to add in those stalks, this is frugal feeding at its finest.

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Cauliflower and Stilton soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp ghee or rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (substitute broccoli or use a mixture of the two)
  • Around 500ml-750ml of vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few large handfuls of spinach
  • 50g Stilton (or any other blue cheese)

 

Method

  1. Finely dice the onion and cook in the ghee in a large pan until softened. Up to 10 minutes.
  2. Whilst the onion is cooking, chop the cauliflower into florets and chop the stalk into small chunks.
  3. Before the 10 minutes is up, add the stalks to soften for a few minutes.
  4. Put the cauliflower florets in the pan and stir around then pour in the stock, start with 500ml you can add more later if it needs it. There’s nothing worse than thin soup.
  5. Bring to the boil then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid ajar, until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the spinach to the pan give it a good stir around and pop the lid on for a few minutes to let it wilt.
  7. Crumble the Stilton into the soup.
  8. Using either a stick blender or an upright blender (the latter will make a smoother soup, I used my Nutribullet in a couple of batches) blend until completely smooth adding extra stock/boiling water if necessary, until its at a consistency you like.
  9. Reheat slowly on the hob, stirring to prevent sticking on the bottom and serve in bowls with extra black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Oh and some bread for dipping is obligatory.
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Clean bowls all round

Keep warm this winter, take a flask of soup to keep the shivers at bay.

Much love

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