This short but sweet season for those wonderful green spears has come to an end. The 23rd June sees the asparagus fields left to put in the growth that’s needed for next year’s harvest so despite the late start, farmers won’t be cutting anymore. I celebrated this weekend with the last large bunches from Michael Bourne at Groombridge Farm Shop and made a few of my favourite dishes. You can still find the last pickings in some shops and supermarkets this week but make the most of it.
Friday night supper
Green summer risotto
Risottos are my (and my family’s) idea of the perfect comfort food and so convenient as there is always the makings of one in the cupboard or veg drawer. I make risottos in all the colours of the rainbow, just by following the basic method and adding a vegetable. Pumpkin, aubergine and courgette are all popular, but this one is a summer favourite and makes the most of my abundant herb garden
Serves 4 – 6/Prep: 15 mins/Cook: 25 mins/Skill – medium
450g prepared seasonal vegetables (such as thinly sliced small courgettes, podded peas, green beans, podded broad beans and asparagus tips)
50g fresh mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, basil, chives, tarragon, mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
350g risotto rice
simmering chicken or vegetable stock (home made makes all the difference but you can use a cube)
100ml dry white wine
50g freshly grated Parmesan
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Cook the vegetables in a little simmering water for 2 – 3 minutes until almost tender then drain, reserving the liquid. Put 1/4 into a blender goblet with half the butter, the herbs and 3 tbsp of the cooking liquid. Make the rest of the liquid up to 1.5 litres with the stock. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil.
2 Add a ladleful of stock and the white wine and simmer over a medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue adding stock, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy but still with a slight bite. This should take about 15 – 20 minutes
3 When the rice is tender, add the reserved vegetables and cook for another minute or two to heat through. Stir in the herb butter and the cheese and heat through; adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately in warm bowls.
My tip for easy risotto: To get ahead use the chef’s tip for risotto and cook up to the stage of adding the rice and first amount of liquid. Then just remove from the heat and set aside. Then when you are ready to serve the risotto, reheat the base, return the stock to simmering point and complete as the recipe directs you.
Asparagus and new potato gratin
Saturday night’s supper kicked off with the classic – steamed spears with home made Hollandaise (see previous asparagus post for my recipe) then Sunday lunch was a meal in a hurry so I just looked in the fridge and found new potatoes, courgettes and the rest of the asparagus. I’d kept the remaining Hollandaise from Friday (or you could use a ready made version) so just steamed the veg and then arranged it in a gratin dish. A spoonful or two of hollandaise over the top, a scattering of mixed seeds and pine nuts and a little grated Parmesan then under the grill until bubbling. Perfect with some good sour dough bread, and you can substitute any green veg such as broccoli, leeks or green beans for the now out of season asparagus…..