If May is anything to go by, flaming June will hopefully live up to its name. If it’s like the past few weeks, we may well be dodging thunderstorms but also enjoying some florious sunshine. Hopefully the June sun will shine this weekend, as I’m cooking family friendly fish recipes at Penshurst Farmers Market on Saturday.
Introducing children to fish other than the ubiquitous fishfinger can seem a challenge so, having been through the process with my own family, I’ll be cooking my own well tested fish recipes from my Busy Mum’s Cookbook and offering tips on what to serve and how to prepare it for small people, and also advising on what to avoid. And I’ll have copies of the book to sell and sign, featuring the recipes.
As always, our regular stallholders will be out in force – local asparagus and fresh fish included – and this month with the growing season in full flow, there’s sure to be plenty to fill your shopping basket. So come prepared and come and say hello.
If you missed them, here are my seasonal asparagus recipes from Waitrose Weekend out in early May…..
As the countryside springs back into life after the chilly grey winter and snowy spring, the first signs of the bounty that will be with us in the coming months is starting to appear in store. For me the real harbinger of summer is wonderful English asparagus, one of the great treats of the season. The cool start to the year has kept the spears waiting in the ground but they are now pushing through the earth ready for harvesting. Asparagus is at its best when picked and cooked as quickly as possible so the farmers’ market is the shortest route from farm to plate for spears often picked that very morning.
The season for English asparagus is short and sweet so make the most of the delicate flavour by serving the green spears simply steamed with melted butter or hollandaise sauce, or cook and toss with crumbled local goat’s cheese, some toasted pine nuts and a simple olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. As the season progresses I use asparagus in risottos, in tarts with bacon or crab, for salads and soups or one of these recipes. Ideal flavour partners are cheeses and dairy – cream and full fat yogurt – lighter meats such as chicken and new season’s lamb, or cured meats such as bacon and pancetta.
Spaghetti with asparagus, lemon and chives
Simple, luxurious and one of my favourite quick easy meals when asparagus is in season. You can add cooked cubed pancetta for any meat eaters which is also good
Serves 2/Prep 5 minutes/Cook 10 – 12 minutes
250g bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
100ml double cream
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
125g egg tagliatelle
4 – 6 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 Cut the asparagus into 2cm lengths on the diagonal. Drop into a pan of boiling water, return to the boil for 2 – 3 minutes until just tender then drain thoroughly.
2 Heat the cream in a small pan and add lemon rind and garlic cloves. Simmer for 3 -4 minutes until the garlic soft then discard the garlic. Add the asparagus and chives to the cream and simmer for a minute. Keep warm.
3 Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling salted water for 3 – 4 minutes until just tender. Drain and add to the sauce with the parmesan. Toss together and serve in warm pasta bowls with extra grated parmesan.
Roast asparagus and goats cheese risotto with Iberico ham crisps
Asparagus risotto is one of my dessert island dishes. This version is less rich than the classic version. Iberico jamon with its creamy fat cooks beautifully as a garnish and is a real treat but you could use serrano, Parma or a local ham as an alternative
Serves 4/Prep 10 minutes/Cook 25 minutes
2 bunches fresh asparagus
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g Arborio risotto rice
100ml dry white wine
about 1.5 litres simmering vegetable stock
150g crumbly cheese, cubed
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
8 slices jamon Iberico de bellota or locally cured ham
1 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Toss the asparagus with half the oil and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Cook for 20 minutes turning halfway through the cooking time until tender and lightly browned.
2 Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Add the white wine, bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue adding stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
3 Cut the asparagus into 2cm lengths and add for the final few minutes then stir in the cheese, mint and seasoning. Cover the pan and leave to stand. Dry fry the slices of ham in a non-stick frying pan until crispy and browned. Spoon the risotto into warm serving bowls and garnish with the pieces of ham.
Salmon and asparagus Thai curry
The richness of salmon with lemon grassy and ginger Thai spices surprisingly make a perfect foil for the grassy clean flavour of English asparagus at its freshest and best. This dish needs no accompanying rice unless you want some to soak up the juices
Serves 2 – 3/Prep 10 minutes/Cook 20 minutes
150g Puy lentils
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 – 6 tbsp Thai red curry paste
400g can coconut milk
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
220g fresh Scottish salmon fillet, cubed
230g fresh asparagus, cut into 3cm lengths
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cubed
juice of 1 lime
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
shredded fresh basil or coariander leaves to garnish
1 Rinse the lentils and place in a medium pan and generously cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until just tender. Drain.
2 While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the curry paste. Cook for a minute then add coconut milk, fish sauce and 100ml cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes then add the asparagus and peppers. Simmer gently for 3 minutes then stir in the cubed salmon and cook gently for a further 2 – 3 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through.
3 Add the lentils to the pan and heat through then add the lime juice. Scatter with the sliced red onions and basil. Serve alone in warmed bowls or with extra steamed rice.
Three quick ideas with asparagus
Asparagus and Jersey Royal gratin
– two of my favourite seasonal veg go perfectly together in this easy supper dish. Halve cooked Jersey Royals and toss with cooked asparagus tips. Arrange in a shallow ovenproof dish. Stir together hollandaise sauce with some lightly whipped cream or yogurt and a teaspoonful of Dijon mustard and spoon over the top of the veg. Scatter with a mix of breadcrumbs and chopped almonds and bake until golden and bubbling. You can also add cooked chicken to make the dish more substantial.
Griddled asparagus with parmesan pine nut dressing
-Griddling brings out the full flavour of asparagus beautifully. Toss spears in olive oil and cook on a hot griddle pan or under the grill until tender and golden. Whiz pine nuts, grated parmesan and a garlic clove together in a processor then drizzle in olive oil keeping the mixture thick. Season and serve with the asparagus.
Ribbon asparagus on toast with duck eggs and sunflower seeds
– Make asparagus ribbons from fat spears of raw asparagus with a swivel peeler from stem to tip. Toss with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower seeds and seasoning and pile onto toasted sourdough bread. Top with a poached duck egg.