In season: more asparagus

A few weeks ago I treated myself to a ‘Tarte Maison‘ tin from John Lewis. Its a lovely thing, 3 times as long as its wide and calling out to have something pretty made in it. Initially I’d intended to make a rhubarb tart that I’d seen Jonathan (aka @Browners), over at ‘Around Britain with a Paunch‘ mention on Twitter. I’ve not got to the rhubarb tart yet – mainly because we don’t eat that many desserts so it just hasn’t happened.

But this weekend I thought it would be nice to do something a little bit different with asparagus that still let it shine and played to its best qualities but moved away from simple steaming and dressing (much as I love it just steamed).

The tart tin seemed just the thing to show off the asparagus.

It was quick and easy:

1. Steam 10 asparagus spears until tender and then immediately plunge them into cold water so they retain their vibrant green colour. Cut each spear in half so you have a bottom end and an end with the tip on.
2. Grease the tart tin and then line with four layers of filo pastry (I needed 8 sheets which overlapped in the middle). Pour in baking beans and blind bake for 7 minutes at Gas 6/200C/400F. Remove from oven and careful remove the baking beans. Allow to cool slightly.
3. Lay the bottoms of the asparagus spears in the pastry case. Add soft goats cheese cut into small pieces (I used 100g of Pants y Gawn). Pour in beaten and seasoned eggs (it took 6 medium eggs).
4. Lay the tops of asaparagus spears on the eggy mix. Bake 20 minutes at Gas 6 until the mixture is firm. Allow to cool, admire, slice and serve.

Under the clock, with the flowers

Yesterday I had an assignation at Liverpool Street Station in London with a man I’d never met before called Dan (at least that what he said his name was). 

We agreed to meet at 11.30 BST.

He said I’d recognise him by the flowers and the gentle aroma of garlic. How he was going to identify me we didn’t establish. Gave me plenty of get out but not him.

Fortunately there aren’t that many people just standing looking like they are waiting for a man bearing a wild garlic plant at that time of day – most people are busy rushing to or from somewhere. Me, I was just loitering.

Anyway along came a guy with a garlic plant and I reasoned there wasn’t going to be 2 people doing this so I said ‘Hi’ and as luck would have it it was Dan! We chatted bit, Dan told me about how to look after the plant and what to expect. We compared foodie notes. I handed him a sample of my home made sloe vodka (vintage 2006) as a thank you and he went off to carry on his day job (and sneak a nip of vodka I think) and I took the garlic for a coffee followed by lunch – most enjoyable and not too many odd looks.

The plant is now at home, the cats have checked it out and decided its not for them, I sampled some today at lunch and was impressed, so next up is to plant it at the shady end of the garden and hope that next year we have a good crop.

I can’t wait for a feast of wild garlic next year :)

With big thanks to Dan over at FoodUrchin for giving me a little bit of his garden.

In season: asparagus, part 1

The asparagus season has been going for a week or so now and so far I’ve only had one tasting just over a week ago and none since. It was great but once only is not good enough, there are only 6-8 weeks of the season, I refuse to buy asparagus out of season and I love the stuff so I really need to get focussed – I mean I’d eat it everyday if I could! So today, despite the heavy rain and blustery wind, I decided it had to be asparagus for lunch, preferably with some Jersey Royals alongside. A quick trip to the supermarket was required – now I know I should be buying this stuff at the local farmers shop/market/etc but:

a. there isn’t one near me and
b. its Monday so time is short for food shopping. 

I got what I needed – a good bunch of asparagus (it was from Hampshire – I’m really wondering where the East Anglia asparagus is this year after all its nearer – so much for Waitrose’s local sourcing policy!) and a small bag of Jersey Royals (and what happened to them being sold still in the soil it seemed so much better and they had them like that last year?).

Anyway back home with my haul of goodies I set to work to make a quick lunch. I like my asparagus simply done –I’m not one for turning it into soups it always seems best to me steamed or maybe grilled and then dressed with some oil or butter, or served with simple accompaniments such as poached egg, or a little cheese. Today I opted for steaming it above the potatoes and then serving it on a bed of parma ham, drizzling it with olive oil and sprinkling with a little bit of Sacanova Aged Mahon cheese, the potatoes were alongside with some oil and fresh mint.

Sweet and slightly nutty asparagus, earthy, nutty potatoes, sweet ham and a salty caramel tang from the cheese – perfection.

With only about 45 days left to get my fill how shall I have tomorrow’s asparagus?

Very easy rhubarb ice cream

As the sun has been out quite a bit over the last few weeks my mind turned to ice cream making. I don’t make lots of desserts or do lots of baking – I enjoy it but we just don’t eat dessert that often so it kind of gets wasted (this is not some ‘health’ or ‘no sugar’ things its just I prefer munching on savoury stuff these days); but every now and then a sweet dish is just what’s needed.

There are some really good ice creams out there especially at farm shops – enough really to make you wonder if home made ice cream is worth it, but of course it is – it’s a great project thing and good for impressing guests (or just your other half).

I’ve been a fan of Alder Carr Farm’s Alder Tree ice creams for a good number of years and when I get the chance I indulge in a little pot, sometimes insisting on a stop off at their farm shop just to get my hands on one. My favourite flavours are; Gooseberry and elderflower, Raspberry, Stem ginger and rhubarb and Summer fruits – its so hard to pick. Anyhow, we went for a walk near Blythburgh the other day and I was hoping for an ice cream treat at the end, but we were later than expected due to a route diversion and so there was no hope of getting my mitts on any ice cream anywhere ?

Okay a big disappointment – but there are always ways to compensate and so I started planning some ice cream making. I’d picked up some rhubarb at the farm shop and hadn’t decided what to do with it so, with the cogs in my head whirring into action, I settled on either rhubarb and elderflower or rhubarb and pink ginger ice cream. I generously allowed my husband to pick between these two choices and he went for the ginger option.

This is so easy to make you won’t believe it! You’ll need:

rhubarb – a couple of sticks
4 tbsp pink ginger cordial (I used Thorncrofts)
100g of greek style yoghurt
100g of crème fraiche (basically half of the standard size tub)
an ice cream maker (much easier) or a strong plastic box and a freezer (slightly harder)

What to do?

1. cut the rhubarb up pretty small – about 5mm thickness max – you don’t want big stringy bits of rhubarb in your ice cream. Then simmer in about 2tbsp of water (no sugar) it until its soft and breaks up easily (10-15 mins should do it). Leave it to cool completely.
2. when its cool mix in the 4 tbsp of pink ginger cordial (undiluted); or of course elderflower cordial if that’s what you fancy. Check the taste and add a bit more if you like things extra sweet.
3. stir in the yoghurt and crème fraiche – it’ll be pretty sloppy
4. fire up the ice cream maker if you have one and pour in the mixture, allow to churn. It’ll take at least 30 minutes to get to a good frozen but soft scoop consistency. Eat.
5. if you don’t have an ice cream maker then first of all get on to your loved ones and drop hints that you’d quite like one – the ones where you freeze the bowl start at around £35, if you’ve got rich loved ones make noises for one that has its own freezing unit (£220+). Then once you’ve done that put the mix in the plastic box, put it in the freezer and take it out every now and then to stir it as this breaks up the ice crystals and mkes for a smoother consistenty, probably every 2 hours will do it. It’ll take about 8 hours if you can wait that long.  

Enjoy, and feel smug.