One thing you will know about myself already is how passionate I am about Seasonal Food and I don’t care how many times I will repeat myself in saying this. I feel very lucky to live in Britain and what amazing seasonal produce is all around us. Of course I also try my best with this subject in my own Kitchen Garden.
One seasonal Vegetable that I yearn for at this time of year and I am totally honest when I say I will NOT touch it grown from any other country but Britain, and that My readers is the Sexy, Slinky Asparagus. I know I am quite a frugal Queen, but I don’t mind a little splurge with this!
There is just something about the taste of our British Asparagus that is NOTHING compared to other countries who grow it. Ours has a lovely Sweet, yet Earthy and Nutty taste, not to mention the Lovely Vivid Green colour that it gives off.
This year, the British Asparagus season starts today, Thursday 23rd of April but prior to this, and this is just how passionate I am about seasonality. I decided that Myself and my fiancé would travel all the way over to the Wye Valley, Ross on Wye to be precise to get my hands on the very first few bunches that were starting to be sold. My friend Ben Jackson called this “Mental Asparagus searching” which I like that!
So to kick start off my Asparagus recipes, I wanted to do something very Easy, Fresh and clean cut, not to overpower the taste. This recipe just hit the nail on the head. You may remember about 3-4 weeks ago I made my own “Sun-blushed” tomatoes, well I decided to use those in this recipe but of course made a fresh batch last week. It worked a treat!
Bruschetta with Asparagus, Soft Cheese & Homemade “Sun-blushed” Tomatoes:
– Good Quality bread. I used Multigrain Rye bread. Sourdough would be great too.
– Good Quality British Asparagus, Mine was from the Wye Valley
– Homemade “Sun-blushed” Tomatoes or bought
– Soft Cheese or a mild Goats Cheese
– The oil that the “Sun-blushed” tomatoes sits in
– 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
– Ice and cold water in a bowl
* Take a Large Bowl and place in some Ice cubes and cold water
* Boil a small amount of water in a large saucepan
* Take your Asparagus and take off the bottom, the woody stalk end with a knife. About an inch.
* With a Veg/potato peeler, peel ever so slightly down about an inch 1/2 of the top layer of asparagus skin at the bottom. You will see this reveals a lovely bright vivid green.
* As soon as you have done this, plunge the Asparagus into the Iced water, this will keep it that vivid green colour.
* Slice your bread and drizzle some rapeseed oil onto the bread. place in a Frying pan to colour each side
* Once your Water is Boiling, plunge your asparagus and cook for roughly 2-3 minutes depending on size.
* When Bread and Asparagus is cooked, Start to assemble your dish and voila! A lovely starter, breakfast, Lunch…the List goes on!
This is something Ive always done for years with Tomatoes. I first picked it up when I was a Commis Chef many years ago in a fine dining restaurant. In the restaurant kitchens, it is so hot, we used to just place them under the Pass lights to do this. In hot countries or in summer, yes you could just place them in the sun but I find and easier way of doing this and one that doesn’t attract wasps or flies!
I had a huge interest from people when I did these, it was lovely, so I just had to share it. There is also going to be a recipe that pairs these with something that will come shortly after.
This is a great way of using up tomatoes when they are starting to “turn”. I used Baby Plum tomatoes in this recipe but you can do it with any, just have to have them longer in the oven (Low and slow) and the bigger they are, slice them thinner. Once you have done this you will never turn back.
Homemade “Sun-blushed” Tomatoes:
* N.B – I haven’t put any measurements/weights down in this recipe as it’s your call on how much you make.
– Tomatoes, I used Baby Plum
– Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
– Selection of Herbs chopped , I used Parsley, Basil, dried Thyme and Rosemary but you could also use oregano, Marjoram, tarragon etc…
– Rapeseed Oil or good quality Olive oil to drizzle and marinate in the Jar so have a full bottle handy
– 3-4 Cloves of Garlic
– Caster Sugar to sprinkle
* Preheat your oven to 100c-120 c, depending on how powerful your oven is and size of tomato. For these tiny ones. Mine took just over an hour. Just keep checking them.
* Slice your Tomatoes and place onto a baking dish/tray
* Sprinkle a bit of sea salt, Cracked Black Pepper, dried (Homemade) Thyme, Rosemary and sugar
* Drizzle with oil and place in the oven for anything between 1 hour and 2, as stated above.
* Keep checking your tomatoes every 20-30 mins.
* In the meantime when you are waiting, Sterilise your chosen Jar, start to add your oil and Garlic.
* A couple of minutes before they are done, I added on top some fresh parsley and basil to cool down with but placed them into a cool dish.
* Once they are cooled add to your jar and you’re done. Keep in the fridge. And the oil that comes off this will be out of this world! Do not throw it away!
Last thing you need on a Sunday is to have yourself slaving over a Hot Stove cooking a Large Roast Dinner. Especially now the weather is beginning to become slightly warmer.
In this recipe, yes it does take some time, however, it is all in one pot as you can leave it to carry on with your Planned activities. Of course, it isn’t just a recipe specifically for Sunday’s but I chose this as an easier option for you.
This Recipe is Light, Fresh and Easy to do. You don’t want to overpower this either with bold flavours as you want to capture that Lovely Spring taste of the Lamb, the Sweetness of those Peas popping away in your mouth and a favourite of mine…The Pearl Barley being velvety along the stew’s juices.
I have used stewing Lamb in this as the bones will give the extra flavour you need. I personally like to pick up the Bones with my Hands and get every last Morsel I can Find.
A dish like this is always a great winner for me when you can pop it down as a talking point on the dinner table, tuck in and not to forget, there is a MUST for some Crispy Bread to mop up those last bits that have been sitting patiently at the bottom of your bowl.
This Recipe capture’s seasonality at its best, It can be done quite inexpensively and will have you craving for more.
Spring Lamb Stew with Vegetables and Pearl Barley:
(Serves 4-6 people depending on size of Lamb pieces you buy)
– 1 Kg Of British Stewing Lamb (approximately 8 pieces) You could use Neck of Lamb also
– 1 Tbsp of Rapeseed Oil
– A Splash of Dry White Wine
– 2 Onions Roughly Chopped
– 2 Large Garlic Cloves finely Diced
– 3 Tbsp’s Tomato Puree
– Homemade Chicken stock or 1 Stock pot (Knorr) to every 4 pieces of Lamb you have
– A good handful of Chantennay Carrots ( 200g roughly) Halved lengthways
– 100g Pearl Barley cooked before hand in a little Chicken stock
– 4 medium potatoes diced into cubes of 6. I used Shannon but any will do.Could even use new season Baby ones.
– 1 Large Leek sliced a centimetre thick.
– 5-6 Spring onions Sliced into 4
– Small Sprig of Rosemary chopped finely
– 100g of Petit Pois
– A few sprigs of Fresh Mint chopped finely
– A couple of Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley chopped finely
– Salt and Pepper to season
* Take your Lamb Pieces and pat dry with Kitchen Paper. Season Your Lamb with Salt and pepper if required.
* In a Heavy bottomed Casserole Dish/Large Saucepan heat up the Rapeseed oil and start to sear of the Lamb just till browned on the outside. Placing each pieces of Lamb into a separate dish once browned on the outside.
* Fry off your Chopped Onions for a minute or two.
* Add your splash of White wine to de glaze your large saucepan( allow juices to come away) Add Your Lamb, Chicken Stock and 2 Tbsp’s of Tomato puree. Cover with water covering everything.
* Simmer away for 1/1/2 – 2 hrs adding water when needed.
* Cook your Pearl Barley to packet instructions with a little chicken stock added and leave to one side.
* After 2 hours or when the Lamb is starting to soften and theres about 30 mins to go. Then add your Carrots, Garlic and Rosemary.
* Then pop in your potatoes after another 5 minutes.
* When your carrots are starting to soften, add your Leeks, rest of your tomato puree and the Cooked Pearl Barley.
* After another 5 minutes add your Spring Onions and Petit Pois. Only cook for a further 2-3 minutes
* By now the lamb should be falling off the bones and the veg all cooked. Now Finish with your Chopped Fresh Mint and Parsley
* Finally, Serve into Bowls with Crusty Bread