Monday, June 27, 2016

Moving house, a dog-eared recipe folder, and how do you store recipes?

I'm preparing to move house. There are boxes everywhere. As part of this process, I'm sorting through a folder of recipes, mostly clipped from magazines. There are hundreds of recipes here, going back 15 years or more. Some of them are on newsprint that is beginning to turn yellow.

There are some I've now made so many times I no longer need a recipe, and others that I've yet to make. The best food writing stands out, because in those cases I remember the recipe and its introduction clearly, even though it's been years since I read it.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The last asparagus dish - griddled asparagus with roasted vegetables and pasta

So here we are. Late June already. When I bought two bunches of asparagus at the farmers' market this morning, he told me this was the last crop of the year. I wasn't surprised by this news, but it's still a little sad.

So I decided to make something new. Asparagus griddled to bring out its smoky notes, set against sweet roasted peppers and tomatoes, and some olives for a salty hit. I served it with spaghetti, but it could have been tagliatelle or fettuccine. Or some couscous, perhaps.

As for the other bunch of asparagus, it will be going into a risotto, perhaps with some peas. Whenever I cut the tough ends from asparagus stalks, I put them in the freezer, so by the end of the season I have a small bag full, with which to make a stock for my risotto. And that really will be the end.

Pasta with asparagus, roasted peppers, tomatoes and olives

Serves 2


1 sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red)
1 clove garlic
4-5 ripe tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
About 10 asparagus stalks, preferably medium thickness
150g dried pasta of your choice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
12-16 black olives (preferably not the type in brine)


Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/ 190C /375F.

Remove the seeds and core from the pepper and chop it into chunks each roughly 2.5cm (1in) square. Put on a baking tray (I don't find oil to be necessary, but you could add a teaspoon of olive oil if you wanted) and in to the preheated oven.

Thinly slice of a clove of garlic. Cut the tomatoes in half, arrange on a baking tray, and sprinkle with black pepper and dried thyme. Put a slice or two on garlic on each half. Put these in the oven too. Roast for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

When the vegetables are ready, heat a griddle pan and cook the asparagus on a fairly high heat, turning a couple of times, until it is blackened in places and can be pierced fairly easily with a fork.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and stir in the olive oil, the olives, and the roasted veg, then top with the asparagus. Serve immediately. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The 7 best healthy asparagus recipes

I love asparagus. Now that the English asparagus season has started I'll be eating it as often as possible until the end of the season in late June.

Trouble is, a lot of the classic ways to eat asparagus involve lashings of butter or hollandaise sauce (still basically butter, made even more delicious). Or cheese. Or cheese and pastry (eg asparagus quiche or tartlets). All of which doesn't bear repeating too often. So I've devised a set of healthy dishes that mean I can eat asparagus frequently for eight weeks without too many pangs of guilt.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Asparagus, ricotta and toast

Sometimes you just can't beat toast. Quick, easy, and with the right toppings (whether it's just good butter or something fancier) downright delicious. Oh, and it's a great way to give a new lease of life to bread that's gone slightly stale.

New season English asparagus doesn't need too much to make it a delicious meal. Here I've griddled it to seal in all the flavour, then perched it on top of creamy, garlicky ricotta and of course, some toast. I flavoured the ricotta with some wild garlic that I picked in Sussex at the weekend, but spinach or fresh basil will make a fine substitute.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Tagliatelle with asparagus and mushrooms

Spaghetti carbonara is a classic dish, but what if you want a dish that is vegetarian and fairly healthy? Clearly the answer is not carbonara. This dish though, is maybe the next best thing. The mushrooms give it loads of flavour, then you have the luxury of the new season asparagus.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Eggs baked in garlic rice

My second wild garlic dish of this spring is a variation of a dish I've previously made with spinach. It's got plenty of big flavours, so the punchy wild garlic works a treat. But not to worry if you don't have wild garlic - just use spinach plus a few garlic cloves.

It's not necessarily the most beautiful dish, but the taste more than makes up for it - good cheesy, starchy comfort food with all the loveliness of a runny egg yolk. And it's even pretty healthy. As long as you use a full-flavoured cheese, this dish makes a small piece of cheese go a long way.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spiced lentils, kohlrabi and wild garlic

Hurray for wild garlic season again. It's with us for just a few short weeks (during which time I am quite likely to smell of garlic). Then it's gone for another year, to be followed by the British asparagus season, and I'll know that summer really is on the way.

It took me less than five minutes to gather half a carrier bag full of wild garlic in the Surrey hills last week. Some of it made its way onto a mushroom, garlic and ricotta pizza - one of my perennial favourites. The rest went into this dish of spiced lentils. A curry or something similar really is one of the best ways to use wild garlic. This is not a subtle ingredient, so it can really stand up to strong spices, as well as taking the place of the garlic you would probably be putting in your curry anyway.