Categories
Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Asparagus

The new season for British Asparagus arrives in late April; a highlight of the foodie calendar and one greeted with greedy anticipation by everyone in this household.

A perfect fat bunch of those tender green spears needs little more than a gentle boil or steam for a couple of minutes and is best served as simply as possible. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of melted butter is perfect, but if you want to go a step further and serve up something truly special, worthy of the freshest fat bunch you can find then try this lime and mint hollandaise. It’s a gorgeous lunch for a warm day or an elegant, simple starter. You can keep the hollandaise warm over a pan of hot(ish) water or an easier way is just to put it into a thermos flask (you will have heated it first with boiling water). It will keep well in there for a couple of hours.

A useful tip when preparing your asparagus is to take the stem, holding it at each end and snap in half. It will break perfectly at the point where the stem is no longer tender.

ASPARAGUS with a LIME AND MINT HOLLANDAISE
Serves 4

Two bunches of fresh British asparagus
2 free range egg yolks
Water
110g unsalted butter
A little boiling water
1 lime
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

First make the hollandaise.

Take a bowl and put in the egg yolks. Cut the butter into small chunks. Add a couple of teaspoons of cold water and whisk well. Sit the pan over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk the yolks for a couple of minutes. Then slowly add the butter, a piece of two at a time. The sauce will start to form, thin at first and then thickening up as the yolks start to cook. As you add the butter just be sure that the pan doesn’t get too hot. You should always be able to touch the bottom of the bowl with your hand with.

Keep whisking, adding the butter. As it starts to get very thick add a teaspoon or two of boiling water and whisk that in. Add salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Taste and add more until you have the right balance. Keep whisking until you have a smooth, glossy and thick hollandaise. Put to one side while you cook your asparagus.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus and cook for two to three minutes depending on the thickness of your stems. Put the thickest in first.

Drain well (keep a little of the asparagus water if you can) and season. Shake in a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and toss through.

Back to your hollandaise. If it is still quite thick you can add in a little of the asparagus water. Stir through your finely chopped mint leaves and serve with the warm asparagus and some crusty bread. Delicious!

Asparagus and mint hollandaise

Categories
Ice Creams and Granita Lunch Puddings Quick and Easy Suppers

A Quick Pudding for Friends

Homemade ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures and it is very easy to make.
Of course, there are some great ice creams nowadays that you can buy in the supermarket but nothing quite comes close to your own and this recipe is so much easier to make than the classic method as you don’t need to go to all the bother of making a home-made custard.  This is really a matter of stirring some rather wonderful ingredients together and then sitting back and accepting the inevitable compliments, safe in the knowledge that it really wasn’t an entirely taxing experience in the first place.  But no less delicious for that and not necessarily a detail that you have to share.

I made this ice cream the other day for a Friday night supper party.  I was rather short of time and had one of those tubs of peaches rapidly ripening in the larder.   The ginger ice cream made  a lovely accompaniment to them which I braised in a marsala syrup, stuffed with amaretti and dark sugar and spiced up with some cinnamon and vanilla.

STEM GINGER ICE CREAM
Serves Six to Eight

1 tub mascarpone
250ml double cream
Four pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped plus syrup from the jar
2 tablespoons ginger preserve (I use Waitrose own)
2 egg whites
50g caster sugar
Lightly whip the cream and whisk in the mascarpone.  Add the ginger preserve, the finely chopped stem ginger and about three tablespoons of the syrup.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then gradually add the caster sugar until you have a glossy meringue.  Add to the ice cream mixture and fold in.

Pour the whole lot into an ice cream machine and churn.  If you don’t have a machine then put in the freezer in a plastic tub and whisk with a  fork every half an hour to break up the ice crystals that will be forming.  You will have to do this about four or five times.

Keep in the freezer but take out and put in the fridge for about 45 minutes before serving if you are not using it immediately.

PEACHES IN MARSALA with AMARETTI
Serves Eight

Eight fairly ripe peaches
Eight amaretti biscuits (crunchy ones)
Dark muscovado sugar
400ml sweet marsala
100g caster sugar
One fresh vanilla pod
2 sticks of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180c
Remove the skin from the peaches by sitting them in boiling water for a minute or two.  The skins will slip off easily.

Cut in half and remove the stone.  Put in an ovenproof dish and fill the centre of each peach half with some crumbled biscuit and a teaspoon of sugar.  Heat the marsala with the caster sugar and pour around the peaches.  Bake in the oven for forty minutes, basting the peaches occasionally.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with the ice cream or softly whipped double cream.