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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Recipes with asparagus

21Jul 12

Asparagus and Cream Cheese Ravioli

Ravioli with Asparagus in a Tarragon Cream CheesePasta – a soft and sensual art in creation and consummation…

Home-made pasta offers a world of discovery.  Try making this asparagus and cream cheese ravioliAsparagus is in full season from April to June. So why not take advantage of the season and also try this asparagus and cheese pudding?

What you need:

  • 500g strong pasta flour
  • 5 large eggs
  • Semolina flour for dusting
  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A little olive oil
  • 80g butter
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to season
  • 425g ricotta cheese
  • 1 large handful of fresh tarragon, finely shredded
  • 90g parmesan cheese, finely grated, and some to sprinkle when you serve

What to do:

  1. Whizz the pasta flour and eggs for about 30 seconds in a food processor.  Let it rest for a couple of minutes and whizz again for a short time, forming dough.  Remove and knead by hand for a couple of minutes until smooth and elastic.  Wrap with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one hour.
  2. When ready, split the dough into 4 balls, re-wrapping those you’re not working with.  Press one with your palms to flatten it a little then pass it through your pasta machine on the widest setting.  Fold the dough in to the middle from both sides and run it through again.  Do this twice more until your pasta is the width of the machine.  Dust the dough with flour and change the setting on your machine to one thinner.  Keep working the dough through a setting at a time until the pasta is 1-1.5mm thick, in long sheets.
  3. Wash the asparagus and cut into thin pieces. Fry them in olive oil, a little of the butter and the garlic.  Season well with salt and pepper and let cool.
  4. Mix and mush the ricotta, parmesan, asparagus and 2/3 of the tarragon in a bowl.
  5. Lay a pasta sheet out onto a flour-dusted surface and place generous single teaspoons of the mixture onto it, 5cm apart along the length.  Brush water onto the pasta around the filling and gently lay another pasta sheet over the top of the first one.  Use the little finger side of your hand and gently press the pasta together, cupping your curled hand around the filling pressing out any air and sealing the pasta sheets together.  Crinkle cut in between the ravioli to separate them.  Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets and filling.
  6. Cook the pasta in gently boiling water for 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining butter and salt onto the drained pasta.  Garnish with the rest of the parmesan and tarragon.

1 hour to prepare plus chilling time, 10 minutes to cook

Makes 4 servings

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03May 12

Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates

Asparagus SaladA little inspiration for a way to enjoy the first of the spring season’s asparagus…

Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates combines lengthy ribbons of peeled asparagus with sweet dates and crunchy peanuts, topped with a well-matured and hard goat’s cheese and drizzled all over with a balsamic reduction.

I have two other variations for this salad: sometimes I use toasted pine nuts and parmesan in place of the nuts and the cheese.  At other times I use toasted flaked almonds and drizzle it over with a lime butter, topping off with lime zest and fresh coriander.  All three variations are fun to make and yummy to eat.  Enjoying asparagus raw is a great way to maximise on the nutritional benefits of this wonderful vegetable.

What you need:

  • 450g fresh asparagus (thicker stems work best), thoroughly washed
  • 60g honey-toasted peanuts
  • 50g Medjool dates, stones removed
  • 7 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 60g hard goat’s cheese
  • Salt flakes and ground black pepper to season
  • Extra virgin olive oil to dress

What to do:

  1. Lay a single stem of asparagus on its side on a chopping board.  Grab the tough end, and using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, shave off ribbons of asparagus from stalk to tip, peeling away from the tough end that you are holding.  Repeat with the rest of the bunch.  You won’t be using the tough ends so put them aside to compost.
  2. Reduce the balsamic vinegar on the hob until it is thick, sticky and very viscous.
  3. Arrange the ribbons of asparagus prettily in a medium-sized salad bowl, then drizzle over with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the salad carefully with tongs.
  4. Chop the dates into thin strands.  Put the peanuts in a small sandwich bag and bash them on a wooden block with a rolling pin to break them up.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped dates and peanuts over the top of the salad and toss it again very gently.
  6. Use the same peeler to shave off some goat’s cheese curls directly off the block.  Drizzle over with the balsamic reduction, season with a little more salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

20 minutes preparation, 10 minutes cooking

Makes 3-4 servings

Note: For a hot asparagus dish, try this scrumptious asparagus and cheese pudding.

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05Apr 12

Steamed Spring Vegetables with Toasted Pine Nuts

Steamed Spring Vegetables with Pine NutsAn incredibly fresh and healthy accompaniment to any meat or fish dish that you are preparing – steamed spring vegetables with toasted pine nuts are particularly delicious alongside herb crusted salmon with salsa rosso.  In fact, I sometimes eat a big bowl of this and nothing else for my supper, when my body is calling out for greens, greens and more greens, as it often does! 

Asparagus and broccoli are in season in the spring in the UK.  They are bursting with vitamins and minerals, as well as flavour, when you dress them up in a little tasty topping.  Also works well as a starter. You can add Parmesan cheese to top it off at the end, but that is up to you!

What you need:

  • Bunch of fresh asparagus tips
  • Large handful of pine nuts
  • 12 stems of broccoli
  • 30g snow peas
  • 2 generous pinches of Malden sea salt flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil to fry the nuts and to drizzle over the dish
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil, roughly torn
  • A hearty drizzle of a good balsamic vinegar

What to do:

  1. Wash and prepare the asparagus.  Bend each stem, and if it is really fresh, it will break naturally to give you perfect tips.  Lay them to one side.  Wash the broccoli and trim off the ends. Rinse the snow peas.
  2. Prepare your steaming equipment and steam the prepared vegetables for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender but retain a slight crunch (if you like them al dente like me).
  3. Whilst the vegetables are steaming, toast the pine nuts in a little olive oil over a medium to high heat on the hob.  This should only take a few minutes.  Sprinkle them over with a pinch of the sea salt, remove them from the heat and leave them sitting in the pan to keep warm.
  4. Once the vegetables are cooked, drain them and then serve them into pretty bowls or side plates.  Top with the pine nuts, and then drizzle over a generous helping of olive oil and swirl over with the balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle all over with the fresh basil and season well with salt and pepper.  Cover the vegetables in the topping rather than just the centre.

Note: For a change, try substituting the balsamic vinegar for the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.

10 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook

Makes: 2 generous servings

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