Asparagus carbonara

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Lois’ ingenious idea: use the tough, woody ends of the asparagus to flavour the pasta cooking water to make this dish taste even more asparagus-y. You’ll also be making use of the whole asparagus spear and minimising food waste. Once again so on trend it’s ridiculous, Lois.

This will make enough for two.

Asparagus carbonara (Lois Daish, A Good Year, p.123)

1 free-range egg

1 free-range egg yolk

2 tablespoons cream

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

200g spaghetti

12 thin asparagus spears

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Snap the woody ends off the asparargus and place in a large pot of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes before scooping out the asparagus ends (discard these). Salt the water and add the spaghetti.

Chop the asparagus spears into thick slanted slices. Combine the egg, egg yolk, cream, salt, pepper and cheese together in a small bowl and set aside.

When the pasta is almost cooked, add the asparagus. When both are tender, drain into a sieve, using the cooking liquid to heat a large serving bowl. Tip out the liquid and add the spaghetti and asparagus to the bowl. Toss with the oil and pour on the egg and cream mixture. Toss together and eat immediately. As if you needed telling.

Strawberry & rhubarb shortcake

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It might seem extravagant to use a punnet of new seasons strawberries for cooking rather than just enjoying as they are. My solution is to buy two punnets, eat one straight and use the other to make a shortcake. Do not underestimate how sensational cooked strawberries and rhubarb are together; your kitchen will smell like something out of a fairy tale.

Strawberry & rhubarb shortcake (Lois Daish, A Treasury of New Zealand Baking, Random House, 2009, p.182)

Fruit:

4 stalks of rhubarb

3 tablespoons sugar

1 punnet of strawberries

Shortcake:

125g butter, softened

125g sugar

1 egg

225g plain flour

25g cornflour

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the fruit:

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Wash rhubarb stalks and cut into 1cm pieces. Put onto a baking tray and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the rhubarb for 15 minutes. While the rhubarb is baking, hull the strawberries and cut in half. Once the 15 minutes is up, add the strawberries and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the shortcake:

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the egg and continue to beat until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Line whatever tin you’d like to use (a round 22cm tin works, as does a 20 x 10cm loaf tin) with baking paper. Put two thirds of the shortcake mixture into the lined base of the tin. Spread over the fruit mixture and then put dollops of the remaining shortcake mixture over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Summer fish bowl

summer fish bowl

Despite the summery ambition in its title, this is the perfect spring dinner. It’s a wonderful way to use new season potatoes and asparagus. It’s light and fresh-tasting, yet still substantial. I can see this becoming a regular weeknight dinner at my place.

Summer fish bowl (adapted from Lois Daish, A Good Year, p. 31)

2 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3-4cm pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, thinly slicely

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1/2 cup white wine (dry riesling or sauvignon blanc)

6-8 low acid tomatoes (when tomatoes aren’t in season, substitute a can of tomatoes, drained of juice)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

pinch saffron stamens

pinch cayenne pepper

fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 cups fish stock, chicken stock or water with a splash of fish sauce

bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and the spears cut into lengths

chopped fresh leafy herbs, such as parsley and oregano

500g fresh fish

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place potato cubes into a pot and over with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the onion, carrot, celery and fennel. Fry gently for about ten minutes until starting to caramelise, then add the garlic. Fry again briefly and pour on the wine. Allow to bubble up for 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, seasonings and thyme. Cook for a few minutes more, then add the liquid and simmer for 20 minutes until everything is tender. Check to see if it needs more salt and pepper. Add the asparagus spears and continue to simmer gently while you grill the fish.

Preheat your oven grill. Prepare the fish by cutting into large pieces. Place in a rimmed baking dish, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slide the fish under the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely opaque right through. Transfer the fish into a shallow heated bowl, add the cooked potatoes, pour over any juices from the pan into the pot of sauce and ladle the sauce over the top.