Tag Archives: spring

Asparagus and Spring Garlic Custard Tart

5 Apr

These pretty little hairy bulbs are spring garlic. Also known as young garlic, green garlic or garlic shoots. They look a lot like spring onions but have a sweet, mild, fresh garlicky flavour. They can be used in place of garlic in any dish and because they have a more delicate flavour can also be used raw in salads as you would a spring onion. In Spain they are called ajos tiernos or ajetes and are used frequently in cooking. One of the most popular dishes is revuelto de ajos tiernos which is eggs scrambled with spring garlic.

This is actually a combination of two recipes put together. The first for an Asparagus Tart from The Art of the Tart and the second for Wild Garlic Custards with Cheddar & Mustard Straws from Terre a Terre. I changed the puff pastry cheese straws for a puff pastry tart and mixed the asparagus into the garlic custard. I wanted a savoury version of a Portuguese Custard Tart type thing.

If I was to do it again I would probably use a blind baked short crust pastry case instead of puff as the base of my tart was undercooked even though I part baked the tart shell before filling it with the custard. Either that or part bake it for longer, say 15- 20 minutes instead of the 10 minutes I gave it. If you are buying a part baked tart case you can miss out the mustard seeds & grated cheese as I don’t think they will stick to the cooked pastry.

Asparagus & Spring Garlic Custard Tart Recipe

serves 4-6, vegetarian

  • a 9 or 10 inch shortcrust pastry case (bought or homemade)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • a sprinkling of grated manchego, cheddar or parmesan (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little milk
  • 50 gr spring garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of chives, finely chopped
  • 50 ml whole milk. I used goat’s milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150-200 gr cream cheese (depending on the depth of your tart)
  • salt & black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a bundle of asparagus, snapped and woody ends removed
  • a handful of grated manchego, cheddar or parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200 C. If you have made your own pastry case, bake the pastry blind (by putting some greaseproof paper in the case and filling it with a layer of dried beans) for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans & paper and brush the base with the egg wash and sprinkle over the mustard seeds, grated cheese. Prick all over the base with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pastry case from the oven to cool and turn the oven down to 180 C.

Cook the asparagus in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, drain, run under cold water and set aside to cool. Put the finely chopped spring garlic, chives and milk in a bowl or food processor and blend on high until smooth.  Mix the eggs & egg yolks with a fork and stir them into the cream cheese, then add the garlicky milk mix and beat together until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg.

Spoon or tong the cooked asparagus into the tart case evenly then pour over the garlic custard. Sprinkle over a little grated cheese and cook for 25 – 30 minutes until just set and slightly browned. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a green salad for lunch or with some buttery baby new potatoes for a more substantial dinner. Garnish with some more chopped chives and enjoy this celebration of spring flavours!!

Spring Lettuce, Pea and Mint Soup

31 Mar

I see these beautiful lettuces every day and take photos of them because I love the neat and tidy rows and the way they kind of look like big green roses. Sort of…

I wanted a recipe using lettuces for something other than a salad to test their versatility. I’ve heard of lettuce soup but never tried it so I had no idea how it would taste. It seems an odd thing, to cook a lettuce but together with the peas and fresh mint it makes a really fresh springy soup perfect for this time of year when the weather really can’t make up it’s mind.

It has the lightness of a salad but with the warmth of a soup.  The spring fresh flavours are a taster of what’s just around the corner if you are suffering with the weather where you are. This soup really brightens your day, and it’s healthy too.

Cos (or Romaine) lettuce contains more beta carotene and iron than most other lettuces and peas are rich in fibre, iron & vitamin C. Add to that the fact that mint is an excellent aid to digestion and you have the perfect meal in a bowl.

 And it tastes great too…

Lettuce, Pea & Mint Soup

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian or vegan, without yoghurt swirl

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 leek, sliced in half lengthways, rinsed & sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small Cos/Romaine lettuce, cored & shredded
  • 45o gr frozen peas
  • 750 ml + veg stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 3 or 4 sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped. Keep the stalks.
  • a small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • creme fraiche or greek yoghurt for swirling (optional)
  • mint tops for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Sweat leeks & shallot for 3 or 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add in the peas, lettuce, mint stalks (tied together in a knot so they are easier to fish out later), 750 ml veg stock, salt, pepper & sugar.

Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered for 6 -8 minutes or until the peas are tender. Take out the mint stalks, add in the parsley and mint leaves and remove from the heat.

Blend carefully with a stick blender for 2 or 3 minutes until very smooth. Add more veg stock to get required consistency if necessary, check the seasoning and reheat to serve. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with a swirl of creme fraiche and the mint tops.

If Spring is not happening where you are then bring it yourself with this bowl of soup. I’ll leave you with some more images of the beautiful Spring in Andalucia that I have taken this week while walking the dog….

Disfruta de la Naturaleza!!

The First Days of Spring: Grilled Asparagus and Soft Boiled Duck Egg Brunch

22 Mar



Nothing says “Spring” more to me than asparagus. The fresh green spears make an appearance a lot earlier here in Spain than in the UK but I still wait until Spring to buy them.  I bought some this week for the first time this year and wanted the first of many asparagus dishes to be a simple celebration of this unique, delicious vegetable.

The Washer Up is working with someone who keeps ducks & chickens at the moment and he, very kindly, gave us some duck eggs to try. I have eaten a duck egg once before, it was on top of a salad I ordered in the restaurant in Harvey Nichols in Leeds (those were the days)!  They have a slightly richer, creamier flavour than a normal egg but nothing to be scared off.  I’ve never cooked with duck eggs before so I thought a simple soft-boiled duck egg would sit very happily on top of my grilled asparagus.  Eggs also represent Spring, rebirth and new beginnings so perfect for my first days of Spring brunch.

I really can’t call this a recipe but here is what I did:

Soft Boiled Duck Egg & Grilled Asparagus Brunch

serves 1, vegetarian

  • 1 bundle of fresh asparagus
  • 1 duck egg
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • shaved manchego or parmesan
  • toasted brown bread (if you like)

Carefully put the duck egg into boiling water and then turn the heat down to medium high. Boil for 6 or 7 minutes depending on the size of your duck egg. Cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and put into the boiling water with the egg for 2 or 3 minutes.

Preheat your grill to hot and place the blanched asparagus on a sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, roll to coat evenly then put under the grill for a few minutes to brown slightly. Rolling to cook the other side half way through.

Toast your bread if using. After 6 or 7 minutes drain the water out of the pan and run the cold tap over the egg in the pan until cool enough to handle. Roll the egg gently on your counter to break the shell and peel the egg.

Transfer the asparagus to a plate with a slotted spoon, drizzle with little more olive oil, squeeze over some lemon juice and place the egg on top. With a knife cut into your egg to reveal the soft centre, season the egg with salt &  pepper and then finish off the dish by shaving over some manchego or parmesan. Butter your toast and serve on the side.

Enjoy the first days of Spring in pictures taken while walking the dog…

Rufus in the Spring…!!

Our lily at home….

 Ya es Primavera!!

Fennel and Orange Risotto with spring onion, goat’s ricotta and chilli

8 Mar

The fennel plant we are growing in a pot on our roof terrace is ready to harvest. Is ready the right word? I’m not sure.

Some of the spring onions are looking good too. Spring onions (cebolletas) in Spain are huge. They are completely different to the spring onions/scallions you get in the UK or US. So when I say use 1 spring onion it’s probably equivalent to 4 or 5 scallions.

I have been looking for suitable fennel recipes for a while now. Something to really showcase our first and only fennel. It had to be something special.  The classic Fennel & Orange Salad sounded lovely and fresh but it is raining here at the moment so I didn’t really feel like a salad. I wanted something warm and comforting. I came across a recipe for Orzotto with Sausage, Fennel & Rosemary on The Culinary Taste. Orzotto is a barley risotto. This was exactly the kind of thing I had been looking for. Minus the sausage, obviously. Rita said she was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for Fennel Risotto so I asked her what other ingredients he had added. His recipe was for Fennel Risotto with Ricotta & Dried Chilli.

Jamie’s recipe used the zest & juice of a lemon as well. This got me thinking back to the classic fennel & orange salad combo and I decided (living in Andalucia) to use orange instead of lemon and our beautiful spring onions were the natural substitute for normal onions.

local cheese producer makes a goat’s ricotta (requeson in Spanish) which I had been wanting to try for a while. So, I had all the ingredients for the perfect, seasonal, locally produced, homegrown dish. Exciting!

Fennel & Orange Risotto with Spring Onion, Goat’s Ricotta & Chilli

Serves 4 vegetarian. Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp for finishing
  • 1 fennel, finely chopped fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 stick celery finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 large Spanish spring onion or 4 or 5 small, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • a splash of white wine/vermouth
  • about 300 gr risotto rice (I used brown)
  • about 1 litre of veg stock
  • about 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp goats requeson (ricotta), normal ricotta or soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • about 50 gr grated parmesan

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low heat. Heat the oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the fennel seeds, spring onions, celery, and chopped fennel. Cook for a few minutes until softened and translucent then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the rice and stir to coat in the oil and butter. When the rice starts to turn translucent add in the wine and cook until it evaporates.

Add a ladle of the hot stock and season well with salt & black pepper. When all the liquid has been absorbed add another ladle of stock, stir or swirl the rice, wait for it to be absorbed and repeat until the rice is cooked. This should take about 18 minutes with white rice and longer with brown.

When the rice is cooked remove the pan from the heat, add the tbsp butter, parmesan, orange zest, half the orange juice and crumble over the ricotta. Stir, put the lid on and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste and add more orange juice if you think it needs it. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with a pinch of dried chilli flakes and the fennel fronds. Have a bowl of the ricotta and Parmesan on the table for people to help themselves to.

The flavour combination of the fennel and orange is really bright, slightly sweet & fresh. Together with the creaminess of the ricotta it is a deliciously rich dish, unusually reminiscent of a dessert in some ways. But don’t let that put you off. Serve it as a starter or lunch dish rather than a main course to people who appreciate different flavours and they will be left wanting more….

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