#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce

“We’re well used to tomato sauces”, says Grigson, “I don’t know why we haven’t gone further along the road, using other vegetables in the same kind of way”. This has always confused me; the only tomato sauce I know is either the tomato sauce for pasta or the tomato sauce that comes in bottles as ketchup. The recipe is obviously for neither. I can’t find a tomato sauce recipe that seems even remotely similar – even during the nineteenth century, tomato sauces were made for macaroni, simply stewed with olive oil and garlic and some herbs as we do nowadays.

The recipe below is for a thick creamy sauce made from leeks, peas or asparagus – a green vegetable to cover all seasons: leeks for autumn and winter, asparagus for spring and peas for summertime. As it is winter at the moment, I plumped for leeks. But what to serve it with? I eventually came up with the idea of serving the sauce with some seared scallops and some bacon – something which would also work with the peas and asparagus too, I reckon. The sauce is easy to make and can be made in advance and reheated when needed.
First of all prepare your vegetables: wash, trim and chop your leeks or asparagus, or shell your peas. You need 12 ounces prepared weight. Plunge them in ¼ pint of light stock or water. It is important to add salt to the water or stock as it makes the green colour much vivid. Cover and simmer until just tender. Liquidise the vegetables in a blender, or if you are old school a mouli-legumes. Push through a sieve to exclude any woody or fibrous bits (this is especially important with larger asparagus spears). Add around 3 ½ fluid ounces of soured cream, reheat and stir.
Then stir through either 3 tablespoons of clotted cream or unsalted butter. If using butter don’t add it until the last minute. The resulting sauce should be quite thick. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper.
My attempt at being all cheffy!
#330 Leek, Pea or Asparagus Sauce. Although I wasn’t sure what to do with this sauce, it turned out very well; the leeks were good and sweet, but made piquant by the sour cream. It went very well with the scallops and bacon, so I certainly recommend it for that. Strangely, I reckon it might be good stirred through some pasta with a some Parmesan cheese stirred through it…  7/10

#146 Asparagus with Melted Butter

Does anyone know if Britain has had an asparagus shortage this year? I’ve looked high and low for days and not found any from the UK, most are from Peru and the nearest were from Catalan. Then, I happened upon some in Asda of all places. I love asparagus, but refuse to eat the important stuff – aside from its flavor, the reason it’s special is because it is such a short-lived treat. I don’t want to eat it all year round. Griggers didn’t agree, it seems, and scoffed it whenever she could get her mitts on some.

There’s no other way of enjoying this excellent vegetable – simply steamed with butter. The only addition I’ve made is a serving it on a slice of toast to turn this from a starter to light supper dish.

You will need at least 10 stalks per person – or more if you have those delicate thin fronds. Trim away the woody ends by cutting or snapping them off and tie the stalks up with string. Stand the asparagus in a saucepan with an inch of boiling water seasoned with salt and pepper. Cover the pan (or make a dome with foil if your pan is not deep) and simmer until tender and cooked – anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes depending on thickness. Alternatively, cook them in an asparagus kettle or steam them. Meanwhile melt an ounce of butter for every serving and season it with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Lay the asparagus on a plate and pour over the butter or serve it in a separate jug.

FYI: Asparagus is famous for producing smelly wee – though some people haven’t made this observation. This isn’t because their urine hasn’t taken on the smell, but that they lack the specific receptor in the nose that detects it. It is all down to one particular recessive allele of a gene – if you have both copies of the allele, you won’t be able to smell your sticky asparagus wee – but everyone else will! Nice.

#146 Asparagus with Melted Butter – 9.5/10. This is pretty hard to beat – the bitter-sweet asparagus with the rich salty and tart lemon butter are a marriage made in heaven. I could eat this forever.

#57 Asparagus Omelette

Another asparagus recipe; there’s two more, but I don’t think I’ll get them done before I go to France at the end of next week. (I’m going on a field trip to St. Auban, just north of Nice.) I bought the ingredients from the excellent fruit and veg stall that’s outside All Saint’s Park on Oxford Road, on the campus of Manchester Metropolitan University. I think a lot of people walk straight past it, thinking it’s some cheapo stall, but it’s certainly not. It sells seasonal produce – including English asparagus – at a very good price. I knew Joff was coming round and I wanted to make something quick and easy, so I thought an asparagus omelette would certainly fit the bill (and it did).

For 3. Start by trimming and cooking a bunch of asparagus as I did for the Asparagus and eggs. Drain them and cut them into thirds. Save some of the best tips for garnish. Keep the rest warm in the oven sprinkled with Gruyere cheese – a tablespoon per person. Make the omelettes using 6 eggs exactly how I did previously when I cooked mushroom omelettes. Add a third of the asparagus and to the centre and serve with a nice salad.

Make a vinaigrette from olive oil and cider vinegar in a ratio of 3:1, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and a small clove of finely chopped garlic.

#57 Asparagus Omelette 6.5/10. A very nice omelette, but oddly I preferred the asparagus and eggs I made earlier in the month. Not sure why, because the ingredients are essentially the same.

#55 Asparagus and Eggs

It is said that the English Springtime officially commenced with the start of the asparagus season. It is a shame that everything we do so far removed from the seasons these days with our constant demand for year-round food. What is the point of eating a chlorosed watery tomato in November, I ask you!? Yet we all do it. Asparagus, however, although I’m sure that it could be provided all year round, isn’t; the season is ingrained there somewhere. Those that eat it would know not to buy at any other time. That said, I saw some in Asda the other day from Peru!

The other travesty is that I have not cooked any this year, and there are a few asparagus-based recipes in English Food. (#55) Asparagus and eggs made use of the left over eggs from the almond tart I’d made previously, plus Greg and I were slightly hungover and scrambled eggs, as far as I’m concerned, are one of the best cures for such a malaise.

For two: Remove the woody bits from about 6 ounces of asparagus. To do this with minimal waste, just hold the asparagus spear in your hands and allow it to snap near the base end, this is the natural breaking point between woody stalk and tender spear. Boil them in just an inch or so of well-salted water for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness. Do not overcook! Test them with a knife if you’re not sure. Salt is a must with any green vegetable as, apart from improving the flavour, it makes the colour much more vivid (also, don’t cover the pan for the same reason). Drain them and keep them warm. Toast some brown bread and butter it well. Keep that warm too. Make some scrambled eggs, using 4 of the lovelies, a tablespoon of butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Stop cooking the eggs before they are ready as the carry on cooking in the pan. I prefer them soft, creamy and pourable, but I know that makes some people want to vom, but please don’t overdo them. Place two-thirds of the asparagus on the toast, spoon over the eggs, and using your best artistic flare, stylishly place the rest of the spears on top. Scoff.

#55 Asparagus and eggs – 7/10. Simple yet effective. It displays the richness of the eggs, and the sweet but slightly astringent taste of the asparagus. Plus it takes only a few minutes to make. Very good.