the weather has turned and i’m in spring/summery cooking mode. vegetables and light fresh flavours are shining through, helped by current obsession with natoora, via whom i’m merrily sourcing early tomatoes, asparagus, strawberries from the continent.
i know this doesn’t fit with my usual focus on local and seasonal choices but i feel as though i’ve been in the biggest food rut for weeks and getting some new season vegetables, alongside artisan products such nduja which you have to source for its local (calabrian) area, has really helped so i’m cutting myself a bit of slack.
this white asparagus from france was a gift from natoora – i have to confess, it’s not something i’d normally buy. i remember, years ago, reading gordon ramsay talking about white asparagus as a favourite of his, which prompted me to buy some and, to be honest, it was like every bad spear of tinned asparagus that i’d ever had.
however, these were different. i think cooking them very lightly so they retained some crunch really helped – they only had 4 minutes in the pan of simmering water. the flavour really shone through as well.
the lentils were amazing and helped everything along – in a little oil i fried some pancetta (ignore this if you want a veggie dish), garlic and sliced red onion until the onion had softened and the pancetta cooked through. 150g of lentils and 900ml of stock were added and simmered until the lentils were cooked and had absorbed the stock. add a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, twice the amount of chopped rocket, some oak-smoked tomatoes (plus a tablespoon or so of their oaky smoky oil and some chopped cherry tomatoes plus a squeeze of lemon juice. taste to see if anything needs adjusting – i added black pepper and a bit more lemon juice – and you’re ready to serve this, split between two plates, topped with the asparagus. i finished everything off with a little browned butter which i’d added a final squeeze of lemon juice to.
the flavours really well together and this is a combination i’d also like to try with green asparagus. i’m also looking forward to having the leftover lentils as a packed lunch.