Spring has sprung.

Posted on September 1, 2011

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What a great time to eat your greens! Yes folks, that means it’s spring time, where everything is fresher, brighter, and incredibly good for you. I have started the celebration by making two dishes which elevate simple vegetables to legendary status. Fresh peas and asparagus are two good friends, one slightly posh, the other a staple for many. Instead of using the frozen variety, head to the farmers market or your local shop and buy these two veggies as quick as you can. The peas need to be purchased in a larger amount because they minimize once podded. Choose peas which have a crunch when broken, and have no wrinkles. You want it to feel like there’s literally peas bursting inside. Asparagus should be green and  without a deep purple on the ends, it should look fresh not dehydrated and dry. Although not the quickest, these dishes are staples in the kitchen. I have used pearl barley instead of rice to give the dish a nutty flavor and more iron, it works a treat with rice too. If you haven’t noticed, I have been experimenting with pancetta…. in just about everything, as I love the way cured pork can awaken a dish. However, if you are vegetarian, it can be omitted from the risotto, just add more salt, and a larger dollop of mascarpone cheese. Happy Spring 🙂

Spring salad with goats cheese.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 small head of iceberg lettuce or 3/4 of a large head, torn in average pieces.
300g  freshly podded peas, that’s about 900g unpodded.
200g pancetta, sliced roughly in strips.
200g  marinated goats feta or ashed chevre.
2 bunches of asparagus, sliced on diagonal 2cm pieces.
Handful of mint, sliced thinly.
1/4 cup olive oil, can use oil from goats cheese.
2 tbsp olive oil, to fry.
1 garlic clove, crushed.
A squeeze of lemon
Do not add salt, pancetta is salty.
 

Method:

 
1) Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Blanch asparagus for 1 minute, then add peas and cook for a further 2 minutes.
2) Drain immediately, and bathe vegetables in an ice cold bowl of water.
3)Heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic and pancetta and fry till crisp and golden.
4) Mix lettuce with the vegetables, mint and pancetta and drizzle with the oil, and lemon.
5) Serve topped with goats cheese, in bite sized pieces or crumbled on top. Drizzle with extra oil if needed.
 
*Adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe.
 

Spring Barley risotto with asparagus, peas and bacon.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp olive oil.
1 cup barley, soak overnight in water.
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely.
1 half onion, chopped finely.
2 leeks, white part only, sliced finely.
6 Slices of streaky bacon or pancetta.
1 cup dry white wine.
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock.
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed, sliced in 2cm pieces on diagonal.
1 cup freshly podded peas.
1/2 cup chopped mint.
Juice and zest of one lemon.
spoon Mascarpone, to serve.
80g unsalted butter.
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
1 tsp pepper.
Small Handful of mint reserved to serve. 

Method:

1) Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a deep pot or large skillet on medium heat. Fry onion, leek and garlic until soft, but not brown.
2) Add barley and mix for a couple of minutes.
3) Pour in wine, mix, and let the barley absorb the liquid.
4) Add a soup ladle worth of stock and mix slowly, once barley absorbs all of the liquid, continue mixing and adding stock, this can take around 15 minutes. You may need to add extra water, remember risotto should be loose not clumpy.
5) In the meantime, heat remaining oil in a pan and quickly fry asparagus, bacon and peas for 1 minute, then add to the risotto mixture.
6) Continue to ladle the stock and mix risotto untill asparagus is softened.
7) Remove from heat and mix in the parmesan and butter,  then leave to stand for a 2 minutes covered.
8 ) Add squeeze if lemon juice, pepper and mint. Serve right away.
9) Serve with a dollop of mascarpone and mint leaves to garnish.

*I mix my mascarpone in before eating, but for display it is nice to serve ontop. When choosing a stock, try to make one yourself, or buy a stock which is not too salty. If it is salty, use less and put in more water, for example: if you use stock cubes, only use 1 or 2. I used the new Continental jelly stock and found it to be far to salty.You can also substitiute bacon for pancetta, I used pancetta, the first few times and found it to be too salty.

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