Chargrilled Spring Vegetables + Some News
Spring is here in London. The 100 denier tights and woolly jumpers have been moved to the top shelf, I’ve dared to bare my ankles and the first spring vegetables are making all the chefs and cooks I know excited about the months ahead. There is something so magic about the first few sunny days of the year in a cold climate. There is a different buzz In the air along with a lot of sunburnt foreheads.
When the sun shines in London it is like nowhere else. Everyone has a few lease of life, the streets and parks fill up with pals with armfuls of beers and disposable BBQ’s. We get overexcited. It’s kind of embarrassing and endearing all at once.
But the real thing we are excited about is the end of the cold months, grey skies and bowls of stoge. Don’t worry, come September we’ll be ready for them again, but for now two things are happening: we stop wearing socks and we start eating salads.
One of the reasons I love to cook is the connection to what’s going on around me. Asparagus to me marks a change in the year, heralding warmer times ahead. There really are few things I find more exciting than the first crop of asparagus and my first bowl of jersey royals, which I know might mean I need to get out more. But these first of spring veg mean the wait it over, they are kind of the opposite of the fat lady singing, they mean it’s the start of the good times.
On top of all this asparagus and potato news some more good news came my way this week, “A Modern Way to Eat” has been nominated for the Fortnum and Mason Awards alongside other favourite books by Diana Henry and Honey and Co. The Fortnum and Mason Awards are a bit like the BAFTAs of food so it’s a massive honour to be on the list. So to celebrate I thought I’d share my favourite spring recipe from the book with you.
This is the king of spring salads – one of those brilliant stand-alone plates. I roast the potatoes and asparagus here, as I like the nutty character that’s brought out in the asparagus.
If it’s winter where you are then use purple sprouting broccoli and chunked-up big potatoes, which cook in the same time and work just as well. Keep the woody ends of the asparagus you have snapped off here to flavour a stock for a soup.
- 750g small new potatoes, scrubbed clean (I use jersey royals)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 4 organic or free-range eggs
- a bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off
- a few sprigs each of fresh parsley, mint and tarragon, leaves picked
- a good bunch of watercress, roughly chopped
- 8 cornichons, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons little capers
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Preheat your oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Put the new potatoes on a baking tray with a good pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Once the oven is hot, put the potatoes in to roast for 30 minutes.
Next, put the eggs into a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then turn the heat off and leave for 7 minutes. Take them out of the pan and run them under cold water, then, once they are cool, peel and put to one side.
When the potatoes have had 30 minutes in the oven, throw in all but 2 stems of the asparagus, toss to coat in the oil and roast for a further 15 minutess.
Chop the herbs and watercress with the cornichons and capers and put them into a jug or jar. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the red wine vinegar and the Dijon mustard, and shake or whisk to mix. Peel the remaining spears of asparagus into long thin strips with a vegetable peeler.
Once the potatoes and asparagus are ready, tumble them into a bowl.
Roughly chop the eggs and add them to the bowl, then pour over the dressing, scatter with the asparagus strips and toss gently while everything is still hot.
In other news my next book “A Modern Way to Cook” is off to the printers today and is packed with over 200 quick, amazing, flavour packed, vegetable focused recipes. I’ll be sharing some recipes from the book here over the net few weeks but in the meantime you can preorder here.
Read about what the brilliant Joe Yonan thought about the flavours in this salad in the Washington post here.
Images: Brian W Ferry/ Matt Russell