Asparagus and Poached Egg Risotto

Bath Asparagus (racheldemuth.co.uk)

Asparagus seems to be one of the last remaining seasonal treats. I know you can buy it in November but the spears that arrive from Chile, or where-ever the out of season stuff comes from, are fairly slim and rather like drinking cold red wine, somewhat tasteless. Talking of red wine, we are also home, in this neck of the woods, to Bath Asparagus a throw back to the Roman Era when the local area was populated with colonisers from Rome bringing with them colonisers of their own. Bath Asparagus (above) looks like a pretty, if slender, version of the hearty native plant and is only found north of Italy in the immediate Bath locality! We are not allowed to pick it let along eat it, but one can see it growing quite abundantly in the lanes around us as Roman villa remains are dug up periodically…..

IMG_0880Anyway, we’ve just eaten the British stuff, grown in Evesham I dare say,  for dinner this evening and I have to say it’s a very cost-effective way to stretch a bunch of asparagus around four people. The kids are a bit ‘meh’ about the whole thing but as they like risotto with poached eggs they’re willing to overlook the presence of the asparagus. One could easily substitute the asparagus for peas the rest of the time.

So for 4 people you will need: 2 tbsp Olive Oil, 1 small Onion, diced, 1 stick of Celery, diced, 1 clove of Garlic, crushed, or a squirt of garlic puree, 400g Risotto Rice, 1.2 litres of Vegetable Stock, 1 bunch Asparagus (however much you want really) tips cut off as shown in the photo and the rest of the usable stem (not the woody end part) chopped, zest of half a Lemon, Parmesan Cheese, grated, a knob of unsalted Butter, 4 Eggs, Salt and Black Pepper.

So in a large heavy based saucepan, heat the oil over a moderate heat and add the onion, cook until transparent.

Meanwhile pour the stock into a smaller saucepan and heat until simmering point. Turn the heat under the stock right down once simmering. Add the asparagus tips to the stock to cook for 5-7 minutes until tender then remove and set aside.

Once the onions are transparent add the celery and garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes stirring from time to time. Add the risotto rice and stir around so that the rice is coated with the olive oil, then start adding the stock. As with all risotto, you can add a glassful of white wine or preferably Vermouth at the start of the absorption process if you wish, or just stick with stock which of course you add, ladelled in from the saucepan at regular intervals, stirring all the time as you go. The whole absorption process takes about 15-20 minutes over a moderate heat. After about 5 minutes from the point where you start adding stock add the chopped asparagus so it has a chance to cook and then about 5 minutes from the end, as the rice seems to be almost tender add the lemon zest, a little finely grated Parmesan cheese, the butter and seasoning as required.

Whilst all this is going on fill a large saucepan or frying pan (this is a hob heavy meal) with boiling water from the kettle and allow it to reach simmering point over a medium heat, add a pinch of salt, then, when the risotto is done, crack the eggs carefully into the water, depending on the size of your saucepan you may have to cook the eggs in 2 batches. Cook the eggs for 2-4 minutes depending how soft you like them, and, remove to a wad of kitchen paper using a slotted spoon. The kitchen roll will soak up excess water from the egg. Dish up the risotto, add the asparagus tips and the poached egg, a little more Parmesan and black pepper if desired.

What else is there to say? I love Spring……

 

 

 

 

 

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Peto Garden Risotto

The Gardens at Iford Manor were designed by Harold Peto. Harold Peto was strongly influenced by Italian gardens he had visited. I adore anything Italian. Therefore, I love the gardens at Iford Manor. Luckily for me Iford Manor is literally down the road.

I took some pictures on Easter Sunday, so around a month ago. Here are some of the best, it’s the easiest place to photograph, picturesque barely covers it but the light was as flat as a mill-pond so I’ve done what I can in Photoshop.

First off the architectural ones:

I like the strange leaded lights and the shadow the branch produces

Gorgeous embellishments

Loving the Loggia

The overriding smell was that of wild garlic that grew in such abundance that it flowed like a river in places and so that got me thinking about risotto as a perfect use for it.

Both wild garlic leaves or wet garlic which is like a giant spring onion can be used in following recipe and the flavour is subtle here not punchy, sharp and leaving you reaching for the mints.

Butternut Squash and Garlic Risotto (serves 2)

As is usual with these things begin by bringing 600ml of vegetable stock (use a stock cube) to simmering point in a saucepan on the back of the hob and then fry off a small to medium finely chopped onion in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once transparent, add a sliced wet garlic bulb (prepare as you would a spring onion) if using and a finely chopped stick of celery. Stir that around for a minute or two and then add 200g of Arborio or Carnaroli risotto rice and stir again to coat the rice with the oil. Add a slug of white wine if you wish and then begin adding a ladle full or two of stock and stir regularly as the liquid is absorbed. Add half a chopped medium-sized butternut squash and some more stock and keep stirring regularly again until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock and stir repeatedly for 10 – 15 minutes until the rice is almost tender. If using wild garlic leaves, you will need a good handful, washed and roughly chopped, add these now and allow to wilt. Grate in a little parmesan cheese and a knob of unsalted butter and continue to stir until everything is combined and melted. Check the seasoning and serve in bowls with additional parmesan grated over and a little black pepper.

If you feel you need to make this a little more substantial: chopped bacon can be added with the celery, shredded, cooked chicken towards the end of the stock absorption process (check it is piping hot before serving) or steamed purple sprouting broccoli can be laid on the rice once cooked. A multitude of options to suit.

Back to a few more pictures:

They hold Opera and Jazz concerts here on barmy summer evenings. Idyllic… Check Iford Arts link for details.

The Cutest Cakes: Classic Cakes

Lilies and Pearls

The Cutest Cakes: Cupcakes

Rosebud Vanilla Cupcake

The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

Miniature Fruit Cake

Details for The Cutest Cakes can be found at www.cutestcakes.co.uk or if you click the image on the side bar you will be transported there.