I have always fancied myself as a quite a good cook. By which I mean I haven’t relied on ready meals or things out of jars! I happily cooked meals from scratch, building up a repertoire of recipes that I took the time to record in a notebook to take with me to Italy. Since we arrived last summer however, I have scarcely opened it.
One of the main reasons for this is that the majority of produce here is available on a strictly seasonal basis. If something can’t be grown in Italy (and occasionally Spain and other nearby countries) then it simply can’t be bought. I always thought I was in touch with this kind of thing but there is nothing like moving to another country to give me and my smug assumptions a metaphorical smack in the mouth! I realised that, whilst I know what is seasonally available when it comes to fruit, I know precious little about when vegetables should be available. In the UK, a huge number of vegetables are available all year round and, as long as something hadn’t been flown in from half way around the world, I would be happy to buy it. It is wonderful to see the shops in Italy gradually change through the seasons. An even greater, most unexpected, pleasure has been to adapt to a much more seasonal way of cooking. It has also required me to be a lot more imaginative. I am challenging myself to create dishes out of whatever there happens to be a glut of in the shops and I thought I would share some of these recipes here.
Asparagus abounds at the moment. Now, I know at asparagus is available in the spring/summer – even in the UK, it has a definite season – so this probably isn’t the best thing to begin with. Oh, well!
Yes, the retro-fabulous oil cloth that came with our apartment is still in evidence!
I had planned to make an adaptation of an old favourite: roast sweet potatoes with salmon and seasonal vegetables with crumbled feta on top. As you will spot from the deliberate mistake in the photo above, I forgot to buy the salmon. Not feeling inclined to trek out to the shops again and knowing that vegetables here perish very quickly, I had to make a lunch out of what I had to hand. I can’t claim any clever inventiveness – the Internet makes this cooking lark far too easy for all of us! After a little searching, I decided to make an adaptation of a recipe from this gorgeous website.
I chopped the sweet potatoes into small chunks, put them in a hot oven to roast. It is quite hard to get sweet potatoes with orange flesh here in Italy – the white ones proliferate. They are not as sweet and have a slightly more fibrous texture. Quite but chance, one of the sweet potatoes in the batch I bought happened to be orange – this recipe was much nicer for it.
After washing the asparagus and chopping off the woody ends, I placed them in another roasting tin, drizzled with olive oil and a tiny sprinkle of salt.
I didn’t have all of the ingredients for the dressing so I made this bit up as I went along! I squeezed the juice of one lemon into a jar. I added half a finely chopped garlic and a little olive oil, secured the lid and gave it all a good old shake. Having tasted it, I decided it needed a little sweetness so I added a small pinch of muscovado sugar. In future, I would just bash the garlic a little and leave it to infuse the dressing before fishing it out – it was very garlicky! I would also like to try the original recipe and add mustard to the dressing. However, I was very happy with the sharp, but not too sharp, lemony dressing I ended up with.
I put a pan of water on to poach the eggs. As soon as the water was boiling, I popped the asparagus in the oven and dropped the eggs in the water.
After the eggs were poached, it was simply a matter of assembling it all on to plates and crumbling feta on top. It was all so simple, healthy and delicious. I will definitely be trying this again.
I would love to know your favourite asparagus recipe. There is so much of it around I wouldn’t mind some more inspiration!