Cheers for spring! And the fresh tastes it brings — like asparagus and strawberries. And although the weather has not been at all spring-like, I was still able to raid a friend’s asparagus patch to find enough stalks for a recipe this week. Interestingly, some of the lower stem ends were white.
Completely white asparagus is considered a special treat in New Zealand as it’s not readily available. It is produced by growing the green or purple varieties in total darkness. White asparagus tastes sweeter, it has more juice and has less fibre than its siblings.
Purple asparagus obtains its colour from high levels of anthocyanins. (Anthocyanins possess antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-obesity properties.) Cook it briefly to retain both its crispness and colour.
The virtues of strawberries have been lauded for centuries. To symbolise perfection and righteousness, medieval stone masons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals. In provincial France, strawberries were regarded as an aphrodisiac. Newlyweds were always served a cold strawberry soup. Whatever your beliefs, strawberries are packed with vitamins, fibre and antioxidants known as polyphenols. They are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free land low in kilojoules. They are also a good source of manganese and potassium.
GLUTEN-FREE STRAWBERRY SLICE
Gluten-free quinoa flakes are a great sub for rolled oats.
Crumble: 100g butter
1 cup quinoa flakes
3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Topping: 2 cups (225g) diced strawberries
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 tablespoon each: lemon juice, sugar
Icing: 1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a 20cm square cake or slice pan with baking paper ensuring the paper comes up over two sides to help lift out the bake.
Melt the butter and cool.
Combine the quinoa flakes, baking mix, sugar and salt in a bowl.
Combine the egg with the cooled butter and stir into the dry ingredients until a crumble forms. Reserve a 1/2 cup.
Pat the remainder evenly into the lined pan. Bake for 5 minutes.
Scatter half the strawberries over the cooked base. Dust with the cornflour and half the sugar. Top with the remaining strawberries and sugar. Sprinkle the reserved crumble evenly on top.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the crumble is golden. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the icing. Drizzle the icing over the cold bake. Cut into bars or squares. Makes 16.
PAN-GRILLED ASPARAGUS WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE
Makes an excellent a side dish.
Glaze: 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Asparagus: 500g fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste.
1/4 cup chopped, lightly toasted walnuts
To make the glaze, simmer the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar together for about 1 minute or until syrupy.
Trim the asparagus. Toss in the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Pan-fry in a heated, non-stick frying pan, preferably one with a ridged base. Cook for about 4 minutes until crisp-tender, turning often.
Place on a serving plate and drizzle with the glaze and walnuts. Serves 4-6.
AVO & PRAWN COCKTAIL
A twist on an old classic. Enjoy our new season’s avocados.
Salad: 1 large orange
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1 large avocado, stoned, peeled and cubed
16 cooked and shelled king prawns
2 spring onions, sliced
2-3 cups rocket leaves
Dressing: juice from the orange
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Stand the orange on a chopping board. With a sharp knife, peel the orange from top to bottom, removing the pith at the same time. Hold the orange over a bowl to catch the juice and cut out the segments between the membranes. Reserve the juice for the dressing.
Combine the orange segments, fennel, avo, prawns and spring onions in a bowl. Place the rocket on the base of four large martini glasses or small serving dishes. Top with the salad. Whisk the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Serve immediately. Serves 4 as a starter.