Asparagus farinata, asparagus gnocchi and scary summer rolls
Hooray! Spring has finally sprung in England, and that means lots of great veggies everywhere. My favourite spring arrival is the all-too-brief visit of asparagus - every year, I go crazy buying the stuff when it's in season, and get to sick of it by the end I almost can't wait to see the back of it. Almost.
This year, when I saw the first English spears in my local supermarket, I hurried home with a big old bunch and no clear plan of what to do with them.
It came to me when I saw a huge bag of gram flour in my cupboard and remembered Coconut and Berries singing the praises of quiches and omelettes made from the stuff recently.
Having made a terrible farinata once before, I thought I'd try following a recipe this time round. I found this one on the interwebz, and worked out maybe my last attempt was so grim because I didn't allow it to rest.
This time, I left the batter to do its own thing for a few hours, then poured it into a shallow tart dish with some broccoli, asparagus and baby plum tomatoes.
It turned out pretty well all in all. While the stuff's pretty fearsome when it's gone cold - like chewing on a rubbery slipper sole with veggies in - it reheats like a dream. I'll be revisiting farinata again, especially since the place I used to get my fix, Saf in Kensington, has now closed down.
There was more asaparagus in my next dish, which uses one of the few types of pasta I can't get enough of.
It's a mix of gnocchi, asparagus spears, spring onions, peas, soy beans, and mint, light steamed and fried in chilli oil with a squeeze of lemon juice. It was light and heavenly - just the sort of thing that makes you welcome spring with open arms!
If I could have put more asparagus in the next plate, I would have done, but I'd already troughed the lot by then!
When I come back from my parents at Christmas (yes, that long ago!) they insisted on piling me high with all sorts of food when I left, and I've only just finished working my way through it now. Among the tuck box they packed me off with was a packet of summer roll wrappers. Wondering what to stuff them with, I spied a tin of mock chicken tofu whose presence I can only explain by assuming I went food shopping while drunk.
When it slithered out of the tin, I was a little spooked - it was sweet and squidgy and not at all appealing. Of course, vegans can't ever let good tofu go to waste, so I hit upon a cunning plan: after I drained it off and simmered with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass for a bit, then let it sit in the simmering water til cool. It took up the flavour of the Thai spices, turning scary tofu into scented tofu, and a tinned mess was reborn as a tasty filling for summer rolls.
I added some cellophane noodles, mint and coriander, carrots, celery and spring onions, and a tahini and soy dip.
I also turned to one of all my all time favourite cookbooks, Asian Vegan Kitchen, for an accompaniment - this eggplant dip. It's sort of like an Thai baba ganoush, and just as gorgeous as it sounds. It's got that lovely smokiness that I think of with baba ganoush, but with a nice sharp tamarind tang.
For my last trick, prepare to be amazed. It may not come as a surprise to you that I have a bit of a sweet tooth - you stick vegan on a dessert, and I'll buy it. So when I saw Pudology desserts the other day, I knew I had to have them, even if there were a little bit on the steep side at £3.75 for two small pots.
But when I got stuck in over the weekend, I was a little bit underwhelmed. The banoffee flavour didn't taste hugely of banana, and bore more resemblance to eating a melted milionaire's shortbread, only not as good.
I can't quite put my finger on why this didn't blow my socks off, but I'm always glad to see vegan desserts out in the world, so I'll be trying out some of the other flavours in the hope the banoffee was a one-off.