Tomorrow is May bringing the first tantalising flavours of early summer. English asparagus, jersey royals, strawberries and mint are in the first flushes of their short intense season, a delicious change from winter root vegetables.
Of course these first delights of English summer can be grown all year round in hotter climates, but waiting for the home-grown crop to burst to life is a special kind of pleasure after long months of anticipation.
English asparagus, a vegetable with a fleeting season (approx 6-8 weeks), so tender and delicious is my favourite of all the early summer crops. It’s versatility means that it is easy to savour its delicate, tender sweetness by adding raw into salads, steaming briefly with salted butter, olive oil or hollandaise, or pairing with more robust partners such as romesco sauce.
Store like any other freshly cut stem – positioned upright in a glass with a little water – and eat as soon as possible after purchase. Preparations easy peasy, just wash the spears then snap off the slightly body ends.
Asparagus comes in a variety of colours, green, white and purple. Officially known as Asparagus Officials, it’s a member of the lily family. I’s an excellent source of vitamin K essential for blood clotting, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C Eating asparagus can provide your body with a range of antioxidants and good health.
Asparagus, Leek and Cheese tart.
Time: 30 minutes preparation
Serves: 4 people.
500g block ready to roll pastry
1 leek washed and finely sliced
5 asparagus spears cut at an angle
120g creme fraiche
120g good quality mature cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to season
1 tsp flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a large tart/flan tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into its 5cm larger than the tart case. Lift the pastry up and drape over the tart case. Carefully push the pastry into the edges of the tart case and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
- Whilst pastry is chilling, melt butter in a small pan and add the leeks, stir occasionally until they are soft.
- Meanwhile cook the asparagus tips in boiling water for 5 minutes until soft. Drain straight away and immerse in cold water to help keep the colour.
- Beat the eggs, creme fraiche and cheese in a jug and the seasoning and parsley.
- Layer the base of the pastry case with the leeks.
- Pour over the egg mixture.
- Place the asparagus tips on top of the tart.
- Bake the tart for 30-40 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.
Match this delicious summer tart with a citrusy, herbal and unoaked Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from France’s Loire Valley, Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Alsace Riesling or unoaked Chardonnay.
‘April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’ William Shakespeare.
Baking hot cross buns for your children, friends and family this Easter weekend might seem like a daunting task. Isn’t it easier and cheaper to just buy them from the supermarket like everyone else?
I can forgive you for questioning the point of taking the time and trouble to bake your own. However your own buns will be not only more satisfying and better than mass-produced versions but also the perfect gift for someone you love this Easter.
You don’t need to be expert to make these buns, just patient enough to sit while they rise and believe that they will.
Home baked hot cross buns are packed with flavour and are more fluffy and tender than shop bought ones. Plus they will make your kitchen smell divine.
According to ancient superstitions baking your own hot cross buns at Easter will help you win friends, influence people, protect against kitchen fires and guarantee that all bread baked in your kitchen turns out perfectly.
And of course if you have children there is also the famous nursery rhyme ‘Hot cross buns,’ to be sung whilst baking.
500g strong white bread flour
1tsp mixed spice
50g caster sugar
50g butter, chopped into cubes
200g mixed dried fruit
7g sachet easy-blend dried yeast
For the crosses & Glaze
3tbsp plain flour
honey or golden syrup, for brushing.
- Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice.
- Rub in the butter with your fingertips. Mix in the dried fruit, then sprinkle over the years and stir in.
- Gently warm the milk so it hot, but still cool enough to place your fingers in for a couple of seconds. Beat with the eggs, then pour into the flour mixture.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients to a moist dough, then leave to soak for 5 minutes. Remove from the bowl and cut the dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Roll the dough into buns on a floured surface. Space apart on a baking sheet, cover with cling film, then leave in a warm place until they have doubled in size. This will take approx 45mins-1hr depending on the temperature of the room.
- Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. when the buns are risen mix the water to make a paste. Pour into a plastic food bag, make a nick in one of the corners. Pipe crosses on top of each bun.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until buns are risen and golden. Brush all over with golden syrup or honey. The buns will keep fresh for a day. After that they are best toasted and served with butter and jam.
Wishing you all a very Happy Easter from the team at SurreyK.