Tag Archives: asparagus

I felt like Winnie the Pooh

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
~ A.A. Milne

Tasting this, I was Winnie the Pooh in Wonderland.

I am sure I am not the only J. Friend and Co. honey consumer who has thought about sticking a human paw into one of their jars…

Before we moved to New Zealand, I was a stranger to the wide honey world. If anyone said “honey”, I’d think of couples or of a sticky bright yellow substance glooping down Pooh Bear’s rotund tummy. Over the last few years, I have really loved getting acquainted with the beautiful honey made right here in this country – especially the unique manuka honey which NZ is so rightfully well known for.

While I like honey, though, I have seldom enjoyed it neat. I can be persuaded to try raw cookie dough, or lick my butter knife after using it to spread PB on toast, and once or twice I have even been seen to lick a plate (ungraceful, I know)… but I am mostly NOT a honey-spoon-licker. I’ll drizzle honey on my crumpets or stir honey into warm water, then toss the honey-coated spoon straight into the sink.

So yesterday, while trying to choose a honey (of my three jars*, of which I had only tried one) for R’s salmon, I took a TINY sample of each one… before Winnie the Pooh unexpectedly whooshed into my brain. He nearly took over. Instead, I took out teaspoons and insisted that everyone try some honey. I think I may have looked frighteningly excited, because they all looked a little shocked and just obeyed silently.

;-)

I am happy to say that after everyone had a taste of some honey, no one questioned my sanity. It spoke for itself…

We used a few spoonfuls of the Beechwood Honeydew honey to make a honey-balsamic glaze which greatly enhanced our main course of seared salmon fillet; baby spinach and blanched asparagus tossed with lemon zest; portobello mushrooms baked with halloumi; and couscous with parsley.

This honey tasted of forests and fairies… it was a total surprise, and it was wonderful to place a full teaspoon of this into my mouth and shut my eyes for a minute… I thought of Enid Blyton’s “The Wishing Chair” (still so fun to think about, years later). What can I say? If you were to use a liquid to describe imagination and abundance, this honey would come pretty close.

We ate very well last night. R and K thoroughly spoiled us with this dinner, and their company! (Thank you R and K!)

In addition to that crazily delicious salmon dish above (which the photo does not do justice to), we also had prosciutto draped over cantaloupe… a combination I have often heard great things about but never ventured to try. I was certainly not disappointed!

For dessert, I just assembled two platters:

Havarti with grapes and crackers, and fresh strawberries with crème fraîche and brown sugar. Not that we really fit much dessert in after the preceding courses!

* Thank you so much, kind Sharyn, for sending me two jars of your precious honey to try! I can’t wait to try the Viper’s Bugloss honey in a dish. :-)

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Dinner with Lamia!

To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
~ Walt Whitman

Lamia and I had a super ‘girly’ night in tonight. I even enjoyed a cheesy chick flick where I knew what the ending would be within the first ten minutes of the movie… :-O

I waddled around my kitchen while Lamia composed this delicious meal… mmm! We had sweet, lightly spicy, succulent chicken… crunchy asparagus and peas and juicy cherry tomatoes… baked potato wedges with garlic, herbs and salt.

With her permission, here is the recipe (sans exact quantities, since she is a gifted cook who really cooks with her senses):

    Chicken:
    Marinade chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dried herbs, pepper and let it sit in the fridge for a night.
    Fry them in a skillet with a dash of hot sauce and salt, until golden brown and crisp on the outside and tender inside (a fork stuck into the middle of the chicken pieces should yield clear juices).
    Vegetables:
    Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan, and saute chopped onion and garlic until they are fragrant and lightly golden. Add in fresh pea pods and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add in capsicum strips and asparagus spears, and stir for a further 2-3 minutes, adjusting the heat as and when necessary. Add in the cherry tomatoes and remove the pan from the heat. Avoid over-cooking the vegetables so they stay crunchy and sweet.
    Potatoes:
    Wash and cut a few potatoes into wedges. Place them in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover the wedges, and bring to boil. Add in some salt. Once they are cooked, drain them and place them in a baking dish.
    Add enough olive oil to gently coat the wedges, some dried herbs and a few smashed unpeeled garlic cloves. Bake them on maximum heat until they turn golden brown (this is a tip I learned from Lamia today – yields perfect potato wedges which are crispy on the outside and soft inside – yum!)

For dessert, we had creamy Puhoi Valley berry yoghurt sprinkled with Valrhona chocolate bits – and a glass of Villa Maria sparkling sauvignon blanc. Smiles and pink faces all around (alright, admittedly the latter happened only to my face).

The sweetest spears

One word, in this place, respecting asparagus. The young shoots of this plant, boiled, are the most unexceptionable form of greens with which I am acquainted.
~ William Andrus Alcott, The Young House-keeper

I love the pure, magnificent sweetness of fruits and vegetables. Oh, I do adore the golden spark of chocolate chip cookies and smooth decadence of berry cheesecake… but there is something so honest and good about earth’s bounty that sets it apart from anything flavoured/modified/processed.

A crunchy asparagus spear, for instance, is like a springtime shower to me. Fresh. Playful. Invigorating.

I chewed on one such stalk while cooking a slightly modified version of this dish from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” tonight:
#47 Linguini with Asparagus & Prawns – Page 293

Modifications: I adjusted the quantities of ingredients to make half the amount of pasta, and used frozen cooked prawns instead of raw prawns, spaghetti instead of linguini, and port instead of brandy.

Hey, asparagus puree makes a good sauce base.

If tonight’s dinner was a musical, thyme was the soundtrack. The fresh thyme sprigs smelled amazing in this dish. I stood stirring and humming in the kitchen, bending down every so often to draw in a deep breath, eyes closed, head slightly woozy from its sweet, distinctive fragrance.

If I ever master the elusive technique of growing green things successfully, I will plant a herb garden. One thing I’ve discovered through this cook-through project is the absolute magic of fresh herbs. I can liken my fresh herb experience to the day I first tasted a chocolate truffle from a chocolatier. It seemed ridiculous that I had once been utterly satisfied with chocolate bars from the supermarket.

Oh, and prawns! I love prawns. Grandma’s prawns fried with chilli and black sauce. Prawn dim-sum in Chinese restaurants. Prawn tapas. All seafood, actually, is heavenly – the French apparently call it fruits de mer – ‘fruits of the sea’ – a gorgeous expression, don’t you think? Anyway, a bag of lovely pink prawns went into this dish… delightful.

The result was a sweet palatable pasta dish, simple, light and satisfying. All turned out well considering the fact that my first lot of pasta, in my carelessness, scalded me and disappeared down the insinkerator because I didn’t grasp the pot firmly while draining the water out. Tips: 1. Always keep spare pasta in the pantry. 2. When draining cooked pasta, hold on tight to that pot or use a sieve! :-)

Matt also baked us all a fruity crumble – a hearty tasty dessert, a sweet finish to our night!

PS. I’m really sorry about the quality of some photographs on my blog (especially those taken at night time under unforgiving artificial light conditions), by the way. I have a very basic camera which doesn’t like night as much as I do… and I don’t edit any of my photos before I post them.

Fancy Home Dining

Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes.
~George Bernard Shaw

    Ingredients:
    5 minutes
    some olive oil
    2 eggs
    handful of chopped parsley
    knobs of havarti cheese
    mixed herbs
    salt + pepper to taste
    bread (I used some leftover sourdough)
    asparagus
    All ingredients can be substituted with food you feel like eating on the day, and what you have on hand.
    Always use a fork and knife, even for the most casual and underdressed of foods. It makes it all very different.
    Method to my madness:
    Drizzle olive oil into the pan. Sprinkle with mixed herbs. Crack eggs in when the oil is hot.
    While the eggs are cooking, slice the bread and dress with thin knobs of cheese. Arrange asparagus stalks on the side.
    Eggs should now be ready. Put these on top of the cheese. Season with fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

It is fancy dining at home, summertime food and all. Delicious, and very simple.

Tired now from a day of walking in the seriously BLUSTERY windy countryside (but the spread of beauty was amazing and made it worthwhile). And for now, sunset to watch, book to read & eggs to eat make me a heartily happy girl.

PS. Happy New Year readers, whoever you are! (Gladly my visitor counter on the sidebar does let me know I HAVE readers…… yippee). Leave a comment or 2 in the new year won’t you, so I can say hello back? ;-)