How to make: Asparagus, peas & radishes with pistachio pesto
Serve up a superb springtime meal with in-season inspiration from Diana Henry’s delicious new cookbook.
Asparagus, peas & radishes with pistachio pesto
Serve up a superb springtime meal with in-season inspiration from Diana Henry's delicious new cookbook.
The pesto here is rich, so you need the radishes to provide a clean contrast.
For the pesto 150g (5½oz) shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
8 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
15g (½oz) unsalted butter
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
170ml (6fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
130g (4½oz) ricotta, preferably fresh rather than UHT
40g (1½oz) pecorino or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
For the vegetables 8-10 radishes, preferably French breakfast radishes
650g (1lb 7oz) asparagus
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Qtr. tbsp white balsamic vinegar
200g (7oz) fresh raw peas
25g (1oz) pea shoots
Start with the pesto. Boil two-thirds of the pistachios in water for 4 minutes; this softens them and makes the pesto creamy. Drain and dry them in a tea towel. You need to rub off all the papery skin (laborious but therapeutic). Lightly toast the rest of the nuts in a dry pan for about 30 seconds. You will be able to smell the toasted aroma. Immediately transfer to a plate. Cook the spring onions in the butter in a small saucepan until soft, but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
Blitz all the nuts with the spring onions and garlic in a food processor, gradually adding the extra-virgin olive oil. Stir in the ricotta and pecorino or Parmesan. Season and taste.
Now for the vegetables. Shave the radishes using a mandoline, or cut them very finely with a sharp knife.
Break or cut off the base of each asparagus spear (if you use your hands rather than a knife, you can feel where the natural break is). Bring a pan with about 7.5cm (3in) of water to the boil. Stand the asparagus in this, bases in the water, spears leaning against the side (they cook in the steam). Cover with a lid.
Cook until only just tender, testing with a point of a knife. How long it takes depends on the thickness of the asparagus. If it's of average thickness, I reckon on 7 minutes, but I usually start checking after 4.
Lift the asparagus out of the pan, then quickly dry it of excess moisture by patting it with a clean tea towel. Add a little of the asparagus cooking water to the pesto to loosen and thin it.
Mix the extra-virgin olive oil and the white balsamic vinegar together and season.
Divide the asparagus, raw peas, radishes and pea shoots between 6 plates - or put them all on a platter - and drizzle with the white balsamic dressing. Spoon on some of the pesto and offer the rest at the table.
Crab, tomato & saffron tart
This is one of my best dishes and I've been turning it out every summer for years. It's rich, but the custard is delicate. Prepare the components the day before, then you just have to fill the tart case and bake it.
For the pastry 250g (9oz) plain flour, plus more to dust
150g (5½oz) chilled unsalted butter, chopped
Good pinch of sea salt flakes
1 egg yolk
For the filling 4 plum tomatoes
15g (½oz) unsalted butter
½ tbsp regular olive oil
1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of caster sugar (optional)
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
200ml (7fl oz) double cream
Generous pinch of saffron threads
100ml (3½fl oz) crème fraîche
1 large egg, plus 3 egg yolks
200g (7oz) white crab meat
50g (1&3Qtr. oz) brown crab meat
Put the flour, butter and salt into a food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix the yolk with ƒ tbsp of very cold water, add it and whizz again. The pastry should come together into a ball. Wrap it in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes or so, then roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed tart tin. Prick the bottom with a fork, then chill in the fridge or freezer until cold and firm.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and put in a metal baking sheet to heat up. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake the pastry case on the hot baking sheet for 14 minutes, removing paper and beans after 7. Leave to cool.
Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water and leave for 20 seconds, then remove. Skin, halve, deseed and cut the flesh into slivers. Heat the butter and regular olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion and tomatoes gently until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic, season and continue to cook until you have a thick purée. Taste. If the tomatoes didn't have the best flavour to begin with, it will benefit from the tiniest bit of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. The purée should be dry, not at all wet. Spoon it into the pastry case.
Put about 50ml (2fl oz) of the double cream in a saucepan and add the saffron threads. Heat until just under boiling, then stir until you can see the saffron colouring the cream. Leave to cool. Mix this with the rest of the double cream, the crème fraîche, egg and egg yolks. Season well and gently stir in all the crab. Slowly pour into the tart case.
Return the tart to the hot baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling just set in the middle (it should still have a little give, as it will continue to cook out of the oven). Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then remove the tart tin and serve. I think this only needs a green salad, but green beans with toasted almonds are also good, and some people always want potatoes…
Gooseberry & almond cake with lemon thyme syrup
This is a pale pudding - soft green and cream - which seems just right for early summer. I serve it with extra gooseberries, poached (there's a recipe for them below), but you don't have to.
Makes 1 cake
For the cake 125g (4½oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
125g (4½oz) caster sugar, plus 5 tbsp
3 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
75g (2 3Qtr.oz) plain flour, sifted
2 tsp chopped lemon thyme leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
75g (2 & 3 Qtr.oz) ground almonds (preferably freshly ground)
3 Qtr. tsp baking powder
350g (12oz) gooseberries, topped and tailed
For the syrup 4 tbsp granulated sugar
Juice of 2 large lemons
2 tsp lemon thyme leaves
For the poached gooseberries 75g (2¬oz) granulated sugar
2 lemon thyme sprigs
500g (1lb 2oz) gooseberries, topped and tailed
To serve Thyme flowers, if you can find any
Icing sugar, to dust (optional)
Sweetened crème fraîche, or whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Butter a 20cm (8in) springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
Beat the butter and the 125g (4½oz) of caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture starts to curdle, add 1 tbsp of the flour. Put the lemon thyme leaves in a mortar with the lemon zest and pound together to release the fragrance. Add to the batter and briefly mix. Fold in the rest of the flour, the almonds and the baking powder, using a large metal spoon. Scrape into the tin. Toss the gooseberries with the remaining 5 tbsp caster sugar and spread over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
To make the syrup, quickly heat the granulated sugar, lemon juice and lemon thyme leaves in a saucepan, stirring to help the sugar dissolve.
Pierce the cake all over with a skewer while it is still warm and slowly pour the syrup into it. Leave to cool a little, then carefully remove from the tin and put on a serving plate.
Meanwhile, poach the gooseberries. Heat 175ml (6fl oz) water, the granulated sugar and lemon thyme together in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the gooseberries and cook over a medium heat for 4 minutes, or until the fruit is soft but not collapsing (most of the berries should still hold their shape). Leave to cool.
Any thyme flowers you have will look lovely on top of the cake. You can leave it as it is, or dust lightly with icing sugar just before serving, with sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream and the poached gooseberries on the side.