Spring vegetable pancake (Gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Spring vegetable pancake with new season asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

If you’ve read my previous posts at this time of the year, you’ll know that spring is my favourite season. Not just because I love the flowers and the feeling that everything is coming to life, but my favourite vegetable is available right now for a very short period of time, British asparagus.

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Fresh British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I rarely do very much with asparagus. I like to savour the tender green stems just as they are. Either a quick flash in a hot frying pan or a blast in a hot oven, to give them a subtle smokiness, and that’s all the extra flavour I need.

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Fresh asparagus in a hot pan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is based on a Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki which caught my eye recently. Originally made with wheat flour and eggs, my version of the pancake is gluten-free and egg-free. There’s a bit of vegetable preparation, but once that’s out of the way, everything else is very straightforward. The pancake makes a lovely lunch or light supper, and is the perfect base for a topping of freshly cooked asparagus.

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Spring-vegetables for pancake making. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

If you don’t want the hassle of a cooked topping, try sliced avocado and baby spinach or a pile of fresh pea shoots and wild rocket for a salad topping instead. If you have the inclination and the extra ingredients, I recommend making the barbecue dressing that accompanies the pancake. Utterly delicious, simple to make, and far tastier than any barbecue sauce I’ve ever been able to buy. A great finishing touch to any grilled or barbecued food.

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Home-made barbecue dressing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds
  • 45g white rice flour
  • 50g dry white free-from breadcrumbs
  • 75ml white miso or vegetable stock
  • 75g soft-leaved cabbage, such as Sweet-heart or Hispi, shredded
  • 3 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 150g thin fresh asparagus stems, trimmed
  • Vegan mayonnaise to serve

For the barbecue dressing:

  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp gluten-free light soy sauce
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  1. Put the flax seeds in a coffee grinder or small food processor and blend until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 6 tbsp. cold water. Leave to soak for 5 minutes by which time the mixture will thicken.
  2. Sift the rice flour on top and mix together with the stock to make a smooth batter.

    Flax_seeds_in_coffee_grinder_and_mixing_to_make_vegan_pancake_batter
    Making the pancake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Add the cabbage, spring onion and breadcrumbs and mix everything together to make a thick, stiff batter – add a little water if the mixture is very dry, but this is not a pourable batter, it is more like a firm cake mixture.
  4. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan with a lid and add half the batter. Press the mixture to form a thick round approx. 16cm diameter. Fry over a medium heat with the lid on for 5 minutes. Carefully flip over, and cook on the other side, covered with the lid, for another 5 minutes. Drain and keep warm, whilst you cook the remaining mixture in the same way.

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    Cooking spring vegetable pancake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Once the pancakes are cooked, heat the remaining oil in the frying pan until hot and quickly cook the asparagus, turning, for 3-4 minutes until just wilted. Drain and keep warm.
  6. To serve, mix all the dressing ingredients together. Slip the pancakes on to warm serving plates and drizzle with mayonnaise and the barbecue dressing. Top with asparagus and serve immediately.
    Close-up_of_spring_vegetable_pancake_with_asparagus_on_top
    Asparagus-topped spring vegetable pancake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Until next week, I’ll leave you with another image of my favourite vegetable. Have a good week and I look forward to seeing you next time 🙂

    Close-up_of_British_aspagis_in_a_vas
    Early May British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Soba noodles with fresh asparagus (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Soba noodles with asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

It is the height of the home-grown British asparagus season right now, and I’m eating as much as I can while these fresh, green, juicy stems are available to buy. I rarely do anything fancy with asparagus,  just enjoy it on its own, steamed, griddled, or baked in the oven, and seasoned simply with a little salt and pepper. Delicious.

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In season. British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is a very simple, yet very tasty, combination that makes a lovely light lunch or quick supper dish. If you want to make it in advance, it’s just as good eaten cold as a salad, or boxed up for a picnic or packed lunch.

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Three favourite seasonings for soba noodles. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To serve 2: prepare 200g fresh asparagus spears by trimming away about 3cm of the stem – this is usually a bit woody and tough to eat. Then cut the rest of the stems into short lengths. Brush a non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil and heat until hot. Stir fry the asparagus for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Turn off the heat and add a good glug of gluten-free teriyaki marinade. Immediately cover with a lid and leave to stand. Leave to one side while you cook the noodles, or leave to cool completely for serving as a salad.

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Trimming fresh asparagus, and stir-frying. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to the boil and add 100g soba (buckwheat) noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes until tender, then drain well and place in a heatproof bowl, or rinse in cold running water, and leave to drain and cool completely.

When ready to serve, toss the asparagus and pan juices into the noodles along with 4 tbsp. freshly chopped chives,  2 teasp sesame oil and 1 tbsp. mirin. Pile into serving bowls and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy 🙂

Soba_noodles_with_asparagus_Image_by_Kathryn_Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

Asparagus and sesame sushi rice bars (gluten-free, dairy-free; vegan)

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Asparagus is my favourite vegetable. It has been highly prized since Roman times, and it is peak asparagus season at the moment. I had my first taste of the new season’s crop a couple of weeks ago when I was on holiday in Sussex, and I have consumed quite a lot more since then!

The season here in the UK is brief: just  6 short weeks in late spring. In my mind, asparagus is one of the vegetables that tastes noticeably different when locally grown and freshly picked. The flavour is sweeter, fresher and nuttier than the varieties that are flown in all year round. I think it is well worth the wait each year and I am taking every opportunity to savour and enjoy it whilst these magnificent steams are available.

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New season British asparagus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Keeping asparagus fresh. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As with any vegetable, buy and eat asparagus as soon as possible after picking to enjoy the freshest flavour and juiciest texture. But if you do end up with more than you can eat, trim away the woody ends as you would with fresh flowers and pop the stems in a vase or jug of cold water. Either store in a cool place or put in the fridge. This way, the stems will stay fresh for at least 48 hours. You can freeze it, but I really don’t like the softer texture of frozen asparagus once it is cooked – I think it over-cooks too easily – however it makes the perfect base for soup-making or blending with mayonnaise or very ripe avocado for a dip, so it is worth freezing a few stems for this purpose alone.

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Preparing fresh asparagus for cooking and keeping. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I like my asparagus best when it has been griddled or roasted. Thin spears cook very quickly in a hot, lightly oiled frying pan or on a griddle pan brushed with oil. Larger stems are good for roasting –  brush with oil and spread out on a lined baking tray, and bake in a moderately hot oven for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer to use water, try to cook the stems so that the tips stay out of the water. You can buy tall upright asparagus steamers if you’re a big asparagus fan – these enable you to stand the stems upright in bunches – only the stalks are in the water whilst the tops cook in the steam. Otherwise, steaming, covered, over a saucepan of water is the next best way – keep the cooking water to add to your recipe as stock if you’re making a soup or risotto.

Here’s my recipe for sushi rice bars topped with asparagus tips – a delicious light snack for a spring lunch. If you need to trim away lots of stalk to make this recipe, keep the leftovers, and either use them to make stock or soup, or slice them into thin rounds and add to a stir fry.

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Homemade asparagus and sesame sushi bars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 12

  • 150g sushi rice
  • 25g piece root ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp freshly chopped chives
  • 4 tsp mirin, sweet sherry or white balsamic vinegar (Agredolce)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 12 fine asparagus spears
  • Fresh chives and flowers to garnish

1. Double line a shallow 18cm square cake tin with cling film so that the film overhangs the sides. Rinse the rice in cold running water. Put in a small saucepan and pour over 200ml cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes undisturbed. Turn off the heat and leave to stand with the lid on for 20 minutes. It is worth checking the manufacturer’s cooking instructions for the particular rice you are using as timings and water quantities may vary between brands.

2. Meanwhile, peel the ginger and garlic and chop finely. Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and gently fry for 2-3 minutes until softened but not browned. Leave aside.

3. When the rice is ready, scrape it into a heat-proof bowl and fork through to break up the grains. Add the ginger and garlic along with the seeds, chives, wine, sherry or vinegar and salt. Mix well.

4. Pile into the prepared tin, press down with the back of a spoon and leave to cool completely, then fold over the cling film and chill for 2 hours until firm.

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Making seasoned sushi rice. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Trim the asparagus to approx. 8cm lengths and place in a steaming compartment over the water. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender – insert the tip of a sharp knife into the end of the stalk is a good way to check it is perfectly tender. Cool under cold running water, then drain, place on damp kitchen paper and chill until required.

6. To serve, remove the rice cake from the tin and remove the cling film. Place on a board, cut into 12 bars and arrange asparagus on top of each bar. If liked, wrap a length of chive stem around each piece and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with chive flowers, and serve with wasabi paste if liked.

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New season fresh, British asparagus spears. Image: Kathryn Hawkins