Category / Food

Asparagus Season

Asparagus Season

It’s a special Asparagus season this year because it’s the first for the Vale of Evesham under its new protected status.   It now enjoys an elite group from potatoes to Champagne which is great news for the growers.  Green asparagus, grown within the defined geographical area of the Vale, produced between the months of April and July can legitimately carry the PDO label.  The point is that this status helps combat imitators and increases competition throughout Europe.  Good news too, post-Brexit, for those protected food products should be able to keep their PDO if Britain ensures there’s reciprocity with European growers.

Asparagus Season

The Vale has been growing asparagus since at least 1768, and the annual Asparagus Festival attracts lovers of the vegetable from all around the world.  Saint George’s Day marks the start of the Asparagus season, ending in June.

Traditionally matched with a good Hollandaise Sauce, there’s nothing quite like freshly picked Asparagus direct from the source.

If you can’t make it to Evesham, keep an eye out for it in the shops.

To buy Asparagus at its best, look for firm and tender stalks with good colour and closed tips.  In my experience, the thicker the asparagus, the better the taste.  Once picked it starts to deteriorate so if you can eat on the day you buy it.  A good way to store is in a damp kitchen towel.  Before you eat it, you’ll need to snap off the woody base.  They break exactly where the delicate stalk ends, and the woody part begins.  Wash in cold water.  Boil or Steam (the latter being my preference) until al dente.  You can buy an asparagus steamer which cooks the spears from the bottom, allowing the delicate tips to remain so.

Here’s the only Hollandaise Recipe you’ll need.

Hollandaise Recipe (adapted from Julia Childs recipe)

3 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
225g, melted unsalted butter
A little cayenne pepper
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Method

Add egg yolks the water and lemon juice to a bowl and blend.  Melt the butter in a microwave then add slowly with a stick blender or whisk. Add salt and cayenne.

Tip the sauce over the lightly steamed Asparagus.

Asparagus Season

Carbon Neutral Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien is doing a fabulous job by reducing and offsetting its carbon emissions, but it’s aiming high.  LPQ will be carbon neutral in all of its restaurants by 2020.  So what better way than to host a dinner to talk about what carbon neutrality means in practice.

Carbon Neutral Restaurant

It’s rare I don’t eat meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go without it, but I just know how to handle it as an ingredient.  Plants I’m not too sure of.  Le Pain Quotidien or LPQ has always impressed me, and when I get an invite to one of their events, I always try to be there.  Their City branch, right outside Monument tube was the venue for a Vegan supper, celebrating their carbon neutral status.

Monument Tube branch

The menu wasn’t altogether appealing as a meat-lover, but as ever, LPQ pulled off a magnificent feast.

Vegan Menu

LPQ Green Credentials

Not to forget the point of the evening, there was an informal address from the advisory group co2logic who measure and pinpoint where and how to change.  So how does this chain, known throughout the world, manage it?   Well, they calculate their carbon emissions, reduce and offset them and invest in a carbon reducing project.  They’ve chosen to invest in UpEnergy Group’s cook stove project which provides Ugandan communities with an alternative to their three stone fires.  In the restaurants, it’s looking at cooking and cooling mechanisms, materials used in-store from seating to lighting, delivery to waste.

Interior of restaurant

Vegan Menu

The Menage à Trois is a favourite of Alain Coumont, the chain’s founder, and the base hummus recipe is in his cookbook Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook.  Three small bowls of beetroot, roasted carrot and chickpea hummus were scooped out with vegetable sticks and bread.

Hummus three ways

Hummus, 3 ways

Roasted carrot hummus

Beetroot hummus

Chilli Sin Carne is also in the cookbook, and this vegan bean chilli’s main ingredient is tofu.  I didn’t feel denied of meat in the slightest.  It was a bowl of delicious and my dining partner was pretty impressed.

Chilli Sin Carne

The Pot Au Feu was full to brimming with chunky vegetables, and quinoa and served with more LPUK bread.

Pot Au Feu

Just in case we had room, an organic lentil and avocado salad was a bright plate of freshly shaved fennel, raw slaw, chickpeas, drizzled with a basil vinaigrette.

Lentil and Avocado Salad

A wedge of Pear and Chocolate Cake was next and a portion too far, so we shared this and the chia seed and coconut milk pudding.

Chocolate & Pear Cake

Chia Pudding

Did I say that this veritable feast was washed down with free-flowing wine for those who wanted?

Red & White Wine

“Good For You And Good For The Planet” indeed.

Le Pain Quotidien