Springtime tagliatelle with chicken, asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli

 

When the first spears of asparagus appear in the garden or in our weekly vegetable box, there is only ever one way to eat them: simply steamed and served with melted butter and sea salt. There is something so beautiful in this simplicity, focussing completely on the heavenly fresh green taste of the fresh, crisp asparagus, it needs nothing else.

Then as the English asparagus season continues, the recipes become more varied and asparagus makes an appearance in all kinds of meals. We tend to eat as much of it as we possibly can this time of year. This easy pasta dish, which sees the asparagus partnered with tender stems of purple sprouting broccoli, also at its best in late spring, is a firm family favourite. Continue reading “Springtime tagliatelle with chicken, asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli”

Review: Kerry LowLow

This is a sponsored post.

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We don’t eat a lot of processed cheese in the Bangers & Mash household, but I am trying to keep an eye on my weight so when Kerry invited me to try out their LowLow cheese spreads I was keen to give them a go. This spoof ad made me chuckle and I love the idea of cutting down on our fat intake without sacrificing on taste. Can it really be possible?

While LowLow probably won’t replace a couple of slices of a mature local Cheddar in my lunchtime sandwich, I was impressed with LowLow as a cooking ingredient and will use it again as a substitute for full fat soft cheese or maybe even cream in certain dishes.

Kerry sent me recipes for Pancetta Wrapped Chicken and Spring Vegetable Risotto and I put them to the test on my family, including my discerning mother who was over from Spain to stay this weekend. I played with the recipes a little to suit the tastes of my brood and also to make the most of what happened to be in our fridge, particularly the heaps of wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli we have to use up.

LowLow Collage

The first dish I tried out on my family was the Pancetta Wrapped Chicken. Both my husband and mother pulled faces when they saw I was cooking with a low fat cheese spread, and I rather wished I hadn’t told them beforehand what I was up to. Personally I thought the end result was rather good. I don’t think I would have spotted the cheese was a low fat alternative if I hadn’t already known, but Jason and my mum were convinced it tasted different to normal soft cheese. However, they still ate it regardless and the children wolfed theirs down quite happily. Here’s what I did…

lowlow chicken in pancetta

Pancetta Wrapped Chicken

2 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
low-fat spray
4 chicken breasts
125g LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread
8 sun-dried tomatoes
8 slices of pancetta
300g spring greens
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 6).

Scrub the sweet potatoes, dry with kitchen towel and slice into wedges. Place in an ovenproof dish, spray with a little low-fat oil and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Roast in the oven for around half an hour until soft inside and a little charred on the outside.

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken breasts by cutting a slice in each one at the thickest point, to create a pocket. Spread a quarter of the LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread into the pocket and pop a couple of sun-dried tomatoes into each one.

Wrap 2 slices of pancetta around each chicken breast, making sure to seal the pocket.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking tray and spray with low-fat spray. Season with black pepper. Cook for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, shred the greens and steam for 4-5 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through, slice and serve with the greens and sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

spring vegetable risotto

When I made the Spring Vegetable Risotto the following day, I learned from my previous mistake. This time I didn’t tell anyone I’d used LowLow when I served up this lovely fresh and creamy risotto. It went down an absolute treat with adults and children alike, and my husband and mum both requested second helpings. The LowLow gave the dish a rich cheesiness, which wasn’t too cloying, and rather good to know wasn’t piling on the calories at the same time. Here’s how I prepared the risotto…

Spring Vegetable Risotto

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
300g risotto rice
1.25 litres vegetable stock (hot)
200g spears of asparagus spears, trimmed at an angle
200g purple sprouting broccoli
100g frozen peas
125g LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread
large handful wild garlic, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallots and sauté for 3-5 minutes until they are soft. Stir in the rice so it is coated with oil.

Pour in a ladleful of stock and stir. Cook, stirring regularly until the stock is absorbed. Continue until the stock is used up and the rice is tender all the way through.

In the meantime, steam the asparagus and broccoli until just cooked, retaining a little bite.

When the rice is cooked, stir in the asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, LowLow Mature Cheddar Spread and wild garlic. Cook for a minute or two until the vegetables are heated through and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little extra wild garlic.

asparagus risotto

If you’d like to try Kerry’s LowLow yourself, I have five vouchers each worth £3 to give away. Simply leave a comment below saying why you’d like to try it.

Asparagus, ham and Parmesan tart

asparagus ham and parmesan tart

This is an exciting time of year for cooks; a time when so many special fruits and vegetables come into season for just a brief and tantalising spell. As with rhubarb and wild garlic, we are making the most of English asparagus and it features on our menus on almost a daily basis.

Generally I tend not to do too much to asparagus. I simply steam it and serve with a squeeze of lemon and melted butter or a soft poached egg. Our girls go crazy for it, especially when they can eat it with their fingers. But I do also enjoy asparagus in a simple tart, like this one, with ham and Parmesan. It’s incredibly easy to make, especially if you forget about making your own shortcrust pastry and buy in ready-made instead, and it’s just as good eaten cold the following day.

Asparagus ham and Parmesan tart

Asparagus, ham and Parmesan tart

175g plain flour
salt
75g butter
250g asparagus
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
200ml Greek yoghurt
50ml milk
100g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
100g chopped ham

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

To make the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Using your finger tips, rub in the butter until it resembles soft breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make the mixture come together to form a firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to line 9 inch well-buttered flan dish. Line the pastry with foil or baking paper and fill with baking beads or rice. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the pastry just starts to turn golden. Remove the beads or rice and the foil, and brush the pastry with a little of the egg you’ll be using in the filling. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes so the egg seals the case. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.

Lightly steam or boil the asparagus until only just cooked; it should still have a little bite. Refresh in ice cold water to stop further cooking and to retain that beautiful green colour. Drain well.

Gently beat the eggs and the extra yolks (which give it that lovely vibrant yellow colour) and combine with the yoghurt, milk and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the chopped ham and asparagus in the pastry case and pour over the cheesy egg mixture. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling is set and golden. Leave to cool a little and serve at room temperature with a simple salad.

asparagus and ham tart

As this is such a seasonal tart, I’m entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season blog event, which this month celebrates its second anniversary. You’ll discover lots of tasty recipes over there using asparagus as well as the likes of rhubarb and wild garlic.

SimpleinSeason