I am so pleased to be resuming my blog after taking a break for a couple of months - I can’t believe I missed the whole of April and May. We lost our beautiful 16 month old dog in a tragic accident at the end of March which hit us hard. We all miss him so much but the sadness has been eased by the arrival of a new puppy who has been keeping us on our toes. He is a bundle of fun, but puppies are definitely hard work.
I have also been struggling with back pain for most of this year. The problem is musculoskeletal and I am now undergoing treatment but it can be quite debilitating at times. Anxiety and stress don’t help so I decided to take the pressure off myself and step away from anything not work related for a while.
It is now summer though - although today’s weather seems to have forgotten. There is an abundance of wonderful produce in the shops and it is time to brush off the cobwebs - it’s good to be back.
For the first week in June, I have chosen to feature Asparagus, a vegetable that means late Spring, early Summer to me. It arrives in our local farmshops in early May and comes from a couple of local growers, some of which allow you to come along and pick your own. I bought this bunch from Browns Farmshop at Roberstbridge : https://www.browns-farmshop.co.uk/ whilst the asparagus was grown at Ladysden Farm in Goudhurst: https://www.lowerladysden.co.uk/ - both within a few miles of my front door.
Asparagus are the young shoots of the plant which is part of the Lily family. Our British variety is green, whereas in France it is purple and in Spain and the Netherlands it is grown beneath the soil, producing a white variety. Our local season ends on 21st June when picking stops to allow some of the young shoots to be left to maintain the crown of the plant, presumably for future seasons.
Asparagus is low in calories but packed with essential vitamins and minerals, particularly folate and vitamins A, C and K. It is also a source of fibre, essential for our digestive health, and potassium which can help lower blood pressure. It is an excellent source of folic acid, a nutrient essential during pregnancy for foetal development. In fact, 150g of asparagus contains the total RDA (recommended daily allowance) for folic acid for most adults. Asparagus is also known for its diuretic properties, helping flush out the kidneys. It really is a nutritious powerhouse of a vegetable.
Asparagus is such a versatile vegetable that requires very little cooking. Very young shoots can be eaten raw in a salad, otherwise it can be steamed, stir fried and roasted - a few minutes is all it needs. Here I have simply roasted it in some olive oil with some garlic and added a balsamic vinegar glaze and some parmesan shavings. This could accompany fish, chicken or steak or it could be served on some sour dough toast with a poached egg, making a delicious lunch or supper.
I think my poached egg could have done with a couple more minutes here but you get the idea.
An absolute favourite in our house though is Oven Baked Chicken and Asparagus Risotto from a recipe by Australian cook and food writer, Bill Grainger. It is so easy and quick to prepare. The asparagus is added for the last few minutes of cooking time so it stays vibrant green and crisp. We probably eat this every week during asparagus season.
I have shot all of the images in this post over several days and in different light - all natural. Now that we are approaching our longest day of the year, I don’t have to worry about the lack of daylight hours and can even get a quick shot of our dinner before we eat it, as happened with the risotto above -more hastily plated and styled than I would have liked but what can you do when there are hungry people waiting to eat. I particularly like the portrait shot which I set up in a corner of my sitting room where I am able to use screens to control the light. An old wooden box makes a good base - a piece of furniture left over from my Interior Design days. The black background is just a piece of foam mountboard. I always use a tripod for this type of shot but I tend to shoot my overhead shots handheld for speed although this probably means I shoot a lot more frames than I actually need to ensure I get sharp focus. It is always about the light and knowing how to use it.
This brings me to the end of this post. There are some wonderful ingredients around at the moment and I have some great ideas for the rest of this month. I just hope I can pull them off.
Thank you for looking -until next time.