l wanted a sauce, quick to make, clear, pungent and refreshing that would work with anything I took from the stores. The only rule was that I had to use up the tomatoes I bought and didn’t use. Tomatoes whose smell seduced, but never really came out in terms of taste. The kind that ends up in the pan, under the grill or in the oven instead of being used in the first, long-awaited tomato salad of the year.
The temptation is great to throw everything in the spice rack to a vegetable or fruit that has let you down. It is always unwise. I start with a little heat (chillies or ginger); something aromatic (thyme, oregano or basil) and a little sugar or a dash of acid (lemon, wine vinegar or the pickle juice from a jar), depending on what you’re serving it with. So the tomatoes were sliced and softened with chilli, garlic and a glass of white wine; thyme and lemon zest were added and a little fish stock to give a light sauce to poach some fatty bits of fish in.
The asparagus season is in full swing and I’m making the most of it, this week with a soup, both hearty and vegan, of beans, coconut and mint. I made twice as much as I needed as it stays good for a day or two. Nothing better to come home to than a bowl of soup in the pan. My first idea was to blend some of the soup into a thick puree and stir it back in to make it thicker and richer, but I also liked the delicate, milkier version – it’s better to make my bread baptize.
Asparagus and cannellini beans with mint
Part soup, part vegetable (vegan) stew, this recipe works with cannellini, flageolet or string beans. If you like a thick, velvety consistency, put a third of the soup through a blender or food processor and return to the pot and return to the heat. Serves 4
spring onions 6
olive oil 2 tablespoons
garlic 3 cloves
ground turmeric 1 teaspoon
ground coriander 1 teaspoon
cannellini or string beans 2 cans of 400 g
vegetable stock 500ml
coconut milk 1 can of 400 ml
asparagus 2 bunches, about 250-300g in total
Roughly chop the spring onions and remove the dark green ends from the stems. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat, add the spring onions and cook for 5 or 6 minutes until soft.
Peel and mince the garlic and stir in the spring onion, cook for a few minutes, then stir in the ground turmeric and coriander. Continue to cook for a minute or two, then add the white beans and their liqueur, the vegetable stock and coconut milk, and a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer.
Trim the asparagus, remove any tough ends and cut them into short pieces. Add to the soup and cook for a further 7-8 minutes until the stems and stems are tender. (For perfection, add the thick stems a few minutes before the thin stems.) Halve the lemon, squeeze the juice, then strain through the soup. Check the spices. Remove the parsley and mint leaves and chop fairly finely, then stir into the soup and scoop into deep bowls.
Salmon with tomato and lemon
The sauce can be made the day before if desired, brought to the boil and the fish added just before you need it. A good thick piece of salmon will take about 15 minutes, but you can use other types if you prefer. Serves 4
tomatoes 600 g, ripe
Red peppers 2, medium hot
garlic 3 cloves
White wine 250ml
fish stock 350ml
thyme sprigs 6
salmon 4 pieces of 250 g
parsley 4 tablespoons, chopped
lemon finely grated zest of half
Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a stainless steel or enamelled pan over medium heat. Halve the peppers lengthwise – remove the seeds if necessary – and stir them into the tomatoes. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and add to the pan. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
Pour the white wine into the pan, cook for another minute or two, then pour in the fish stock and continue to simmer. Remove the thyme leaves from their stalks and chop finely, add to the tomatoes with ground black pepper. Grate the zest of the lemon into the pan, squeeze and reserve the juice.
Cut the salmon into four thick pieces and lower gently into the pan, spoon some of the sauce over the fish, then continue to simmer, reduce and thicken, about 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
Finely chop the parsley and add to the sauce along with the lemon juice.
To finish: Mix together the 4 tablespoons chopped parsley and finely grated lemon zest. Carefully lift the fish into shallow bowls and spoon the sauce over it. Sprinkle with some parsley and lemon.
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