My northern hemisphere friends scoff when I moan about Sydney winters. If it doesn’t snow, then it’s not really cold, and if you haven’t been caught in a blizzard, then you really don’t know what cold is, and I’m just a big girl’s blouse, or something like that. But I guess the thing is, Sydneysiders, come winter, go into denial. We don’t dress for it, heat the house for it, or believe in it. And then suddenly, bam, it’s cold, it’s dark, and we’re left wondering, what happened?
Some of us go into a funk by about July. Somewhat pathetic I know, given there’s still sun, oh, about 10 hours of the day, but, actually, it’s just SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. Yes, it actually happens here. Or maybe it’s better renamed, the long slow maddening wait for the first hint of spring!
Asparagus comes up just as the days lengthen a little, and winds with a hint of summer arrive. Spring breaks, and sweet relief, there’s a whole new outlook and a whole new menu. Try as I might to eat seasonally (and often fail), this is one vegetable I set the clock by, mainly because it’s become a marker of a shift out of the dark.
I must have needed the ritual a little more this year. After months of braises, rich pastas, roasts, root vegetables, I was hanging out for broad beans, and snow peas, and all things green. Here I’ve tried to use just about every item of produce listed as springing: parsley, mint, garlic, peas, broad beans, beetroot, goat’s cheese, and, of course, asparagus.
This salad, adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe in the September 2012 issue, just about covers it.
Poached Chicken, Broad Beans and Radish Salad, with Garlic Dressing
Servers 2 for a light lunch, with leftovers
2 chicken breasts
500ml chicken stock (or enough to cover the chicken in a saucepan)
2 spring onions halved
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
200 ml olive oil
lemon juice, to taste
1 bunch baby asparagus
4 radishes, quartered
2 handfuls of sugarsnap peas
300g broad beans (frozen)
1/2 cup each of mint and parsley, torn
2 tbsp chervil
The chicken needs to be poached in advance, at least 3 hours before assembling the rest of the recipe. For the basics on poaching chicken please refer to the Kitchn’s method. In this case I've used chicken stock and spring onions as the poaching liquid.
For the dressing, blanch and refresh the garlic cloves. Add garlic, vinegar, mustard, egg yolk and anchovy to a food processor and blend smooth. With the motor still running, add oil in a thin, steady stream until combined. Add lemon juice to taste, and season.
Blanch asparagus (2-3mins) and refresh, peas (1 min), and broad beans (boil until they rise to the surface, and remove progressively with a slotted spoon). Pod the broad beans.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, herbs and radishes included, and toss with the dressing.
Serve with crusty bread and a white wine, such as riesling.
And this from Neil Perry.
Roast Beetroot Salad with Goat’s Curd
Serves 4 as a starter and two as a light lunch
4 beetroot, washed
extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
see salt and pepper
1 oak leaf lettuce (or baby cos), washed and dried
1/2 cup walnuts roasted and broken into pieces
250g goat’s curd
Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the unpeeled beetroot in a roasting tin, with 250ml (1 cup) of water. Cover the tin with foil and bake for an hour or until a knife passes easily through the beetroot. Remove from the oven and cool.
When cool enough rub the skin off the beetroot. Quarter each beetroot and place in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar and some olive oil. Season.
Arrange the lettuce over the plates. Divide the beetroot equally. Sprinkle with walnuts and place a few dollops of goat’s curd about. Drizzle a little more oil and red wine vinegar. Season and serve.
If you have leftover chicken and dressing, it is almost the consistency of a mayonnaise and will keep in the fridge for a day or two. I used it in a chicken sandwich the next day with some of the oak leaf lettuce. Mighty fine. Eat with gusto.