Simple pleasures

Don’t throw those bloody spears at me

White asparagus with salsa verde. toasted chilli almonds, Parmesan and lemon zest

I blame the Ancient Egyptians. What did they ever do for us? Cat worship lead to domestication and ultimately to them sneaking into my back garden overnight where I’ve left the paddling pool out, because I thought I’d put it away another time, and trampling all over it with their claws and leaving tiny, impossible to find holes in an absurd variety of places.

Every small success, every patch glued over an excitedly-discovered hole led me to believe it would stay inflated. This time. And half an hour later, sagging sadly and listlessly to one side, the water started pouring out. Again. I sagged sadly and listlessly to one side.

But now the bank holiday weekend is over, and we are not prone at the feet of the sun god, we have a paddling pool that is more puncture repair patches than paddling pool (I don’t know where the pool ends and the patches begin). I have folded it away and put it in the garage. And ordered a new one. It seems even garden leisure goods can teach you a lesson about not doing just half the job.

But all this does show that we have been spending a lot of time outside, which is a good thing. I have used the barbecue more times in the last month than I have in the past year, even lighting it last week after picking the children up from school to make them pizzas, using it succesfully as a makeshift pizza oven.

And as the sun is still shining, today’s lunch was light, quick and zingy. While people rend their clothes and cry tears over how fantastic British asparagus is when in season, the white variety is just not as popular here. But it is delicious and tender, and somewhat striking. If you see some, snap it up, snap off the ends and cook it in some butter, lemon juice and water and serve it with salsa verde. Toasted almond flakes add a little crunch and lemon zest a little highlight and lunch is ready to eat sat outside with some shades on and bandana tied around your head ready to point the hose at any cat that comes near the garden. I’m also sure one is trying to bury poo in the rosemary. Remind me of that next time I cut some to marinade the chicken in for another barbecue.

10-12 white asaparagus spears, peeled and the tough part of the stem snapped off
A handful of basil leaves
A bigger handful of parsley
Fronds from a few dill sprigs
1tsp capers
1tsp Dijon mustard
A small hadful of flaked almonds
1tsp smoked chipotle chilli flakes (or standard red chilli flakes)
A few shavings per person of Parmesan or Grana Padano
Zest of a small lemon
Olive oil
Butter and lemon juice for the asparagus water

Bring a pan of water (enough to cover the asparagus) to the boil and add a tablespoon or two of butter and the juice of a lemon.
Cook the asparagus in this for about five minutes, depending on the thickness of the stems. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking any further.
Blend the herbs, capers and mustard together with enough olive oil to make a pourable sauce.
Toast the almonds with the chilli flakes until the nuts are turning golden and remove from the heat. Don’t walk away from them or they will burn and you’ll have to start again, which is a pain.

Divide the asparagus between two plates, spoon over the salsa verde and sprinkle on the chilli almond flakes.
Top with some shavings of cheese and some pared lemon zest and serve immediately.

This week:
India, by V.S. Naipaul. A fascinating and engagingly written insight into an enigmatic and enormous country. Bonkers and beautiful.
Episodes; the first 20 minutes of ‘Hampstead’; the first half of ‘The Florida Project’; and painfully continuing with ‘The Woman in White’. Excellent; clichéd and tedious; Good but got bored of watching a six year old be a six year old even though the film has its merits, just not when we’re tired; and oh God when will this tedium of a series end but it’s too late to give up now.
Gosh we have been loading the barbecue with marinated chicken, aubergines, sausages and the rest. We’ve had tomato salads, carrot salads, green salads. I puréed green chillies and coriander and garlic and smothered it over a chicken which I split grilled then poured over a quick coconut, chilli garlic and ginger sauce and served with homemade naan. We’ve had Fried chicken and tacos at an American style bar in Shoreditch because we are so trendy and much more. It’s been a good week.
Radio 4s Book at Bedtime, ‘The Valley at the Centre of the World‘ by Malachi Tallack. We miss the excellent telly programme ‘Shetland’ so this has come at a good time. It was even read by Steven Robertson who plays Sandy and has the most fantastic accent.

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