It’s asparagus season, which can only mean one thing, I’m going to spend the next month eating as much as the stuff I can get and consuming copious amounts of butter in the process.
I’m quite a traditionalist when it comes to asparagus. I like it British and I like it in butter. Ever since I was little I’ve loved nothing more than sitting in front of a plate of stiff green spears, licking salty butter off my fingers and then laughing at how much my pee smells.
However, last night I tried something different. I was torn between making a roasted root veg dish and a plate of asparagus. As I was taking a middle eastern slant with dukkah and mint, I reckoned I could sneak the asparagus in. And I’m glad I did.
This isn’t a celebration of those iconic green spears, but the asparagus brightens and freshens a dish which could become heavy otherwise, adding a touch of green vegetal vibrancy.
There are quite a few elements in this recipe, but don’t miss them out, they all come together to make an earthy, zingy, satisfying dish that isn’t too heavy. You can buy the dukkah in, but I think it tastes much better when you make it yourself.
A warm salad of lamb, root veg and asparagus
Make: 1 1/2 hours (1 hour if not making the dukkah)
For the roasted veg
6 medium to large carrots
6 smallish beetroot or 3 larger
6 tblps maple syrup
2 tbsp cumin seed
2 tblsp light oil (I use a light olive oil for roasting)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For the quick pickles
1 medium red onion, cut into very thin half moons
300ml vinegar (can use white wine, cider, red wine or clear here)
1 tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt
For the yoghurt sauce
500ml natural yoghurt
Half a large bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped (reserve the rest)
1 garlic clove, grated
A pinch of sea salt
Black pepper to taste
For the rest
4 lamb rump steaks (thick cut if poss)
4 tblsp ras al hanout
2 bunches of British asparagus
4 wholemeal pitta bread (or more if you have massive appetites)
1 pomegranate, seeds picked
Salt and black pepper
Light olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Whilst the oven is heating up, make the dukkah (recipe here) and put to the side.
- Wash the carrots and the beetroot, top and tail them. Cut the beetroot into chunky slices and pop in a roasting dish. Cut the carrots in half lengthways, then cut each half into long, thick strips lengthways. Add to the roasting dish and cover both veg with the maple syrup, oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Mix to coat and pop in the oven for about forty minutes.
- Make the pickles by adding the onion slices to a small bowl. They really do have to be paper thin for this to work. If your knife skills aren’t the best, use the mandolin slicer on the side of a box grater (but be careful of your fingertips!). Add the vinegar, salt and sugar, mix and leave to the side.
- In another small bowl mix together the yoghurt, garlic, mint, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust. Pop in the fridge till needed.
- When the veg is soft and beginning to catch at the edges, turn the oven off, but leave the veg in the oven and the door closed.
- Put a heavy-bottomed medium frying pan over a medium high heat. Whilst it’s coming to temperature, rub a little oil into the lamb, season and dust with ras el hanout. When the pan is hot, put the lamb in and cook until medium rare (about two minutes each side for thickish cut steaks). You could use a griddle pan here and get a lovely smokey char on the lamb – mine has had an accident, so I’m using frying pans at the moment.
- Whilst the lamb is cooking pop the asparagus in a small pan with just enough boiling water to cover. Salt and boil for a one minute (thin spears) or two (thicker). Just before the lamb is cooked take the asparagus out and drain on kitchen paper.
- When the lamb is done, pop onto a plate to rest, turn the frying pan/griddle down to medium and add the asparagus. Cook for a couple of minutes so the skin starts to char and the asparagus picks up the lovely lamb taste from the pan. Take off and place on the resting plate with the lamb whilst you build your plates.
- Pop your pitta in the toaster.
- To build – roasted veg on bottom mixed through with reserved mint leaves, some of the quick pickles and asparagus. Squeeze over the lemon juice (just a little for each, you can split half a lemon between two plates) and sprinkle with a decent amount of dukkah and the pomegranate seeds. Place the lamb on top of everything and serve with pitta and yoghurt sauce on the side.
NB take leftover pickles, dukkah, pomegranate seeds and yoghurt sauce to the table, so people can help themselves.