Ode to asparagus

A bit like Danny Devito, British asparagus season is short but sweet. You can buy it all year round but it’s a pale imitation of the stuff you’ll find during the spring and summer months.

Asparagus is full of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium and it’s also a diuretic – and as we all know, it makes your pee smell. That’s because (here comes the science bit) it contains a sulphurous compound called mercaptan, which is also found in rotten eggs, onions and garlic.  When your digestive system breaks down mercaptan, by-products are released that cause the strange smell.

Don’t let that put you off though; in-season asparagus has long been regarded as a delicacy and is delicious lightly steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

In this salad, the asparagus is the star of the show, with zesty lemon and salty pistachios as its backing singers. The giant couscous and chickpeas make it a substantial meal and it’s perfect for a packed lunch or picnic – or a speedy supper as it takes under 10 minutes to put together. If you can’t get hold of purple sprouting broccoli (its season is almost at an end, after all) use the ordinary kind.

IMG_8157

Asparagus salad with chickpeas, giant couscous and pistachios

(Serves 2–3)

Ingredients

100g giant couscous

1 can (400g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 packet of asparagus (or 7–8 spears)

1 packet of purple sprouting broccoli (or half a head of broccoli, cut into strips, including the stems)

Half a bag of spinach

2–3 handfuls pistachios, shelled

1 lemon, juiced

2–3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to season

 

Method

Using a sieve, rinse and drain the couscous then add to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 5–6 minutes. At the same time, in a separate pan, boil or steam the asparagus for 5–6 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the chickpeas and spinach and massage with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the couscous and add to the bowl (its warmth will gently wilt the spinach leaves) and do the same with the asparagus and broccoli. Top with the pistachios and dress with the remainder of the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

If you want to know more about asparagus and how to cook it, check out this handy guide from Quick Easy Cook.

British Sandwich Week

New York Deli

I love a good sandwich (my nickname at school was Sarah Bread Head – go figure) but now that I’m vegan, I rarely find anything other than the ubiquitous falafel wrap when I’m out and about. I’ve done my research though, and as it’s British Sandwich Week (14–20 May), I’ve rounded up the best vegan (and veggie) sandwiches you’ll find in Cardiff. Enjoy.

Wally’s

Wally’s has been something of a food fairground for me since I was a kid and turning vegan hasn’t stopped that. The Kaffehaus is king of the open sandwich and although there’s lots of meat and cheese on the menu, the staff are happy to change the fillings for you. For example, you can make the Linz vegan by simply taking out the halloumi and adding extra avocado. Win win.

New York Deli

This is another Cardiff institution and somewhere I’ve shied away from since ditching the pastrami as I assumed there’d be nothing there that I could eat. Turns out I was wrong. This heavenly hoagie (that’s a submarine-type roll to us non-Yanks) contains two types of vegan cheese, and all the salad, relish and sriracha sauce a girl could want. Other vegan options include a bagel burger and the grinder with veggie mince.

The Moos

Don’t be fooled by the name; everything at The Moos is 100% vegan and delicious to boot. Check it out for super sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks with a twist. The menu changes with the seasons which is a good excuse for me to go back.

Falafel Wales

I’m in love with this cafe on Cowbridge Road in Canton. Pop in for a Middle Eastern breakfast, some of the best houmous in the capital or this fabulous falafel wrap. Ask for it with everything (I always get extra hot sauce) and prepare yourself for one filling lunch. At £3.50, it’s a bargain too.

Falafel wrap. I asked for it with 'everything'.

A post shared by veggingit (@veggingit) on

Chapter

The veggie sausage from Chapter is pretty perfect, especially with heaps of HP sauce and a strong Americano. It’ll power you through the fiercest of hangovers, a looming deadline, the latest art house film – or simply the little darlings running around the place.

Fresh Baguette

This tiny little baguette shop is tucked away in the Royal Arcade and every lunchtime, a queue forms for one of the tastiest (and best value) lunches in the city centre. Gareth’s been feeding Cardiff’s office workers for over 15 years and is passionate about using high-quality fresh ingredients – the clue’s in the name, really. There are plenty of veggie options on the menu and you can easily ‘build’ your own baguette. This one with houmous, vegan pesto and roasted vegetables is just amazing.

Wyndham Tea

I’m so pleased that Waterloo Tea opened a branch in the city centre, because it does some FINE tea, sandwiches and vegan cake. The open sandwiches are the stuff of dreams and especially tasty when served with the soup of the day.

Dreamy lunch @wyndhamtea #vegan #vegetarian #vegansofinstagram #whatveganseat #cardiffvegans #veganfoodshare

A post shared by veggingit (@veggingit) on

Kemi’s

Kemi’s in Pontcanna is best known for its sunshine salads but if you’re more of a bread head, try the sandwiches and wraps on offer. This combination of houmous, baba ganoush, sweet potato and caramelised onion wrap is genius.

Grazing Shed

Grazing Shed is home to Cardiff’s beefiest burgers (and also does some veggie and vegan options – if you haven’t tried the Wah Wah, what are you waiting for?) and at the weekend you can do brunch at its St Mary Street restaurant. As well as the ubiquitous avocado smash, you can also enjoy this kale fritter with cashew cream.