Eat your greens

You know it’s peak asparagus season when it’s all you can see as you thumb your way  through Instagram.

We’ve reached the end of what farmers call the hungry gap, when, in early spring, there is little fresh produce available. That period is well and truly over, with greens lining up on the shelves of our greengrocers: watercress, cucumber, leeks, spring greens, and my favourite, asparagus. They’re often regarded as a delicacy, but these stubborn little spears are a hardy lot and will generally stick around in the salad drawer for a good week or so.

Spring is definitely here (how can it be mid-May already?) and as the days get longer and temperatures rise, I want to cook easy meals with fresh flavours.

Asparagus season comes but once a year, so I’m making the most of these green shoots while I can. Instead of boiling, I prefer to pan fry them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Asparagus works well in most dishes, from pasta to pastry, and because of its robust flavour and texture, it will often take the starring role alongside other ingredients.

This simple risotto takes under half an hour to cook and uses buckwheat (which contains 13.25g of protein per 100g – that’s more than eggs) instead of rice. The wild garlic adds a sweetly mellow flavour, but it’ll be gone in the next few weeks, so two cloves of garlic will also do the trick.

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Buckwheat risotto with asparagus, spinach and wild garlic. Captured hanging out of our kitchen window for optimal daylight (we don’t have a garden).

 Buckwheat risotto with asparagus, spinach and wild garlic

 

Serves 2

Ingredients

150g buckwheat, rinsed and drained

8-10 asparagus spears, ends removed and roughly chopped

500ml vegetable stock

Half a leek, diced (or use half an onion, peeled and diced)

3-4 wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped (keep the edible flowers for a garnish)

3-4 large handfuls spinach

The juice of 1 lemon

A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

A few leaves of fresh mint, roughly chopped

 

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the leek and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the wild garlic and the chilli flakes and cook on a medium heat for a further 2 minutes. In a separate pan, fry the asparagus in a little oil; do this over a medium heat for around 10 minutes.

Add the buckwheat to the pan and mix well, coating each grain in oil – add a little extra if necessary. Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the pearl barley and stir well. Bring to a simmer as the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  Continue adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the buckwheat absorb it gradually; do this for about 15 minutes, until soft.

Add the cooked asparagus to the pan with the spinach, lemon juice and salt and pepper and stir until the spinach has wilted. Turn off the heat and stir through the chopped mint. Squeeze over some more lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if you like, and decorate with the wild garlic flowers. Add a smattering of sunflower seeds for extra bite.

 

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Swansea Street Food Festival 2019

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I like to eat, so I was really pleased when I was invited to review Swansea Street Food Festival, which is sponsored by Encona sauces. Thankfully for me, street food isn’t just beef brisket and chicken wings, so armed with a checklist of vegan-friendly traders, I arrived bright and early (and hungry) on a sunny Saturday.

The festival coincided with Swansea Pride and there was a warm and friendly atmosphere with lots of smiley, happy people having a good time.

 

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After a look around the festival, my tummy was rumbling, so I got in line for some tacos from The Bearded Taco. I’d seen photos of the ‘let’s avo cwtch’ tacos plastered across my Instagram feed, but still hadn’t got my greedy paws on them. I’m pleased to say that they are worthy of all the hype. How could you not enjoy gin and tonic tempura avocado with lemon and agave slaw, vegan chipotle aioli and coriander? So. Bloody. Delicious.

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Next up was Vegan Ice Green for, you’ve guessed it, vegan ice cream. I’ve long been a fan of Amy and Josh’s dreamy, creamy cones, and I swear, you’d never guess that it’s dairy-free. The chocolate brownie is my favourite flavour, but for a change, I went for the carrot cake and I’m glad that I did. It was really sweet and chewy thanks to the raisins and nuts.

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I needed a bit of a break from eating, so I went for a coffee and a wander. The sun was still out in the evening, making it the perfect weather for an ice cold beer. I grabbed a can of Kona Brewing Big Wave from The Pop Up Bar Hire Co and a snack from Pakora Pod, where everything is vegan, gluten and nut free. The pakora wrap (a cauliflower pakora with salad, tomato salsa and Jaipur stew, topped with dairy-free yogurt and sweet chilli sauce) was just lovely.

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There’s only so much I can eat, but because I live in Swansea, I came back on the bank holiday Monday. The temperature had dropped quite a bit and it was very busy, so it wasn’t quite the same experience as the first day, but we still enjoyed it.

I queued for half an hour for a Mr Croquewich toasted sandwich, only to find out that they’d run out of vegan cheese (I was a bit sad, but I guess it’s a sign that vegans are eating all the vegan cheese, eh?), so headed to Murray May’s, who do some amazing things with a grill. Last year, I fell in love with the cauliflower kebab, so I had it again, but this time as a mezze box. The combination of grilled, spiced cauliflower, tahini sauce and date molasses is hella good.

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I don’t deal very well with cold weather and my fingertips were numb by this point, so sadly we had to leave. I definitely ate well over the weekend though, and it was great to see so many people enjoying themselves at this family-friendly event (dogs were also welcome!). Thank you to the organisers for inviting me to join them!

The street food festival is run by Street Food Warehouse who are running another three festivals in Wales this summer. They are:

Register for your free tickets and keep your eyes peeled for my vegan and veggie guide to Pembrokeshire Street Food Festival.