My recent trip to the farmers market was one of the best so far this season. The start to a bountiful summer ahead. Spring produce gets people excited. The chance to start cooking with variety of bright green produce is a nice change. Asparagus has finally arrived, as well as some lovely spring onions, baby greens and ramps. I was looking for a nice recipe that could incorporate it all and I decided to go with one from Nigel Slater's book Tender. Its a stunning book and I always envy the photography. In fact I think its safe to say that the photography in Nigel's books are amongst my favorites. The styling simplistic and the lighting dark and moody. He lets the ingredients shine in all of their rustic gritty splendor. I switched out a few ingredients in this based on availability. The core spices are really a star in this dish.
A take off Nigel Slater's recipe from Tender. Serves 2.
fresh fava beans - 2 handfuls
a bunch of asparagus
basmati rice - 2/3 of a cup
butter - 4 tablespoons
green cardamon pods - 6 very lightly crushed
black peppercorns - 6
a cinnamon stick
cloves 2-3, no more
cumin seeds - a small pinch
spring onions - 2
Cook fava beans in a deep, lightly salted boiling water for four minutes, until almost tender, then drain. Trim the asparagus and cut into short lengths. Boil or steam for three minutes, then drain. Wash rice three times in cold water. Cover with warm water, add a teaspoon of salt, and set aside for a good hour.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves and cumin seeds. Stir them in the butter for a minute or two, until the fragrance wafts up. Drain the rice and add it to the warmed spices. Cover with about 1/4 inch of water and bring to a boil. Season with salt, cover and decrease the heat to a simmer. Finely slice the spring onions and ramps.
After five minutes, remove the lid and gently fold in the asparagus, fava beans, spring onions and ramps. Replace the lid and continue cooking for five or six minutes, until the rice is tender but has some bite to it. All the water should have been absorbed. Leave, with the lid on but the heat off, for two to three minutes. Remove the lid and add a tablespoon of butter if you wish, check the seasoning, and fluff gently with a fork.
Note - He uses fresh herbs in addition in his recipe, including parsley and thyme. He serves yoghurt mixed with fresh mint, salt and a little olive oil as a accompaniment. I topped ours with feta cheese and it made for a really lovely addition. Feel free to adjust veggies based on whats in season. I also served ours with a handful of spring greens. I've always loved mixing up my salad with rice. Its delicious!!