Asparagus (or courgette or pea) carbonara

I’m rushing to get all my asparagus recipes written up. The ‘asparagus’ collection if you will. Here’s a tasty carbonara that’s lovely with asparagus but also good with courgettes or peas. Lexie likes cracking eggs so this is a good recipe to make with her, although Finn is too little to have raw egg.

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I usually make this with penne or spaghetti but recently have made it for Lexie using my favourite kids pasta Stellette, little stars that cook in 5 minutes and are suitable for baby Finn to eat. Chifferi rigati which is like mini macaroni also cooks in 5 mins.

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Asparagus carbonara

  • 2 egg yolks
  • bunch of trimmed and washed asparagus, sliced into 5mm rounds, or peas, or sliced courgette
  • 75ml double cream
  • 30g grated parmesan, plus more to serve
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a sprigs worth of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • pasta (roughly 250g)

Blanch the asparagus for a minute or two, drain and set aside. Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the bacon with the thyme leaves so it’s nice and crispy. Just before it’s done add the garlic and asparagus. Mix the egg yolks with the cream and parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Cook the pasta and when cooked and drained, add to the bacon mix. Finally stir in the egg mixture off the heat and serve quickly, ideally on warmed plates if for grown ups, with extra parmesan.

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10 min vegetable stir fry

I’d love some more noodle and stir fry recipes that don’t just taste of soy sauce. I’ve got two staples – a yummy cold rice noodle salad with chicken, lettuce and coriander (I’ll post this soon as it makes a great packed lunch), and a 10 min stir fry which is also tasty but does taste quite a bit of soy sauce.

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More importantly, Lexie loves it and will eat up a whole rainbow of vegetables when we have it. You can make this with any veg you want and, as most kids are very happy with lots of rice and a few slivers of each veg, a little goes a long way. It would also be easy to add meat to this. I’ve added a variation at the end with a simple marinade for beef, pork or chicken that works well.

10 min vegetable stir fry

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5 mins with noodles, 10 mins with rice
Budget: Usually less than £5
Ease: Easy
Serves: 2
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper sliced
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced
  • 2 sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 sliced carrot – in rounds or slivers
  • 2 or 3 tbsp sunflower oil (or groundnut/peanut but not olive oil)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 or 3 tbsp soy sauce (we use reduced salt soy sauce for Lexie)
  • A little chicken stock (fresh or from good quality stock cube) or water
  • Sherry (optional and I usually leave this out)
  • Chopped coriander (optional)

Heat the sunflower oil to quite a high heat in the pan and add the garlic and ginger. Sizzle for a few seconds then add the veg. Cook on a high heat for 30 seconds, turning the veg lightly with a spatula. (I usually add all the veg at the same time but the rule of thumb is to add veg in the order of hardness. So add veg like carrot and broccoli first for 30 seconds – 1 minute (you can parboil for a minute first but I don’t), then peppers/courgettes/onions for another 30 seconds, followed lastly by mushrooms.)

Then add a splash of sherry if using. Sizzle this down then add a splash of soy sauce. If not using sherry just go straight to adding the soy sauce. Cook for a minute and the sauce will also reduce and when it does add a little chicken stock or water to make it all more saucey. Keep cooking the veg for a couple more minutes – approx 2 mins for an authentic stir fry (veggies with a bit of bite) but it doesn’t matter if it cooks for longer and is soft. Once you’re happy with the veg, turn the heat off and add the coriander. That’s it! Serve with rice or noodles.

  • Meat marinade: Mix 2-3 tbsp groundnut oil, 2-3 tbps soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey, 1 minced garlic clove, a knob of peeled and grated ginger. Add thin strips of either chicken, pork or beef to the mixture and marinade, covered, for 30 mins. Stir fry the meat before the veg for about 3 minutes (or until done to your taste), then set aside to rest while you fry the veg in the same pan, adding a little more oil, garlic and ginger before the veg.

In other news all three of us have had a haircut! We’re off to the Basque country for a holiday and to celebrate my mum’s 80th birthday with her family. So we wanted to look respectable. Lexie absolutely loved having her hair cut. It was the first time she had a blow dry and she remembered she’d get a sticker and gold coin too! For some reason my bump looks quite small, but it isn’t! Definitely feel like I’m almost in the 3rd trimester!

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Bel’s orange French toast

Actually this is Nigella’s French toast but the first time I had this was at my friend Bel’s brunch, so in my eyes it’s her recipe! I’m not the hugest fan of French toast, preferring pancakes or croissants, but I really love this version. There is something utterly amazing about the orangey syrup you drizzle over the toast. Something also utterly unkidfriendly – neither of our kids would touch it. Leaving the syrup off and offering the kids sugar to sprinkle proved more popular but I’m kind of thinking this recipe would be perfect for a kids-free girls brunch with a bottle of bubbles! Pic below is of lovely Bel – thank you for the recipe honey!!

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Bel’s orange french toast

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5 mins per batch
Serves 2
Ease: Easy
Budget: £5 (£1.25 bread, £2 marmalade, £1.50 eggs, 30p orange)
Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 60 ml milk
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large, thick slices white bread
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 75 grams marmalade
  • 50 grams caster sugar
  • Butter

Mix the eggs, orange zest, milk and ground cinnamon in a wide shallow dish. Then soak the bread slices in this mixture for roughly 2 minutes per side. Meanwhile, bring the orange juice, marmalade and sugar to the boil in a saucepan then simmer for 3-4 minutes. Heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the eggy bread for about 2 minutes a side over a medium heat until golden. Serve the French toast with some of the orangey syrup poured over each slice, and some extra syrup on the side. If trying this for kids, leave the syrup off and offer sugar to sprinkle instead.

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Instead of eating brunch Lexie dressed Arlo in a tutu.

Simple asparagus tapas

My family is obsessed with asparagus. In fact I think the whole of the Basque country is obsessed. Whenever we have big family dinners there’s always a plate of asparagus as an appetiser, it’s always in the bars – the ubiquitous green vegetable. If it’s a special occasion, like Christmas, we have delicate white asparagus served with langoustines and mayonnaise – divine! I’m very very happy that my daughter loves asparagus too!

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Here is a super simple and traditional way to serve a tapas of asparagus! This is my go-to starter for all meals with friends and family – I made it recently as a starter for friends before crab linguine, and yesterday as a starter before a delicious roast chicken (I made Mimi Thorisson’s rosemary, lemon and thyme roast chicken – I highly recommend this recipe!). It’s great with other tapas – jamon, boquerones, Spanish tortilla, garlic mushrooms, pan tumaca etc.

I just have to add, having written asparagus a few times now, it is totally one of those words the more you write it, the weirder it becomes! Is it really spelt like that etc!?! Apparently it derives from a latin word that derives from a greek work that derives from the Persian ‘asparag’ meaning to sprout or to shoot! There you go!

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Asparagus tapas

Prep time: 1 min
Cooking time: 5mins
Ease: Easy

  • 1 bunch of green asparagus, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Place the asparagus in a wide pan and cover with water. Parboil for a few mins depending on thickness. Drain and set aside. Heat the olive oil in the same pan on quite a high heat, add the asparagus and sprinkle with salt. Fry for a couple of mins then you can shake the pan a bit or turn the asparagus with a fork. Add a generous squeeze of lemon and after a couple more minutes they should be done. Sometimes I cook asparagus on a really high heat and blacken some of the sides, other times I lightly fry them – they are pretty versatile!

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Tagliatelle with girolles (or any mushrooms)

It’s raining it’s pouring…
Usually Lexie adores the rain as she has a thing for umbrellas and wellies.

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But even she has had enough of having to endure her pushchair rain cover every day since forever #toddlerproblems

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I don’t entirely mind the rain. The slight OCD that emerged in me when Lexie was born is grateful the streets are getting washed properly. I’m also glad that damp = good skin according to my mum. I quite like London in the rain, it feels right (as opposed to London in a heatwave which is hellish). I would however far prefer to be mushroom foraging in a dark, magical Basque forest than fighting with my umbrella on the pavement. I remember being a little girl on treasured mushroom hunts in the forests of Guipuzkoa. I was the assistant to my adored cousin Inigo, a landscape gardener and terrific chef, who would create the most fantastic dishes with our finds (some of his recipes to follow!). The pic below is us together in one of his favourite forests near Anoeta where he lives.

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The damp has been playing on my mind and all I can think about are mushrooms and how to eat them. A morning visit to my mother-in-laws gave me the chance to peruse her River Cafe cookbooks and stock up on herbs from her wonderful garden. I returned home laden with bundles of thyme, rosemary, sage and recipes for veal escalopes, baked porcini and girolle tagliatelle. I realise writing this I’ve also been heavily influenced by a post I read recently on the glorious Manger website.

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I needed a quick lunch and figured veal might be more fun for dinner with Lewis than with a tired toddler so pasta it was. I’ve got a standard mushroom tagliatelle I do with cream, bacon, onion and parsley (see recipe for this variation at bottom of the recipe). I far prefer this version. It’s much cleaner and allows the mushrooms to really take the stage rather than masking them with a rich creamy sauce. Lexie had my leftovers for dinner as a side with a ‘maybe tiny little’ (her words she says doing little lobster claw fingers in front of her eyes) slice of veal saltimbocca and some buttered spinach. She wolfed the pasta – by far her favourite bit of the meal!

EDIT: I now make this pasta recipe about once a week using the bog standard mushrooms and spaghetti from the supermarket because it takes exactly 10 mins, it’s really tasty and cheap. It’s basically one step up from pasta, butter and cheese which we also love to eat when in a hurry. I never use girolles because they are so pricy and also such a faff to clean. So if you want a cheap staple try this with button mushrooms and spaghetti. If you love that and want to push the boat out buy posh girolles and good tagliatelle. 

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Tagliatelle with girolles (or any mushrooms) 

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
Serves: 2
Ease: Very easy
Budget: £5-10 depending on mushrooms (tagliatelle £2.50, mushrooms £3, parsley £1.50, lemon 30p)

  • 1/2 pack Tagliatelle or spaghetti
  • Girolle mushrooms (or any mushrooms – this is lovely with button, chestnut and portobello mushrooms = aka the ones that are cheap at the supermarket) – as many as you fancy
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Handful of parsley – chopped
  • 1 clove of sliced garlic
  • Parmesan

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If using normal mushrooms cut the ends of the stalks off then slice. Don’t wash them as mushrooms absorb water. If using girolles, clean them before slicing, so cut the ends of the stalks off then wipe with a damp cloth or brush with a toothbrush. This is really fiddly and don’t attempt this with a toddler under your feet, rather with a glass of wine listening to the radio watching the rain tinkle on the window!

Cook the tagliatelle as per the instructions and when done – usually 5-10 mins – drain, return to the pan with a big knob of butter and some salt. The mushrooms take about 3-5 mins to fry so its good to do have everything ready then start frying them once the pasta starts cooking. So heat olive oil in a separate frying pan to a high temperature but not smoking – I use about 3 tbsp. Add the mushrooms, season immediately and fry for a minute, then add the sliced garlic and fry for another minute on this high heat. Squeeze lemon juice on the mushrooms and reduce the heat adding the chopped parsley. Turn the heat off and as soon as the pasta is done add the mushrooms and mix. Serve with plenty of parmesan and lemon wedges.

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Here are some really good tips on how to clean and cook mushrooms – I knew about not washing them but I didn’t know how important it is to cook mushrooms on a high heat (it’s very important!!).

  • Variation: For those who like creamy pasta sauces try this: fry bacon then add chopped onion. Cook for a bit then add sliced mushrooms, some crushed garlic and maybe a splash of white wine. Sizzle and fry until you like the look of the mushrooms then season with salt, pepper and parsley. Add a swirl of double cream and turn the heat off. Mix in the cooked tagliatelle, season and serve with parmesan.

No time pasta with peas

See I told you we were the pasta family. This recipe is for when I’ve no time to cook (i.e. got home late with nothing ready to heat up in the fridge). It’s really easy and Lexie loves it.

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Pasta with peas and parmesan

Prep time: 2 mins
Cooking time: 8 – 12 mins depending on pasta

  • Pasta
  • Frozen peas
  • Parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon (optional)
  • Fresh basil or parsley (optional)

Cook your pasta as normal and 2 minutes before it’s done add the frozen peas. Drain, put back in pan and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Serve with lots of parmesan and chopped fresh basil or parsley if you have any. If I’m eating this with Lexie I add salt to mine!!

A nice variation is to add chopped courgettes to the pasta at the start of cooking. If you do this version add a bit more squeezed lemon at the end – courgettes looove lemon.