Asparagus, Potato, Pea and Quinoa Salad
It’s agony walking past my allotment neighbour’s asparagus bed when the season begins. His spears burst out of the heavily manured soil and keep on coming while the short season lasts. Every last scrap of my shop-bought asparagus goes into this satisfying salad — I even turn the woody ends into a creamy green dressing. New potatoes, preferably Jersey Royals or Cornish earlies, and peas reflect the flavour of asparagus, but to provide bulk without interfering with the flavours, I add a sachet of ready-to-eat white and red quinoa. Couscous would be a good alternative. Quinoa is quick to cook and versatile, like couscous, swelling into pretty little curls after 10 minutes. For vegetarians, in particular, this complete protein, containing eight essential amino acids, rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9, and gluten free, is worth getting to know.
|250g||sachet ready-to-eat quinoa (M&S) or 250g hydrated couscous|
|a generous squeeze of lemon juice|
|3 tbsp||your best olive oil|
|200g||frozen petits pois|
|400g||Jersey Royal or Cornish early new potatoes|
|100g||feta cheese, optional|
You will need a food processor.
Fill and boil the kettle. Half fill a medium pan with boiling water and, in a bowl, pour the rest over the unopened sachet of quinoa. Holding an asparagus spear in your hands, snap it in two. It will break naturally at the point where it ceases to be tender. Cut the tender spear end in half, horizontally. Trim the pale, tough, woody end of the remaining stalk and slice it very thinly. Rinse and set it aside. Treat all of the asparagus in the same way. Add salt to the boiling water, then drop in the prepared spears. Boil them for 2 minutes, then scoop them into a colander.
Put the asparagus slices into the water and boil for 6 to 8 minutes until they are very tender. Scoop them into the bowl of a food processor with 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Blitz for several minutes with a squeeze of lemon juice until pale and creamy. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a dribble. Pass the sauce through a sieve into a bowl.
Between other jobs, scrape the potatoes. Leave small ones whole and thickly slice larger ones. Rinse, and cook them in the asparagus water. Scoop them into the colander. Put the peas into the water, topping up the pan, if necessary. Cook them until they’re tender, then drain. Mix the quinoa, asparagus, peas and potatoes in a shallow bowl. Spoon over the dressing and toss. Add diced feta, or not.