Creamy Lemon, Prawn and Asparagus Spaghetti

This has to be one of my favourite pronto pasta dishes after home-made pesto.  It’s “fast food”, easy, scrumptious and what’s more – it uses up egg yolks!  I mentioned this recipe briefly in the egg yolk pages in the book’s annex, but here it is in more detail.

I played about with a fish recipe for John Dory with Sorrel in my tattered and splattered Crème Fraîche Cookbook (Boutron/Ager) one night, since the photo had fresh noodles and called for egg yolks and lemon.  And since I only had prawns to hand and some fresh asparagus, this just evolved.

Vegetarians can omit the prawns and have a lovely lemony cream sauce with the asparagus.  I’m using asparagus, as it’s the end of its season here, but you can omit this and toss in fresh or frozen peas instead. It’s as simple as that.

My sincere excuses to my Italian friends for this photo.  As you can see, I do love pasta with my parmesan. Parmesan isn’t normally served with seafood pasta dishes, but I personally adore it.  Each time I sprinkle it on, my Corsican Mother-in-Law reminds me. Constantly; with that disapproving half-eye cringe. But I still love it, even if my feet shuffle under the table.

prawn lemon and asparagus spaghetti

Serves 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes

12 giant prawns
3 egg yolks
2 lemons, untreated
20 cl tub crème fraîche
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
bunch of green asparagus (optional)

1. Firstly, get some freshly cooked prawns and shell them.

2. Cook dried spaghetti in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until al dente.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix the yolks, the juice and zest from the lemons, crème fraîche (or cream if you’re feeling decadently creamy), the parmesan and herbs, then season.

Mix lemon zest/juice, yolks, cream and parmesan

4. If using, break the stems off the asparagus (where they break naturally, about quarter up from the bottom) and cook them for about 5 minutes until al dente in boiling salted water.

5. Drain the pasta and in the same pasta pan, add in the sauce and toss the pasta in it.  Add the prawns, asparagus and decorate with extra fresh herbs such as lemon thyme or chives.

Serve pronto with a chilled glass of Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay.

Here I omitted the prawns and tossed in some roasted chicken leftovers…

Creamy lemon spaghetti with asparagus, lemon thyme & chicken

Et voilà. Keep the egg whites for a batch of macarons!

A huge thank you to my friend, Manu, from Manu’s Menu: she has been very generous in passing on a Versatile Blogger Award, plus others.  It means so much coming from Manu, as I’m always in awe of her fabulous Italian recipes:  her detailed step-by-step guides make it possible for us all to recreate her perfect dishes in our own kitchens.  Merci, Manu!  Congratulations to you, on winning the May Recipe Challenge at Food Frenzy with your Macarons with White Chocolate and Mint Ganache!  They are amazing. 🙂

Thyme to be Sage with Buttered Asparagus

This past week I was so ashamed of the garden. I had run away from it for too long. The weather didn’t give me an excuse, either, as the sun was shining. It was time to JUST DO IT! My back has been killing me since (the computer doesn’t help, either!) but the effort was worth it.  The cherry tree is now covered in netting (yeh, as if that will prevent the wood pigeons from pecking at them!) and the raspberries are well on their way.

chives mint herb garden

 

The only part of the garden that’s in full bloom is the wee herb corner. Once the major weeds disappeared, I discovered we actually had flowers: on the chives, lemon thyme, and they were popping out in their full glory on the sage plants.

sage in flower

 

Just seeing the word, sage, makes me laugh.  In French, sage means wise (if you’re referring to an adult), and good (when you’re referring to a child). I keep meaning to ask my husband how this works; I mean, at what point will it no longer be wise to shout, “Soyez sage!” as you drop the kids off at a party?

sage flowers close-up

Delicious and stunning sage flowers

I’ve never seen such gorgeous looking flowers that you can eat!  I just had to do something with them. When I did my usual weekly shop at the market, I also had to asparagus myself.  Well, that’s what they kept shouting at the market: “Aspergez-vous!”, “Aspergez-vous!”

asparagus and strawberries at the French market

Asparagus season at the French market

The French normally serve asparagus with hollandaise sauce, or toss it in butter.  With such beautiful and delicate sage flowers, I wanted an excuse to use them for friends coming to dinner. Nothing fancy. What could be easier than tossing them in butter infused with sage and decorating them with the edible flowers?

white asparagus with sage butter

White asparagus tossed in sage butter

For the sage butter, it’s not even a recipe – so not worth putting it as a recipe post on the site. It’s a no-brainer! Just take about 1/3 pack of unsalted butter, melt it over the most gentle heat you can, along with several sage leaves and a few leaves that have been chopped finely.  Stir it now and again with a wooden spoon – still on a very low heat – then discard the large leaves.  The butter is beautifully perfumed.  Toss the asparagus (peeled, trimmed & steamed in boiling water for about 5 minutes) in the butter and serve.  Et voilà!

Just so the green asparagus didn’t feel left out, I did the same again for more guests.  The sage flowers were a real talking point.  They really taste of sage and it went well with the asparagus.

Asparagus, sage butter and flowers

Asparagus, sage butter and flowers

Hm.  Last week you may have been disappointed that I didn’t make a stinging nettle macaron.  I know, how could I not join in the fun?  Well, truth be told I preferred the nettles mixed with ricotta cheese and mint in some homemade ravioli, tossed in the sage butter and served with some crispy sage leaves.

ravioli with sage butter and sage flowers

Homemade nettle ravioli, sage butter and sage flowers

I don’t want to disappoint you this time, though.  Why not take a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy it with a mini sweet garden herb macaron?  And if you have the book handy, then just turn to page 97 for the recipe. Cheers!

Sweet Garden Herb Macarons

 

Making macarons but don’t know what to do with the egg yolks? Don’t despair. Check out this week’s guest recipe post from Joshua at Just Eat! He’s making us some Biscuits Bretons to use up our egg yolks.

If you missed the others, take a look at Liz’s silky Chocolate Pots de Crème (guest from That Skinny Chick Can Bake), Erin’s Blueberry or Pineapple Curd (guest from BigFatBaker), and Manu’s Genovesi Ericine Sicilian pastries (guest from Manu’s Menu).

Stay tuned, folks, since there are more guests coming soon to share their egg yolk recipes with us.

Before you go, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for some blog awards.  I haven’t forgotten: just stuck for time to post it all – will be up on the next post!

Sweet Potato & Sage Roman Gnocchi

gnocchi romaine

Sweet potato & sage gnocchi (Roman style)

As some of you may know, I’m married to a Frenchman but whether he’s a true Frenchman can be a bit of a debate.  He’s Corsican.  Although the island of Corsica officially belongs to France, their cuisine is more Italian in spirit.  More on that subject later…  In our house, we tend to eat a lot of pasta.  The children LOVE to get covered in flour making homemade tagliatelle: I prefer that the flour coats the pasta. 😉

This has to be another of my favourite Italian-style dishes.  We all know gnocchi as the round little potato dumplings but this version is baked in the oven, Roman-style. I found this recipe for Baked Butternut Squash Gnocchi by Jean-Christophe Novelli in a magazine ages ago and since then I’ve been playing around with it, as it’s so versatile:  in place of the butternut squash I’ve used pumpkin, parsnips and here I’ve used sweet potato.  They all work wonderfully.

In summer I’ve even tried this with roasted red peppers (skins removed.) It completely transforms this dish.  Serve it as bright red gnocchi with fish for a real treat.  Don’t forget you can also chop and change the herbs – with lemon thyme, basil and rosemary, depending on your accompaniment.

Serve this as a starter or a main course, top with some good melting cheese and finish off under the grill.  Serve with a rocket salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts.  You could use polenta instead of the semolina but I personally find the semolina is lighter.   Use wholemeal semolina, if you’re wanting to be particularly healthy.  I love serving this as a side dish (without the cheese topping) to accompany saltimbocca or roast chicken.

Serves 4 people as a main dish or 8 as a side dish or starter.
Adapted from a recipe by Jean-Christophe Novelli

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes + 40 minutes

2 sweet potatoes (about 550g), peeled & chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 sage leaves, finely chopped
100g semolina
50g  Parmesan cheese, grated (or grana padano)
65g butter, softened
3 large organic eggs
125ml carton crème fraîche
Fontina, gorgonzola or taleggio (good melting cheeses)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Throw the sweet potato, garlic and sage in a roasting tin.  Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes. There’s no need to use oil if you cover with the foil.

    No need for oil since roast covered in foil 

  3. Whiz the potato, garlic and sage in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and add all the other ingredients.  Season to taste.
  4. Spread the mixture in a brownie tin lined with baking paper, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes (I use the roasting option on the oven).

    Spread the mixture in a brownie tin

  5. Cool in the tin then cut into squares, triangles or circles (circles are pretty but I prefer the squares as there’s no waste.)
  6. If serving as a main vegetarian dish or a starter, put the slices on a baking tray.  Cover with the cheese of your choice and grill until melted.
  7. We ate this at home thinking of Manuela’s event for the 150 years of the Unification of Italy at Manu’s Menu on 17 March but I didn’t get around to writing it up on the site.  Sorry, Manu!  Mieux vaut tard que jamais, as they say here (better late than never) 😉

roman gnocchi side dish

Crispy Sage Leaves

Crispy sage leaves with sage flowers

Crispy Sage Leaves are one of my favourite decorations to add that extra je ne sais quoi to the plate.  They are also the easiest things to make in no time.  They are ideal for decorating pastas, risottos, purées, chicken and fish dishes.  Sage also goes beautifully with pumpkin or butternut squash – as well as the traditional apple and pork dishes.  Add them to roasted veg and vegetarian dishes, too.

There’s no need for a deep frier, either. 🙂  The result is not only crispy, but the leaves still taste of beautiful sage.

Preparation Time: 1 minute

Cooking Time: 3 minutes

  1. Clean the fresh sage leaves and dry them out thoroughly using kitchen paper.
  2. Warm some vegetable oil or olive oil in a frying pan and when hot, add the leaves.  Fry them gently for about a minute on each side.
  3. Remove from the pan using tongs and drain them on more kitchen paper.  They will crisp up beautifully as they cool.

 

Delicious and stunning sage flowers

In spring, make the most of pretty sage flowers; they are edible and taste just as strong as the sage leaves!

Crab, Ginger & Coriander Gluten-free Quiches

 

This is such an easy starter. You’re basically replacing the pastry with cornflour, so they are gluten free. Prepare the mix earlier in the day and chill until needed. Pour into 6 briochette silicone moulds just before your guests arrive and bake during the aperitif. Serve with a herb salad with lemon olive oil or with Thai Green Curry Macarons (see p.105) for something different.

They are also ideal served as minis for party finger-food or as an apéritif: just use smaller moulds and bake for only 10 minutes. It’s amazing how my French guests love these in particular – especially the slim French ladies; I think it’s because they’re so light and there’s no pastry. 😉

Serves 6 as a starter

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time:
40 minutes

3 large eggs
400g crab
300ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp fresh coriander
2cm grated ginger
1 red chili, finely sliced
50g freshly grated parmesan
seasoning

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C

2 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour mixture into silicone briochette moulds.

3 Bake for 20 minutes.

Ideal partners: chilled South African chenin blanc or pinot blanc from Alsace. My own preference is my Frenchman with the wine too.