I I wanted a sauce, quick to make, bright, tangy and refreshing, that would go well with everything I would bring back from the stores. The only rule was that he had to use the tomatoes I had bought and not used. Tomatoes that were tempting to smell, but never really delivered in terms of flavor. The kind that ends up in the pot, under the broiler or in the oven rather than being used in the highly anticipated first tomato salad of the year.
There’s a temptation to throw everything in the spice rack on a fruit or vegetable that has let you down. It is invariably reckless. I start with a little heat (chili peppers or ginger); something aromatic (thyme, oregano, or basil) and either a little sugar or a hit of tartness (lemon, wine vinegar, or pickle juice from a jar) depending on what you’re serving it with. So the tomatoes were chopped and sweetened with chilli, garlic and a glass of white wine; thyme and lemon zest have been added and a little fish stock to give a light sauce in which to poach a few pieces of fatty fish.
Asparagus season is in full swing and I’m taking advantage of it this week with a soup, both hearty and vegan, of beans, coconut and mint. I made double what I needed because it keeps well for a day or two. Nothing better to come home to than a bowl of soup in the pot. My first idea was to mix some of the soup into a thick mash and stir to thicken and enrich, but I also liked the delicate, milkier version – it’s better for dipping my bread.
Asparagus and cannellini beans with mint
Part soup, part vegetable stew (vegan), this recipe works with cannellini, flageolet beans or white beans. If you like a thick, velvety consistency, run a third of the soup through a blender or food processor and return it to the pot and bring it back to heat. For 4 people
spring onions 6
olive oil 2 tablespoons
Garlic 3 cloves
ground turmeric 1 teaspoon
ground coriander 1 teaspoon
cannellini or white beans 2 cans of 400g
vegetables soup 500ml
coconut milk 1 box
asparagus 2 bunches
Roughly chop the spring onions, removing the dark green tips from the stems. In a large deep saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the spring onions and cook for 5 or 6 minutes until soft.
Peel and finely chop the garlic and incorporate it into the new onion, leave to cook for a few minutes, then incorporate the ground turmeric and coriander. Continue cooking for a minute or two, then add the white beans and their liqueur, the vegetable broth and coconut milk, and a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.
Trim the asparagus, removing the tough ends, then cut into small chunks. Add to soup and continue cooking for 7-8 minutes until spears and stems are tender. (For perfection, you can add the thick stems a few minutes before the thin tips.) Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice, then strain it into the soup. Check the seasoning. Remove the leaves from the parsley and mint and chop fairly finely, then stir into the soup and pour into deep bowls.
Salmon with tomato and lemon
The sauce can be made the day before if desired, brought to a simmer and the fish added just before you need it. A nice thick piece of salmon will take about 15 minutes, but you can use other varieties if you prefer. For 4 people
tomatoes 600g, ripe
red peppers 2, half-hot
Garlic 3 cloves
White wine 250ml
fish stock 350ml
sprigs of thyme 6
Salmon 4 pieces of 250g
parsley 4 tbsp, chopped
lemon finely grated zest of half
Coarsely chop the tomatoes, then put them in a stainless steel or enamel pan over medium heat. Cut the chiles in half lengthwise – removing the seeds if desired – and toss them with the tomatoes. Peel and finely chop the garlic, then add it to the pan. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
Pour the white wine into the pan, continue cooking for a minute or two, then pour in the fish stock and continue cooking. Remove the thyme leaves from their stems and chop them finely, then add them to the tomatoes with a grind of black pepper. Grate the lemon zest into the pan, then squeeze and reserve the juice.
Cut the salmon into four thick pieces and carefully lower into the pan, pour some of the sauce over the fish, then continue to simmer, allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken, for about 15 minutes until the fish be cooked.
Chop the parsley and add it to the sauce with the lemon juice.
To finish: mix the 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley and the finely grated lemon zest. Carefully lift the fish into shallow bowls, then pour the sauce over them. Sprinkle with a little parsley and lemon.
We publish fish recipes rated as sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide
Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater