Second only to the eternal Cow vs Pig debate in terms of "impossible to answer but easy to debate food-related propositions", is the formation of any kind of list of favourites. Favourite cake, top 3 cheeses, desert island ice cream flavour - I'm telling you, these can fill hours of discussion and you still won't be sure you've chosen correctly. I know that this might not be life-changing, and I think it's telling that I just typed "kill hours" instead of "fill hours", but it's still engrossing. If you could choose your favourite 5 vegetables, what would they be?
First, the ground rules. You CAN be boring and go for the most useful or versatile - onions, potatoes, carrots etc - but that's quite a starkly utilitarian approach and I don't really rate it. My own feeling is that your "favourites" are the ones which, when you see them on a menu, incline you towards choosing that dish. Something where you say "ooh yum, I do like X". That kind of a favourite.
In a recent heated debate about this topic, I chose my 5 as: asparagus, leek, tomato (don't bring up the fruit/vegetable bombshell), butternut squash and peas. Even now, this took a lot of effort to choose. Corn on the cob is delicious - but maybe better as an occasional treat? I eat broccoli almost every day - but is that too basic? In choosing butternut squash, why ignore celeriac, sweet potato or parsnip? And is leek really a better choice than onion? What about cauliflower, mushrooms or peppers? See, it's tricky.
Anyway, I'm fairly sure that asparagus will always have a place on my list so this recipe from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals sounded right up my strada (imagine that in the voice of Gregg from Masterchef). It's suggested as part of a picnic lunch - alongside the sausage rolls, green salad etc which I talked about yesterday - and it was a nice accompaniment to the rest of the food. That might sound half-hearted, and in truth it is, but it was nice. It just couldn't hold a candle to the sausage rolls. But otherwise, chargrilled asparagus, dressed with oil and lemon, topped with cheese. Very tasty, very summery, very much worth a try. Just not as amazing as the sausage rolls. Now they are a reason to go for Pig rather than Cow.
Griddled Asparagus Salad with Cheddar Cheese
From Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals
- 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off
- olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- some cheese to shave over - Jamie says Lancashire, we used some good, mature Cheddar
Get a griddle pan good and hot, then add the dry asparagus and cook, turning occasionally, until it's charred on all sides and tender throughout. Add a splash of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon to the pan, shake it around for a minute or so then transfer to a plate and shave the cheese over.
I think it would look slightly more attractive if you let the asparagus cool down before adding the cheese - I didn't, so it melted and congealed a bit. Mind you, melted cheese is never bad, so you can choose whether to prioritise aesthetics or greed.