Steamed Artichokes & Asparagus with Wild Garlic Butter

I love perennial vegetables and think we should all be eating more of them! Perennials are vegetables and fruits which are planted once and come back year after year. They could be a key solution in the fight against hunger and climate change. Perennials develop longer, more stabilising roots than annual crops. That and the fact that there is no digging once they are planted means they are the best crops for soil health. Their long, undisturbed root systems have also been shown to sequester carbon in the soil. Undisturbed crops like artichokes, especially organically grown ones, create wildlife havens and putting back a balance of biodiversity in any agricultural land is so important!

So add perennials like asparagus and artichokes (rhubarb, fruits, nuts, olives…) to your order whenever they are in season to show your support to this climate friendly type of farming and to enjoy the incredible flavour and nutrition that comes along with them. Here’s my favourite way to enjoy these two crops every spring. It’s so simple and so delicious.

Liz x

Getting close to the tender heart of the artichoke

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 globe artichokes
  • 1 bundle of asparagus
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • wild garlic butter (wild garlic blended with butter)
  • toast and cheese (I used my fermented cashew cheese)

Method

Rinse the asparagus and artichokes and get a pot of water under your steamer basket on the hob. I like to add lemon slices, garlic and bay leaves to the steaming water to infuse into the vegetables.

Prepare the artichokes. Slice an inch or so off the tops, remove any small leaves on the steam and trim the steam leaving a good inch or two still attached to the flower head. Use kitchen scissors to cut the spiky top off all the outer petals. You can also use a potato peeler or a sharp knife to peel the stalk.

Put the artichokes into the steamer basket, replace the lid and allow them to steam for at least 20 minutes. They are done when you can easily pull a petal off.

Prepare the asparagus spears by simply snapping off the woody ends. Carefully bend the end and it should break off just past the dried out, tougher woody ends. Those can go in the compost bin or into the freezer to be used in a homemade veggie stock.

Once the artichokes are steamed, add the asparagus spears to the steamer and cook them for just 3-5 minutes or so until they are tender but still with some bite.

Serve with melted wild garlic butter or your choice of dip (aioli, salsa verde, hollandaise, vinaigrette…) and some toast and cheese. I melted a slice of wild garlic butter for each of us and can highly recommend it.

Eat the artichokes by pulling off one petal at a time and dipping it in the melted butter. Then scrape off the tender part with your teeth and keep going until you reach the heart.

On top of the heart is a fibrous, hairy ‘choke’. Scrape this off using a teaspoon or a knife.

Then eat the delicious heart and as much of the stem that is tender.

The petals and choke can then be composted. Have a bowl on the table to collect them in as you go.

The asparagus is also incredible dunked in the wild garlic butter. Enjoy!

1, 2, 3 Shortbread!

A classic shortbread biscuit is buttery and tender with a crumbly, melt in the mouth texture. It shouldn’t be soft or chewy like a cookie, but delicately crisp. The simplicity of the ingredients is what makes shortbread so good. The perfect sugar:butter:flour ratio is 1:2:3 and so you can easily work the recipe up or down to make a batch however large you like. The best way to get the right texture is to weigh the ingredients out carefully and not to overwork the dough. Here’s a handy little video which explains it all.

Let us know in the comments or over on our facebook group if you make the recipe. I’d love to see your photos. Liz x

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200g butter (I use this vegan one)
  • 300g plain flour (I love this spelt one for perfect biscuits and cakes)
  • optional extras – lemon zest, more caster sugar to roll the cookies in…
Bergamot zest shortbread with kumquat curd.

Method

Measure the sugar, butter and flour into a bowl. Add optional lemon zest – I used the gorgeous bergamot lemons we have in season now.

Using the tips of your fingers (so as not to make the dough too warm or melty) rub the flour and sugar into the butter.

When you reach a sort of wet-beach-sand-like texture, tip the mixture carefully onto a clean work surface.

Bring the dough together into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough as this can make it tough and chewy rather than tender and crisp. No kneading, just gently bring it together.

Then you need to wrap and chill the dough for at least half an hour. I like to roll the ball into a neat cylinder, the circular ends the size of the biscuits I want. Then wrap it in a sheet of baking parchment on which I’ll cook the biscuits later. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up the dough.

Then pre-heat the oven to 175C.

Unwrap the chilled shortbread dough onto a large baking sheet. If you wish, you can roll the cylinder of dough in some extra caster sugar (with added lemon zest or chopped rosemary, or crushed lavender flowers…) to create a sweet, crunchy ring around the biscuits.

Slice the dough into 12 round biscuits and bake them for 8 minutes or until just starting to take on some colour.

Allow the biscuits to completely cool and then store them in an airtight container. Eat within a week. I am loving them with a dollop of my kumquat curd but they are delicious plain too. And just perfect with a cup of Earl Grey tea.