Well I never thought I would be sitting on the beach getting a tan in April in the UK but here I am all golden and sunkissed. My wife and I went away for a few days for her birthday in Wales and we had a wonderful time. We went Horse riding where we both fell deeply in love with our steeds. I tried to smuggle my horse ‘Jester’ out by stuffing him in the back of the Fiat 500 we had hired for the weekend but he seemed a bit cramped in the back seat so we didn’t bother.
As well as soaking up the welsh sun on sandy beaches and a botched attempt at horse rustling, we also struck gold with the place we were staying. I found it on one of those last minute booking sites and even though I don’t like doing a ‘Gump’ when it comes to booking accommodation (“you never know what you’re going to get”), we couldn’t have been treated more wonderfully we pretended our names were Kate & William and we were on our Honeymoon. As I’ve mentioned before, getting fed as a vegan in Brighton is a piece of cake (sometimes literally) but when you venture farther afield, a vegans choices can be reduced to Houmous & bread from the local supermarket for breakfast, lunch & dinner and that’s if you get lucky. Furthermore, Wales is reknowned for its excellent quality meat, (especially Lamb) so my lady and I were perfectly prepared to improvise our meals and make the best of whatever situation came our way.
As a courtesy, I emailed the guesthouse I’d booked and said “look, I understand that this may not be possible, but my wife & I are vegan and we would really love it if we could have dinner in your restaurant on the actual day of her birthday. If not, then fine but I just thought I’d ask”. I got an immediate reply back saying “Sure that’s no problem. I’ve never cooked vegan before but I’ll do some research and I’ll come up with something special for you. Do you want any special sausages, spreads and milk for your breakfasts?” To say we were shocked was an understatement, not because they were from Wales, but because we’d never been treated so thoughtfully by any place we’ve stayed in apart from the homes of family and friends.
So there we were every morning, chowing down on our full English breakfast with vegan sausages, smearing our toast with soya spread and drinking our coffee with soya milk. And as for the birthday dinner, we started with a pan fried tofu, pear & walnut salad and for main course, they had made us a beautiful Paella filled with nuts, chopped vegetables and perfectly cooked rice, not to mention it was packed full of flavour and exquisitely seasoned.
On top of all this, we were surrounded by nothing but green rolling fields and a beautiful waterfall which gently sent you to sleep after stuffing your face with too much paella and drinking too much Champagne. Heaven!
So if you ever feel like travelling to Wales and you want to stay somewhere that is run by the loveliest family who treat you like a normal person by preparing you delicious food you can actually eat, then stay at “The Mill at Glynhir”. You won’t regret it I promise.
I am currently in my annual Asparagus devouring phase where I try to incorporate as much asparagus into every meal before it goes out of season. So far I have managed asparagus on pizza, chargrilled asparagus salad with walnuts & apple with crostini, asparagus risotto, wild mushroom & asparagus gnocchi in a white wine & sage cream sauce and just plain old steamed asparagus with olive oil, lemon & sea salt. Tonight I’m going to take it back to the old school with my own version of Asparagus Soup.
Soups are a wonderful way to level the culinary playing field when you have non-vegans dining at your table as people of all dietary persuasions enjoy soups and are just as delicious without dairy.
I know Asparagus Soup has been done before, (or ‘is a Classic’ in Chef’s parlance!) but if you get this right and don’t over cook the asparagus, it’s a delightfully fresh and slightly nutty soup which is perfect for the summer evenings. The trick is to let the asparagus speak for itself and not overpower it with lots of other flavours. This is why the only herbs I use are parsley and a bayleaf, which compliments the natural asparagus flavour. You can serve it warm or chilled but personally, I prefer a little heat through mine, served with fresh bread and drizzled with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice. Enjoy!
But there’s one thing I don’t understand: why does asparagus make your pee smell bad and dear God can I please use someone else’s bathroom until I’ve stopped eating the damn stuff?!
“Don’t be scared, it’s just food!”
This is a perfect Summer soup. It’s really important to keep it simple and let the asparagus speak for itself. It only uses 2 tablespoons of oil so it’s incredibly low fat. This soup is not supposed to be served piping hot as the heat masks its subtle flavour. Whether you serve it warm or chilled, it will taste equally as wonderful.
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes Serves: 4-6
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 large or 2 medium Onions (sliced)
1 handful Fresh parsley (chopped)
2 cloves Garlic (peeled & chopped)
4 medium Potatoes (peeled & diced into 1cm cubes)
250ml White wine
½ litre Vegetable stock
2 bunches Asparagus (washed & stalks removed)
Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Drizzle Lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Fry the onions in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes or until soft & translucent
Add the parsley & cook for a further 2 minutes
Add the garlic & cook for 1 minutes making sure it doesn’t burn
Add the potatoes & bayleaf, coating them with the onion mixture
Add the wine & cook for 2 minutes
Add the stock, cover and cook for approx. 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender
Once cooked, remove from the heat and add the asparagus and leave to cook for no more than 2 minutes.
Remove the bayleaf and place the mixture into a blender and process until smooth, adding a little more hot water if too thick.
Allow to cool till warm (or chill it) and serve with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil & lemon juice drizzled over it. Finish off with a few thinly sliced asparagus stalks & serve.
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