Skye Gyngel’s Asparagus with Romesco and Crème Fraîche

Last week, I promised I would share some more of the gems cooked by the guest chefs at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2013.

Skye Gyngel’s Asparagus with Romesco and Crème Fraîche

This weekend I have chosen recipes from David Tanis, Skye Gyngel and Claire Ptak who did a cookery demonstration together. What a line up.

David Tanis worked as head chef at Chez Panisse in Berkley CA for more than 20 years.

He cooked for six months of the year and then had six months off, living the remainder of the time in Paris. In tandem with all of the others he is passionate about the quality of ingredients.

This was his first visit in Ireland and he is totally besotted. He stayed on for an extra week with another friend who travelled from New York to the festival.

They explored south and south west of Ireland and visited some artisan producers, including the Ferguson family at Gubbeen.

David cooked several duck dishes with Nora Ahern’s and Robbie Fitzsimmon’s ducks.

He is the author of two modern classics A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, chosen as one of the 50 best cookbooks ever by the Guardian/Observer (U.K.), and Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys, nominated for a James Beard Award.

Skye Gyngell has written three books; A Year in my Kitchen was named the Guild of Food Writers ‘Cookery Book of the Year’ in 2007 and ‘Best Food Book’ at Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards.

The sequel, My Favourite Ingredients, was published in 2008, and the third, How I Cook, was published in Autumn 2010. Skye cooked the most beautiful food at a literary dinner in my house, fresh from the garden and local area.

Try her asparagus with Romesco sauce and crème fraiche, I loved Skye’s food at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond and can’t wait to hear news of her new restaurant — not yet confirmed.

Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes in Hackney, London, is another of my favourite cooks.

Her fans traipse all across London to get some of her delectable food and her wedding cakes are a ‘must have’ at the chicest weddings. Buckwheat butter cookies with a strawberry geranium fool were a huge hit over the LitFest weekend.

Claire is also a food stylist and the author of three cookbooks: Leon: Baking & Puddings; The Whoopie Pie Book; and The Home-Made Sweet Shop. All of which I have in my library also.

Each one of these cooks and chefs write such beautiful prose that it’s worth buying their books, even if you never picked up a whisk or a wooden spoon.

Several past students of the Ballymaloe Cookery School shone at yet another cookery demonstration — Stevie Parle of the Dock Kitchen restaurant in London shared a platform with Thomasina Miers of Oaxaca restaurant fame and Rachel Allen.

Almost every chef mentioned how much they loved cooking with our Irish butter — wasn’t that nice to hear.

Next week I’ll include some recipes from Stevie Parle, Thomasina Miers and our own Rachel Allen.

Skye Gyngel’s Asparagus with Romesco and Crème Fraîche

Serves 4

For the Romesco Sauce:

12 blanched almonds

12 hazelnuts

2 tomatoes, peeled and ripe

100ml (3½ fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

1 whole red chilli (the ancho variety if you can get hold of one)

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp good-quality sherry vinegar

1 tsp sweet-smoked paprika (I prefer Spanish to Hungarian)

1 thick slice of chewy, peasant-style bread (such as ciabatta)

Sea salt

For the Asparagus:

20 asparagus spears

A good pinch of sea salt

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

A few drops of lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve:

2 tbsp crème fraîche

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Place the nuts on a baking tray and roast on the middle shelf for three minutes to colour them slightly, then roughly pound to a paste.

Next, place the tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with a dash of olive oil. Place in the oven along with the whole chilli, and roast for 10 minutes.

Remove and mix with the nuts. Add the garlic, sherry vinegar and paprika, and mix. Blitz the bread in a blender until you have crumbs, lay them on a baking tray and bake until golden.

Add to the nut mixture, pour in the remaining olive oil and season. Stir well to combine.

Place a large pot of water on to boil and season liberally with salt. While the water is coming to the boil, prepare the asparagus by snapping off their woody ends.

Plunge the vegetables into the water and cook until just tender when pierced with a knife.

Cooking time will largely depend on the size and thickness of the spears, but as a general rule of thumb, it should take about 1 minute.

Drain and dress with the olive oil and lemon and a little sea salt and pepper.

Divide among four plates or one large plate if you prefer.

Divide the crème fraîche between the plates and sprinkle the Romesco sauce over the top.

Serve immediately.

Claire Ptak’s Strawberry-Geranium Fool with Buckwheat Butter Cookies

Makes 6 fools

For the compote:

3 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar

2 tbsp water

4 geranium leaves, washed and dried or a drop or two of geranium essential oil

250-300g (9-10oz) ripe strawberries

1 tbsp lemon juice

For the cream mixture:

2 large egg whites (save the yolks for the buckwheat biscuits)

100g (3½oz) caster (superfine) sugar

1 tsp golden syrup

Pinch salt

400ml (14fl oz) double (heavy) cream, cold

100ml (3½ fl oz) plus 1 heaped tbsp plain yogurt

In a small but heavy pot over a medium low heat, dissolve the sugar and water without stirring. Stirring can cause the mixture to crystallise.

Roughly tear up the washed and dried geranium leaves and place them in the bottom of a small bowl.

When the sugar syrup has completely dissolved but before it starts to get any colour, remove it from the heat and pour over the torn leaves. Set aside.

Hull the strawberries to remove the calyx. I use a small teaspoon rather than a knife to avoid wasting too much of the berry.

Depending on the size of the berries cut into quarters or eighths for small bite-sized pieces. Cover the berries with the lemon juice.

Once the sugar syrup has cooled, remove the geranium leaves and discard them.

Tip the berries and any juice into the syrup and stir to combine. Now make the cream mixture.

In a heatproof bowl, place the egg whites, 100g (3½oz) caster sugar, golden syrup and salt.

Place the bowl over a small pot of boiling water, whisking continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture starts to become frothy and opaque.

If you have a candy thermometer, use it to bring the mixture up to 75C/167F.

Remove from the heat and use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to make stiff peaks of meringue.

In a large clean bowl, whip the cold double cream and yogurt to soft peaks.

Fold in the meringue just to combine. Fold in the two/three strawberries (reserving some of the juices that have formed, stirring in some).

Do not over mix. The fool should be marbled and have lots of different textures.

Divide the fool between six small bowls or glasses and chill for at least one hour.

Just before serving, top the fools with the remaining strawberries and drizzle with the sauce.

Claire Ptak’s Buckwheat Butter Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

These cookies are gluten-free naturally because they are made with buckwheat flour.

150g (5oz) whole almonds with skins on, toasted and roughly chopped

150g (5oz) buckwheat flour

200g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened

100g (3½oz) palm or coconut sugar

½ tsp salt

50g (2oz) candied grapefruit or cedro peel, chopped

2 medium egg yolks

In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped almonds, flour, and butter. Mix into a coarse meal. Add the sugar, salt and grapefruit peel. Mix well.

Add the egg yolks and mix just until the dough starts to come together.

Divide the dough into two pieces.

Lay out two long pieces of cling film and shaping each ball of dough into a roughly 2.5cm (1 inch) log, lay down the middle of each piece of cling film.

Roll up and shape into nice and even logs, twisting the ends to seal.

Place the logs on a small cookie trays and place in the fridge for about an hour.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 and line two baking trays with parchment.

Remove the cling film from the cookie logs and slice 5mm (¼ inch) thick slices and place 3cm (1½ inch) apart on the prepared tray.

Bake for 10-14 minutes until just starting to turn golden.

Hot tips

Wine talk and wine tasting with two passionate and experienced wine experts — Eric Narioo, of Les Caves des Pyrène and Pascal Rossignol, of Le Caveau on ‘Real Wine — Celebrating the Artisan Grower’, tomorrow, Sunday, May 26, 6.30pm €15 (includes wine tasting of eight different wines) at The Grain Store, Ballymaloe House. To reserve a place email or phone 021-4652531.

Foynes Irish Coffee Festival — May 31 to Jun 2 – three days of free family entertainment with floats, food & craft fair, fireworks, regatta, pet farm, bands, carnival, children’s forest party, ceili, historical walks and the Powers Irish Coffee Making Championship at Foynes, Co Limerick — Tel: 069-65416

Garden Workshop: Designing a Herb Garden with Susan Turner at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Half Day Course on Monday, Jun 17, 9am to 2pm — €95.00 with lunch included Phone 021-4646785.

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