One of the sad things you learn when you start to cook is that you can’t just put all your favourite ingredients on a plate and expect them to work. It would be nice, but it rarely happens. So I was really pleased to come across this idea for ‘avocadonnaise’, essentially avocado whizzed together with lemon juice and dill. Well, that’s two of my favourite foods of all time in one sauce. It’s also asparagus season, so I thought, Why not?
Why not indeed? The dill and avocado work well together. The sauce can be made while the asparagus cooks. The whole makes a great starter where the taste far exceeds the amount of effort that goes into producing it.
200g asparagus spears, trimmed
1 ripe avocado
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
Heat a griddle pan on a high heat.
When it is hot enough, coat the asparagus spears in a little oil and place on the griddle.
Turn the heat down a couple of notches.
While the asparagus is cooking, stone and peel the avocado and put the flesh in a bowl.
Add the lemon juice and dill and mash together with a fork until you have a smooth paste.
Season with salt and pepper.
Turn the asparagus spears over to get the griddle marks on all sides.
Test the asparagus for ‘doneness’ with the point of a sharp knife in the thickest part of the stem.
When tender remove from the griddle and serve with the avocado sauce.
Serves 2 as a starter
I love potato salads, but I don’t always want the creamy or mayonnaise dressing that frequently goes with them. This one uses creamy avocado instead. The lemon cuts through the richness with just the right amount of acidity and the dill adds it’s fragrant mellowness as a high note.
A handful of ingredients, very little prep and a great taste at the end of it. This is my kind of cooking.
250g new potatoes, cooked and chopped into bitesize pieces
1 avocado, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Mix together thoroughly until the avocado starts to break down and little and coat the potatoes.
Serves 2 as a side salad
I think this is one of the best ways of cooking potatoes. It’s wonderful mixture of fried potatoes and roast potatoes.
The trick to cutting the slices in the potatoes is to put them into the bowl of a serving spoon (not one you’re going to use for best anymore!) and cut the thin slices until you hit the side of the spoon. That way you’re not in danger of going all the way through the potato.
Give these a try – they’re a lot easier than they look and they taste better than they look!
10-12 new potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped dill
1/4 tsp crushed sea salt
Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
While the oven is coming up to temperature, put each potato in the bowl of a serving spoon and make slices across the width of the potato at 1-2mm intervals.
Put the roasting tin on the hob and heat the olive oil. Toss the potatoes in the hot oil so that they’re all coated and then put in the oven cut sides up.
Roast for 40 mins, but give them a check after 30.
To serve, sprinkle over the dill and the salt.
Serves 2 as a generous side dish, although I have been known to eat a whole batch to myself.
This is based on a wonderful recipe I found over here at the Penniless Vegetarian’s blog. I can guarantee that the original tastes wonderful, but I wanted to mix it up a little tp make it my Christmas starter this year. I have some chestnut puree for the nut part and I decided that dill would make a nice swap for the sage and carry hints of gravalax – one of the things I miss since going veggie.
Serve this with toast or crackers and maybe some cucumber salad along side.
400g mushrooms, very finely chopped
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp mushroom ketchup (or vegetarian worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce)
100g chestnut puree
1/2 pack fresh dill, finely chopped
Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the mushrooms, garlic, shallots and mushroom ketchup.
Sweat over a medium heat until the shallots are cooked and the liquid has been driven off from the mushrooms.
Remove from the heat and stir in the chestnut puree and dill.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Leave to cool.
Serves 6 as a starter
Cucumber frequently gets paired with mint, which highlights its coolness, but here the sweet fragrance of dill brings out the sweetness of a ripe cucumber. You frequently see this salad with the cucumber peeled. I think that misses the point of the green skin mixed with the pinkness of the red onion.
1 cucumber portion (about 100-150g)
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar (white wine or cider)
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
Halve the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them.
Slice the cucumber as finely as you can.
Put the cucumber in a bowl with the other ingredients.
Season with salt & pepper.
Mix thoroughly and set aside for at least half an hour at room temperature before serving.
Serves 2 as a side salad
There are some cooks who pride themselves on being instinctive cooks, they never measure anything, they never time anything and they never give precise recipes. ‘Oh just boil it until they’re cooked,’ they say. That’s fine if you know what cooked broccoli (for example) is supposed to be like. What if you don’t? Should it be crispy in the middle or mushy? That’s why I tend towards the specific rather than the vague in my recipes. If you’ve never done it before, precision helps. If you have done it before you don’t need me to tell you when to go off piste in pursuit of your own tastes preferences.
However, in my next recipe, I’m going to break that rule. In Laurie Colwin’s book, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, she gives a recipe for potato salad. She doesn’t give any quantities. I’m going to take her ingredients and do the same, because who doesn’t know what potato salad is supposed look like?
Boil some salad potatoes. When they’re cooked, drain them and leave them to cool for a while. You want the potatoes to be warm enough to absorb the dressing flavours, but if they’re hot they’ll split the mayonnaise. Chop some spring onions and some fresh dill. Chop the warm potatoes into small pieces. Mix in the spring onions, dill and add enough mayonnaise to coat them thoroughly. You need enough mayonnaise for this to be moist but not so much that they’re swimming in it. Season with salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Leave to stand for at least half an hour for the flavours to develop. Serve at room temperature.
This will remind you how good potato salad can be and make you ask yourself why you ever buy it!