Pilaf of asparagus, broad beans and mint
Asparagus is something you feel the need to gorge on, rather than finding the odd bit lurking almost apologetically in a salad or main course. The exceptions are in a risotto and a simple rice pilaf. The gentle flavour of asparagus doesn't take well to spices, but a little cinnamon or cardamom used in a buttery pilaf offers a mild, though warmly seasoned base for when we have only a small number of spears at our disposal. This recipe is for two people.
|2 handfuls||Broad beans, peeled|
|12||Asparagus spears, choose thin ones|
|120 g||Basmati rice|
|6||Cardamom pods, use green pods, lightly crushed|
|1 pinch||Cumin seeds|
|2 sprigs||Fresh thyme|
|4 sprigs||Fresh parsley|
- Cook the broad beans in deep, lightly salted, boiling water for four minutes, until almost tender, then drain.
- Trim the asparagus and cut it into short lengths. Boil or steam for three minutes, then drain.
- Wash the rice three times in cold water, moving the grains around with your fingers. Cover with warm water, add a teaspoon of salt and set aside for a good hour.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds and sprigs of thyme. Stir them round in the butter for a minute or two, until the fragrance wafts up.
- Drain the rice and tip it into the warmed spices. Cover with a centimetre of water and bring to the boil. Season with salt, cover and turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Finely slice the spring onions. Chop the parsley. After five minutes, remove the lid and gently fold in the asparagus, broad beans, spring onions and parsley. Replace the lid and continue cooking for five or six minutes, until the rice is tender but has some bite to it. All the water should have been absorbed. Leave, with the lid on but the heat off, for two or three minutes. Remove the lid, add a knob of butter if you wish, check the seasoning and fluff gently with a fork.
- Serve with yoghurt sauce: stir 2 Tbsp of chopped mint, a little salt and 2 Tbsp of olive oil into 200g thick, but not strained, yoghurt. You could add a small clove of crushed garlic, too. Spoon over the pilaf at the table.