The Hungry Gap

Between the end of winter veg and the arrival of summer veg there are a few weeks without much English seasonal food around. Filling the gap this week in my veg box: Spanish asparagus, tomatoes and calabrese.

AND, a big bonus of three organic fruits and half a dozen eggs from Riverford to make up for the damage in transit last week to my box of veg to grow. Appreciated!

No question of what to eat first . . . it has to be the asparagus. I always approach asparagus with a great anticipation of pleasure.

As I don’t have a steamer I placed the¬†asparagus in shallow boiling water, then simmered for a couple of minutes after cutting about an inch off the end stalks. Serve with a knob of butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

My first taste of asparagus was April 1979 whilst on a business trip to Vienna with my then, Austrian boss. He told me, ‘there’s no better time, or place on earth, to eat your first asparagus than here during Spargel Saison’. I can’t remember anything about that trip other than celebrating this fact and consequently, eating asparagus at all the restaurants we dined at and going through the wine list to find the perfect accompaniment.

That kind of initiation with a native and an expense account, spoils one for everywhere else one is likely to encounter asparagus.

As for the Spanish variety, I’d give it a low 5 and expect this season’s English to come up to a 7 or 8 when it arrives. That’s about as good as it gets here. I know because every year I’m left with a certain kind of longing afterwards, for something better.

Top Tip. Unsalted butter is usually cheaper than salted varieties so worth keeping a supply just for cooking.

Real Fast Food @ The Watercress Festival

It was food heaven on the streets of Alresford today. The broad streets of this picturesque English market town were full of people marketing (in the real sense of the word) and cooking their own produce for people with an appetite for real food, by that I mean food that hasn’t been tampered with by all sorts of substances I wouldn’t normally keep in my kitchen cupboard, or processed to death in a factory.


There was a fabulous amount of choice and enterprise amongst the stall holders, a feast for hungry eyes.

The Isle of Wight came up trumps with some very fancy looking mushrooms, garlic and asparagus which I had to buy.


I’m always on a quest to compare and contrast my taste for asparagus. And for my supper I steamed it and served with lots of fresh leaves from my garden. Now that’s what I call real fast food. A well deserved 8 out of 10 for the asparagus.








Not all Hampshire food at the festival, a few neighbours had managed to cross the border.




This is jam heaven, a business entirely dedicated to one of my must have cupboard ingredients: Chilli Jam and not just one variant but lots of them as well as chutneys. How about one called Pearfection or a sauce called Mean Green?

I’d be in word heaven if it was my job to come up with all those product names. As the sign says: It’s cool to be hot!

Apart from a few men in black trying to look mean, the mood on the streets was festive. Real food events seem to lift everyone’s spirits; helped along by a rocking good jazz band and imbibation of local ales.








My debut into the World Watercress Soup Championship was Watercress and Wild Garlic (discovered in my local woodland), sadly not a winning combo. The winning soup for the traditional recipe was made with shallots and the winner of the speciality soup, called Soupe Henri Louis so named after the glug of Pernod that went into it. Congratulations to both winners! I had to say that didn’t I?

Sophie Grigson was out on the street cooking up interest on the many ways with watercress. I managed to get a taste of the Watercress and Onion Bhajee with fresh watercress coconut chutney as it went round. It was amazing, I’ll be trying that at home, more on than later.

That’s Sophie on the left, behind the smoke and mirrors doing a great job entertaining us with her food stories.

It was a grand day out!