Smoked salmon and asparagus creamy pasta

I thought this would be a great moment to introduce a light, but rich and tasty lunch or supper dish.

fanny ad brenda's quick to make salmon and asparagus pasta

With just a few ingredients, most of which will likely be on standby in the fridge anyway, you can prepare this from start to finish in less than 45 minutes. It’s probably only the asparagus you’ll need to pop out for – and speaking of which, this makes a change from serving  this wonderful vegetable as a starter with hollandaise or just butter.

Asides from anything else, we’re currently right in the middle of the English asparagus season so whatever you do, whether it’s part of this recipe or one of your own, do make the most of it. You can get it all year round of course, but I wouldn’t recommend it…… plus I try to do my bit in offsetting Brenda’s vast carbon footprint by avoiding out-of-season pale imitations of the real thing, flown in from Peru.

Ingredients – serves 3-4

340g butter
1 medium onion or shallot – finely diced
1 small glass vermouth/ dry white wine
150g cream cheese/creme fraiche (or mix)
juice ½ lemon
300g asparagus - each spear cut into 3
300g spirali or spaghetti
80g smoked salmon – cut into strips
Olive oil
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
3 tsp lumpfish roe/caviar (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill

Method
Do all your prep first, including snapping the slightly woody end off the asparagus spears. If, like me, you had some quite fat ones, I also gently peel the skin at that end but use  a light touch. The “spear” end should always be left as is. Cut each into about 3 pieces.

Melt the butter in a pan, then fry the  onion/shallot for around 5 mins until softened. Then add the wine or vermouth and and boil to reduce to by half – another few mins.

Meanwhile, pop the kettle on and get a pot ready for the pasta and once the water’s boiled, add to the pot and switch on, making sure it’s well-salted and with a good glug of olive oil. Put the pasta in to cook.

Going back to the onion pan, now stir in the crème fraîche and/or cream cheese season and stir through to get a smooth sauce the consistency of custard. Leave to simmer very gently.

When the pasta is three minutes from being cooked, add the asparagus chunks to the boiling pasta. Mine was quite thin linguine which took 6 minutes, therefore I added the veg only three mins after starting to cook it.

While the pasta and asparagus finish cooking,  squeeze in the lemon juice to the creamy wine sauce and toss through the strips of smoked salmon. The hob should now be switched off completely, with the residual heat being more than enough to warm through the salmon and only very slightly cook it.

Drain the pasta/asparagus through a colander, ensuring about 100ml of the pasta water is retained. Now tong the pasta/asparagus through the sauce, ensuring everything is gently, but thoroughly combined. Add enough pasta water to ensure it stays smooth, glossy and  loose – it’s meant to be a delicate Spring eat, plus no-one likes claggy pasta!

Serve  a few twirls onto warmed bowls garnished with a teaspoon of caviar, if using, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill.

Vietnamese Beef Salad

For all salad dodgers – of which Brenda is definitely one – this is one you can make and enjoy with confidence…… the name “salad” is something of a misnomer as really, you can consider it more of a chilled beef noodle dish, with a few leaves in.

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

Having said that, it does also fit the bill for those tireless (and fabulous!) housewives looking to serve something reasonably light – but still filling enough to genuinely constitute a proper meal. It also uses steak in a slightly different way than the usual fried in butter and garlic and served with potato in some form.

There are so many delicious herbs and sweet, salty, sour and hot Far Easten flavours going on so just cooking off and slicing the steak, as is, would be more than sufficient, although you can also marinate it beforehand if you wish. Below however, is my version exactly as I had it this evening ….

NB For those with allergies to peanuts or peanut oil, any light, flavourless vegetable oil can happily be substituted for the peanut oil

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

INGREDIENTS – serves 2

350g ribeye steak – I pushed the boat out and used 28-day aged.
100g dried rice vermicelli noodles
100g snow peas, trimmed – most halved, the smaller ones just left whole
1 medium cucumber peeled lengthways into ribbons with the veg peeler
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves
1/3 bunch fresh mint leaves – cut into thin strips
4 shallots – thinly sliced
thumb size piece of fresh ginger – peeled and finely grated
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely grated (possibly only need this if marinating – reduce to 1 clove if using in salad dressing)
1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
50g bean sprouts
60g Asian leafy salad mix – can be a bit specialist so I used lambs lettuce but great if you like to include tatsoi/mizuno etc
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
juice of 1 1/2 fresh limes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

METHOD

If you’re going to marinate the steak, just use a dribble of rice wine vinegar, peanut oil, a grate of fresh ginger and garlic, a little lime juice and a dash of soy. Leave to infuse for an hour, covered, but out of the fridge to allow the meat to come fully to room temperature.

Put whichever salad leaves you’re using into a large bowl, along with the beansprouts, carrot matchsticks, a quarter only of the sliced raw shallots, strips of cucumber, coriander and mint.

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

For the rice vermicelli noodles, follow the packet advice on preparation which will inevitably involve merely boiling the kettle and pouring on hot water to cover and then leaving for 3-4 mins. However, don’t let them just sit there swimming in their hot bath – as soon as they have soaked to the required degree of doneness – perhaps one notch more tender than al dente – they should be tipped into a colander or sieve and run under the cold tap for half a minute or so, then left to drain with a tablespoon of sesame oil tossed through to stop them going claggy.

Fry the remaining 3/4 of your shallot slices in a little more peanut oil till crisp and set aside.

I even toasted my sesame seeds in the oven but this could probably be done quicker in a small dry frying pan over a medium low heat and watched like a hawk to avoid burning – which they will do extremely quickly. Set aside.

When ready to fry off the steak – just the usual instructions i.e. get the pan nice and hot, if you’ve marinated, gently pat dry – or if you haven’t, dab a tiny bit of oil on both sides. Bit of seasoning might be good too. Sear quickly for 2-3 mins each side and set aside, covered and in a warm place, to rest.

Now quickly conjure up your dressing by combining the peanut oil, sesame oil, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, chopped chilli, soy sauce, sugar and grated ginger – this will be so fragrant you’ll swoon! By the way I didn’t use any garlic in this dressing, having marinated the steak in some earlier and anyway, i don’t think raw garlic works that well in this!

Simply now add to the awaiting salad, the cold noodles, the dressing and the sesame seeds (or they can be sprinkled on top) and toss together.

Finally, slice your rested steak into thin strips and dot decoratively – or toss through – and garnish with the crispy fried shallots (and sesame seeds if you haven’t already combined them in the salad)

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda