I am aware that I have posted several asparagus recipes recently, but I remain unapologetic. It is such a beautiful and versatile vegetable, so symbolic of the end of winter foods. English peas have just started to appear on the scene but I am sure these will be products of a poly-tunnel.....I'm not sure if this is cheating or not. Wait a few more weeks and broad beans will start to be about.
I'm really rather pleased with this salad, there is a lot of complimentary flavours going on, but it is the lemon that takes the dish to another level. We used to use candied peel at Harvey Nichols in Bristol - it may well be on the menu right now. It works with all sorts of citrus fruits and can work as well on a savoury dish as a sweet. The blanching removes the bitterness and the lemon will keep happily in the syrup for weeks.
Fresh ricotta - 100g
Chives, fresh mint and dill - a handful of mixed leaves, finely chopped
Broad beans - 200g podded weight
Asparagus - 1 bunch, trimmed
Fresh peas - 100g podded weight
Pecorino - 100g, shaved
Lemon - 2
Sugar - 2 tbsp
With a potato peeler, peel the lemon zest from the lemons leaving behind as much of the white pith as possible. Boil the kettle and put a small pan on the stove. With a sharp chefs knife finely slice the lemon peel into thin strips or 'julienne' as it's called in the trade. Fill the small pan with an inch of boiling water, return to a rolling boil and blanch the lemon peel for 10 seconds. Drain in a sieve, refill the pan and blanch again. Drain and repeat the process one more time. In the same and now empty pan, add the juice of one of the lemons, a pinch of salt and the sugar. Boil and reduce by half then take off the heat. Add the blanched lemon julienne and allow to marinade until required.
Mix the ricotta with the herbs and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Blanch the broad beans until just soft and refresh in iced water to preserve their green colour. Slip the leathery skins off any really large broad beans but if they are small or very young, don't bother. Next blanch the asparagus and toss in the peas for the last 30 seconds of cooking, then refresh in iced water. Toss all the green veg in a little of the lemon syrup, the olive oil and seasoning.
To plate, pile the ricotta into the centre of a large bowl, throw over the green vegetables, the pecorino and finish with the candies lemon.