Asparagus and Pea Salad with Anchovy

Regular visitors to these pages will be in no doubt of my frustration levelled at those who believe a vegan diet is a one size fits all solution to the problem of how we can eat more sustainably. I shall not wander back over well-trodden ground but if interested or wanting to refresh your mind then you can do so here.

Leaving aside the social, economic and environmental issues of why a vegan diet isn’t the answer. I will always struggle on a purely personal level to ever be able to eat a vegan diet. For the simple fact that food tastes better with cheese and animal fats and, as a cook, how food tastes is important to me. I do not believe we should punish ourselves by denying such joy in our diets. A little grating of parmesan, or a scattering of bacon lardons added to a dish should not inflict levels of guilt akin to committing one of the deadly sins.

I am adamant that we all need to eat less meat, and the point of all these recipes is to show how that can be done. In order to convince all the stubborn carnivores that roam around looking for their next meat fix, the recipes I produce need to be as tempting as a slab of steak, while also needing to include less, sometimes no, meat and dairy. A tough task; but, challenge accepted. Often, on my self-enforced quest, as I test the recipes it becomes apparent that something is missing, unsurprisingly it is usually meat or dairy. If I can find a suitable alternative without resorting to animal products I will do so. If not then I will add what is necessary but in smaller quantities, without chastising myself for doing so.

This dish is the perfect example of my need to do exactly that. It is neither vegetarian nor vegan – heartfelt thanks to the parmesan and anchovy – but both ingredients only make up a small proportion of the total, yet add invaluable flavour. And here is the crucial point, adding parmesan and anchovy makes the dish taste good enough to eat again and again. Without these I would be less inclined to cook it, as would the majority. Yes it means vegans can’t eat it nor strict vegetarians but those that don’t burden themselves with such labels can and it is this majority that will affect the change that is needed to move to a more sustainable food consumption model.

Recipe Notes
If you fancy a little variety then swap out the brown rice for British wholemeal quinoa, available from Hodmedods and the asparagus can be replaced with purple spouting broccoli. If unsure on whether you like anchovy – you do you just don’t know it yet – then reduce the fillets to 2 and add a little of the anchovy oil until the dressing is to your liking.

Serves: 2
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

150g brown rice
3 anchovy fillets, in oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
250g asparagus
150g peas, frozen is fine
20g parmesan + extra for shaving
Handful of salad leaves – lambs lettuce, pea shoots whatever you have to hand

Begin by bringing a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the rice and cook for 25-30 minutes.

While the rice is cooking you can make the dressing. To do so, place the anchovy fillets in a pestle and mortar with a generous pinch of salt and pound into a paste. This can also be done on a chopping board using the flat of a chef’s knife to grind the anchovy and salt together. Transfer the paste to a small mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and whisk to form a light emulsion. Next add the olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.

10 minutes before the rice is cooked heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 6-8 minutes, turning regularly, until it has started to colour and is just tender. It should still have some bite to it. While the asparagus is cooking place the peas in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 1 minute, drain and add to a large bowl.

Check the rice is cooked, drain and then add to the bowl with the peas. Once the asparagus is cooked remove from the pan cut the tips from the asparagus and slice the stalks into 1cm rounds and add to the bowl. Pour over the dressing, grate in the parmesan and stir. Add a handful of mixed leaves stir again and check for seasoning, adding a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve on plates and finish with a few shavings of parmesan and the asparagus tips.

Printable Version: Asparagus, Pea, Brown Rice Salad

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