Food 2008 – Recipes (Seared Asparagus Salad, Roast Leg of Lamb, Pistachio and Rose Water Cake, Victoria Sponge)

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Sunday, 4th May 2008 – Recipes (Seared Asparagus Salad with Parmigiano Crisps, Roast Leg of Lamb with Herb and Watercress Crust, Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake, Victoria Sponge)

I cooked lunch on Sunday for those who were still hanging around after Bob’s birthday dinner, and though I say it myself, it was fabulous! I’m going to record what I did here… The three recipes are thanks to Waitrose, but with some tweaking from me, because I’ve only ever regarded a recipe as a starting point!

Seared Asparagus Salad with Parmigiano Crisps

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 as a starter


  • 25g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
  • 100g wild rocket and chard leaves
  • 10 sundried tomatoes
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 100g asparagus tips
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze


  1. To make the crisps, preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
  2. Line a flat baking tray with nonstick baking parchment.
  3. Divide the grated cheese into 6 piles on the baking sheet and press down to flatten slightly.
  4. Place the baking tray in the oven and cook for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is just melted but not coloured.
  5. Remove from the oven.
  6. While still hot, use a small heart-shaped or round pastry cutter to cut the crisps into neat shapes.
  7. Leave to cool.
  8. Toss together the rocket and chard, the sunkissed tomatoes and lemon juice, and pile onto 2 serving plates.
  9. Heat a griddle or frying pan.
  10. Toss the asparagus tips in the olive oil and then place on the hot griddle to cook for 5-6 minutes until tender.
  11. Remove the asparagus and place on top of the salad.
  12. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze and scatter over the Parmigiano crisps.

Cook’s tips

The crisps need very little time in the oven – the cheese will become bitter-tasting if overcooked. Make the crisps a day in advance, cool completely then store in an airtight container.

My Notes

Personally, I wouldn’t bother with cutting the crisps to other shapes. They looks pleasingly rustic as they are, and they taste so good why would you want to thrown the off-cuts away? Also, I found they needed 7-8 minutes, not 5.


Roast Leg of Lamb with Herb and Watercress Crust

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours, depending on weight
Serves: 6


  • 85g watercress
  • 1 pack fresh mint
  • 1 pack fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 (or more) cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1kg baby new potatoes, washed
  • 1 whole leg or shoulder of lamb, weighing about 1.6kg
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4.
  2. To make the herb crust, remove and discard any thick stalks from the watercress, mint and parsley and place in a food processor with the garlic. Pulse until roughly chopped.
  3. Keeping the machine running, pour in the olive oil to make a paste. Season to taste.
  4. Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of a roasting tin and place the lamb on a rack over them.
  5. Spread the herb paste over the lamb.
  6. Roast the lamb in the oven allowing 55-65 minutes per kg, plus an extra 25-30 minutes.
  7. Stir the potatoes occasionally during cooking.
  8. When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven, cover with foil, keep warm and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  9. If the potatoes are not quite cooked, return to the oven for 10 minutes or until tender.
  10. Serve the lamb with the roasted new potatoes and steamed green vegetables.


Add the rind and juice of half a lemon to the herb crust. You could also use different herbs such as thyme and rosemary.

My Notes

The recipe specifies a boned leg of lamb, but it works just as well with an unboned shoulder of kid.


Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 12 or more


  • 3 cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 150g pistachios, shelled, plus extra to serve
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 175g semolina
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, grated zest, plus 1 tbsp juice
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
Rose cream
  • 200g Greek yogurt
  • 200g crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp rose water
Rose petals
  • 40 unsprayed red rose petals
  • 1 egg white
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 120ml lemon juice
  • 100ml rose water
  • 120g caster sugar


  1. Grease a round, 23cm, loose-bottomed cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3.
  3. Put the cardamom seeds and pistachios in a food processor and grind to a powder.
  4. Add the ground almonds, semolina, baking powder and salt; mix again briefly.
  5. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg in small amounts, incorporating it well.
  7. Fold in the mixed dry ingredients, then the lemon zest and juice, rose water and vanilla.
  8. Put it into the lined tin, level and bake for 60-70 minutes until a skewer comes out oily but dry.
  9. Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan.
  10. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven; while it is still hot, spoon all but 4 tbsp of hot syrup over.
  12. Allow the cake to cool, then take out of the tin.
  13. Reduce the oven to 80°C/gas ¼.
  14. Dip the rose petals in egg white, shake off any excess and scatter over the sugar.
  15. Transfer to an oven tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  16. Bake for 30–45 minutes until crisp, turning halfway.
  17. Whisk together all the rose cream ingredients.
  18. Slice the cake and drizzle with the reserved syrup; serve with the cream and scatter over some chopped pistachios and the petals.

My Notes

Using slightly less rosewater (120 mls in all) still makes for a very tasty cake, and probably prevents the rosewater overpowering all the other flavours. Also, this cake comes out golden brown on the top, but has a lovely yellow/green interior.


Victoria Sponge

And here’s the Victoria sponge cake recipe I made for Robert’s birthday. The recipe I used turned out to be the most successful of the three I’ve tried this year…

Serves: 12


  • 220g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • A little milk (optional)
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 1½ tablespoons icing sugar for dredging


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C, gas mark 4 (the temperature at which most cakes are baked).
  2. Use a little butter to grease two 20cm-diameter sponge tins.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk or in the food processor until the mix is fluffy and pale. You can use a wooden spoon, but it takes some elbow grease.
  4. Add the eggs a little at a time along with a tablespoon of flour and beat until completely incorporated. Adding the egg gradually along with a little flour should stop the mixture curdling, or forming tiny lumps, which can make the cake heavy.
  5. Add the remaining egg in the same way.
  6. Add the remaining flour and the baking powder and fold in. Add a little milk if necessary to achieve dropping consistency.
  7. Divide the mixture between the two greased and floured cake tins, smoothing the tops (alternatively, line the tin with a circle of baking parchment).
  8. Put in the oven – preferably on the same shelf – and bake for 30-40 minutes. The cakes should look well-risen and golden brown, and should have pulled away slightly from the sides of their tins.
  9. After 10 minutes cooling in the tin, turn the cakes out on to a wire rack.
  10. Put the smoothest-looking cake right side up (this will be the top of the finished cake) and the other upside down, so its domed top flattens slightly.
  11. Leave to cool completely.
  12. For a classic Victoria sponge, just spread jam over the base sponge, put the second one on top, and dredge with icing sugar.

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