Asparagus with fennel infused almond cream

Asparagus

1 fennel top, washed and roughly chopped
½ C boiling water
½ C blanched almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled
½ tsp sea salt
¼ C sunflower seeds, toasted
black pepper

Smash fennel in a mortar and pestle, reserving some leaves for garnish.
Place in boiling water and allow to infuse for ½ hour, stir occasionally.
Then strain and discard fennel pieces.

Place almonds, garlic and salt into food processor. Blend until granulated.
Add fennel water and mix until a smooth cream.
Plunge asparagus into boiling water for 4 min. Remove and drain on paper towel.
To serve lay asparagus in a dish, top with almond cream, sunflower seeds, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Garnish with fennel leaves.

Fact
Adding lemon or vinegar to cooked asparagus will cause skin to wrinkle and colour to fade.

Betel leaves topped with Thai tofu

Betel leaves topped with Thai tofu

18 betel leaves, remove stems, wash and dry (available from Asian grocers)
300 gm firm tofu, place on paper towel to absorb excess water
1 Tb coconut oil
1 carrot, grated
2 inch ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 spring onion, white end finely sliced
2 red chillies, slice, remove seeds unless you like it hot!
8 coriander sprigs, finely chop stems, pick leaves
1 tsp sea salt
¼ C mint leaves, chopped – optional
1 lime, cut into wedges
¼ C coconut chips or flakes, available preservative free from health food store

Heat coconut oil in a wok; add ginger, garlic, spring onion, chilli, coriander stems and salt. Stir fry for 1 min. Add carrot and tofu; break up tofu with a fork. Fry for 3 min. Remove from heat and stir in coriander and mint leaves.

Lay betel leaves on a platter shiny side up and place a small pile of tofu mix in the centre. Top with a squeeze of lime and coconut.

FACT
Betel leaves have a peppery fresh flavor. They can be eaten raw or cooked. In Ayurvedic medicine they are used as an aphrodisiac.

Date and spice poached pears

Poached pears

4 pears, peel and trim bottom if required so that they stand straight for serving
(Firm pears will hold shape better)
4 C water
10 cardamom pods, bash in mortar and pestle to release seeds
1 cinnamon quill
1 Tb ground cinnamon
Zest of ½ Lemon
¾ C dates, chopped
Pinch sea salt
¼ C roasted almonds, crush in mortar and pestle

Place all ingredients, except almonds, in a saucepan with a lid.
Pears can lie on side to be submersed in liquid, turn through cooking time.
Cover and simmer on a medium heat for 30 min or until pears are tender.
Remove pears with a slotted spoon. Reduce liquid until it is approx. 1 cup.
Strain liquid through a fine sieve; pushing through sticky date pulp.
To serve pour sauce over pears and top with crushed almonds.
Serves 4

FACT
Cardamom belongs to the ginger family. It is a pod containing seeds, which have a spicy sweet flavor.