british food writer nigel slater has quite the garden, as he documents in his cookbook tender: a cook and his vegetable patch. the book is elegantly compiled and approachable in its simplicity. unfortunately, my garden is nonexistent at the moment, so there are only a handful of recipes i’m able to recreate just now. one of those is his pilaf recipe – asparagus, fava bean and mint to be exact. (although even fava beans i couldn’t get a hold off, so i opted for the great northern bean instead).this pilaf is more than it lets on to be. it’s got layers of earthiness and zest – with cinnamon and clove and sweet cardamom and bright scallions. served alongside a simple seared lamb, i found it to be perfection. a great side for the next dinner party or family gathering, as its an impressive dish that requires minimal effort. below i’ve shared the adapted recipe from his cookbook – hope you find it as lovely as i did!RECIPE: ASPARAGUS, BEAN & MINT PILAF with SEARED LAMB CHOPS serves 4 (pilaf recipe adapted from Nigel Slater’s gorgeous cookbook, Tender: Volume 1)
for the pilaf
- 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, soaked overnight
- 16 asparagus spears
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 4 tbsp butter
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 scallions
- 1 handful chopped fresh spinach
- 1/4 dry white wine
- 1 bunch fresh mint
for the lamb
- 1 Ib. lamb chops
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp olive oil
for the pilaf
- rinse great northern beans and cover in a large pot with at least 2″ of water, overnight or for at least 6 hours.
- an hour or so before you’re ready to begin cooking, rinse the rice. then cover it in warm water and soak it with 1 tsp of salt for at least an hour.
- trim ends off of asparagus and cut into short sections. chop scallions and spinach. set all aside, separately.
- cook the beans in deep, lightly salted boiling water for 5-7 minutes, until just tender.
- steam asparagus for 3-4 minutes, until just tender.
- melt butter in saucepan, then add bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon stick. stir in butter for a minute or two, until fragrant.
- drain rice and add to butter/spice mixture. add cumin, cardamom and thyme. stir.
- cover rice with 1/3″ of water and bring to a boil.
- add salt, cover and reduce heat to simmer.
- after 5 minutes, add white wine and let it reduce for another 5 minutes.
- add asparagus, beans, scallions & spinach. replace lid and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until rice is al dente and alcohol has cooked off.
for the lamb
- coat lamb ribs lightly with olive oil on each side.
- add salt, pepper and garlic salt to both sides, rubbing the spices into the meat.
- heat 1 tbsp butter over medium-high heat. you’ll know the pan is ready for searing when it you get a nice sizzle when you splash water on it.
- add lamb ribs and cook ~3 minutes on first side.
- check the underside; once you see nice brown sear marks, flip the ribs and cook an additional 3 or so minutes, or until lamb is seared on both sides and a reddish-pink inside. you can tell done-ness by the touch, it should be firm but not too firm (for medium done-ness).
- serve alongside the pilaf. top with chopped mint and drizzle with cashew mint “yogurt” (see recipe notes below).
- nigel’s original recipe called for fava beans, but unable to find those in new england this time of year, i substituted with great northern instead. i’m certain any hardy bean would work though.
- the original calls for fresh parsley, not spinach.
- the addition of white wine was my own; i felt the brown rice needed more tenderizing.
- the pilaf could easily serve as a meal on its own, if you prefer to skip out on the lamb!
- top with mint cashew “yogurt” – cardamom mint cashew butter blended with water to create a luxurious yogurt