Daily Archives: 4 May 2010

Spring Bank Holidays

I’ve been caught by surprise by this bank holiday – and what a nice surprise! It has come round so quickly after the Easter long weekend.

A couple of weeks’ ago I had a phone call from one of our consumers asking for us to “give the late May bank holiday its proper name – Whitsun.” As we chatted it made me realise how little many of us (including me) know about the origins of our bank holidays. And so for some research….

The name ‘bank holiday’, quite simply comes from the time when the banks were closed and so no trading could take place. Back in the early 19th century, The Bank of England would observe 33 saints’ days and religious dates as holidays. These were drastically reduced with the official introduction of  the bank holiday in 1871.There were four holidays for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and five for Scotland. Whitsun commemorated one of the three baptismal seasons – baptism candidates would wear ‘white’ on a ‘Sunday’ and would be celebrated the day after Pentecost. Though Whitsun was included in the original bank holiday dates it was later replaced by the spring holiday on the last Monday in May. Further bank holidays were added during the 1970s, with a total of seven for Scotland, eight for England and Wales and ten for Northern Ireland. Let’s hope the 2010s sees the introduction of some more!

It’s asparagus season!
Year Round Dairy CookbookThe season English asparaus is short, so make the most of it and treat your family to this gorgeous seasonal recipe, Asparagus with Poached Eggs from Year Round Dairy Cookbook. And don’t forget the book is on special offer – last chance – at only £2.99. Bargain!

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Asparagus with poached eggs

The English asparagus season only lasts a couple of months, so make the most of this delicacy by serving in different ways, such as with ham and eggs. Roasting asparagus gives a stronger, brighter taste than steaming or boiling.

For more flavour, rub the bread with a cut clove of garlic or add garlic slivers to the roasting asparagus.

Asparagus and Eggs10 minutes preparation time
15 minutes cooking time
354 Kcal per portion
21.8g fat per portion of which
4.6g is saturated
4 servings

Asparagus spears 12, washed
Olive oil 4 tbsp
Rustic bread or ciabatta 4 large or 8 small slices
Parma or Serrano ham 6 slices, cut in half widthways
Wine or cider vinegar a dash
Eggs 4 large free-range
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Break the ends off the asparagus stalks where they naturally snap. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp of the oil and rub it over the spears with your hands. Bake for 5 minutes.

2 Meanwhile, drizzle the rest of the oil over the slices of bread. When cooked, take the asparagus out of the oven and wrap half a piece of Parma ham around each stalk and put back on the baking sheet. Place the bread alongside. Bake for 10 minutes until the ham starts to go crispy, but do not overcook.

3 While the asparagus and bread are baking, bring a wide saucepan of water to the boil and add a dash of vinegar. Break in the eggs one at a time and let them poach over a gentle heat for 3–4 minutes, depending on how you like them.

4 Arrange the baked bread and roasted asparagus on four plates. Then carefully remove the poached eggs from the saucepan with a draining spoon and place on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook’s tips
• Adding vinegar to the egg poaching water helps the eggs to coagulate more quickly – white, cider or rice is preferable to malt vinegar.
• Wrap the asparagus in Serrano ham, which is easier to handle than Parma ham. Bacon tends to unwrap itself and is too fatty.

Recipe taken from Year Round Round Dairy Cookbook.

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