Some people have an uncanny knack for being permanently in fashion. They seem to have been born with an innate sense of trends and always seem to be one step ahead of the fashion pack, unveiling hot new looks months before the high street catches up. They have no qualms about donating a perfectly good coat to charity because it is sooooo last season’s style. Their hairline and hemline are always perfectly in sync with the latest Vogue cover girl.
I am not one of those people.
My saving grace is that I hang onto clothes (and hairstyles!) for so long that after spending a few years being spectacularly out of fashion, suddenly the season for, say, maxi skirts rolls around again and I am accidentally back in fashion. All I have to do to appear bang on trend is to carry on wearing the same skirt I have been wearing anyway for the past 3 years! Mini skirts, batwing sleeves, wedge heels, capri pants – I have seen them come; I have seen them go; and I have seen them return as surely as the seasons follow one another in a regular pattern. I am not so different when it comes to food. As a child, I adored butter so much that if my mom was not looking I would happily slice some butter off the block and eat it as if it were a particularly melty cheese. Then in the 1980s, we were bombarded with advertising telling us to swap butter for margarine as it was healthier. I tasted margarine and instantly disliked it – so for almost 20 years while the rest of the world ate margarine for their health, I was unfashionably spreading butter on my bread. And then, all of a sudden we discovered that butter is not so bad for you after all and that margarine was full of trans fats. Everyone chucked their margarine tubs to join me at the butter churn, and just like that, I was eating on trend again.
I once read somewhere that the 2 fastest ways to make a million were to start your own religion, or to write a successful diet book. And if you look back through the history of famous diets, it does seem that people are extraordinarly motivated to come up with a diet that will cure all ills. People with varying degrees of medical or dietary knowledge have been enthusiastically devising diets pretty much since the first cavewoman asked if her bum looked big in her sabre-tooth tiger loincloth. Let’s see… drinking cider vinegar first thing every morning. Chewing each mouthful of food 32 times. No protein and carbohydrates in the same meal. Eating only cabbage soup/grapefruit/baby food. Replacing some meals with liquid protein shakes. Eating according to your blood type. Juice fasting. Raw foods only. The macrobiotic diet. The low GI diet. The alkaline diet. Intermittent fasting, or the ubiquitous 5:2 diet. Take your pick!
But the diet that seems to have the most longevity, being tweaked and recycled every couple of decades, is one which was first suggested in 1825 by celebrated food writer Jean Brillat Savarin: the low carb diet. Oh, make no mistake, it’s been repackaged many many times: in the 1860’s a Mr William Banting lost 50 pounds by cutting out sugar and starch on the advice of his doctor and “banting” briefly became a synonym for dieting . The diet has subsequently popped up in slightly amended form on a fairly regular basis as the Atkins diet, the Dukan diet, the paleolithic diet and most recently the LCHF diet (low carbohydrate high fat). I have heard all the arguments in favour of the latest incarnation of diet – how easy and delicious it is to follow; how much weight you lose, how much better you feel;. and how it can stave off type 2 diabetes. But as with all diets that I have come across, it fills me with doubts. For a start, I don’t agree with the idea that the key to health lies exclusively in what you eat – if your eating plan is not combined with an exercise plan, you are simply trading one set of medical problems for another. And I have yet to hear of anybody on a crazy diet talking enthusiastically about how much energy they have to exercise… On a personal level, if I had to cut out all wholegrains, pulses and most fruit, I fear I would develop an intestinal obstruction! And from a socio-economic point of view, I have issues with telling people who subsist on a diet of maize meal because it is affordable, that the key to health is simply to eat more fat and protein – because these are often a far more expensive option and simply out of budgetary reach. It’s very much the same as telling people to eat organic fruit when it is always the most expensive thing on the shelf: it politicises and turns healthy eating into the preserve of the middle class. So much as I’d love to lose the weight that I have gained during the months since I broke my leg, I don’t think I will be chucking out the carbs any time soon. I’ll carry on building up my time in the gym; I’ll drink lots of water; I’ll eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and meat and chicken and butter and cheese. And when the mood takes me I will defiantly pop a pizza in the oven, or prepare a plate of pasta and enjoy the illicit thrill of eating something that the rest of the world seems to believe to be Nutritional Evil Incarnate. And the best thing of all? Give it a few years and suddenly somebody will come up with a diet that glorifies carbs… and just like that, I’ll be eating bang on trend again!
This pasta is a lovely dish to make in the Spring and early summer when local asparagus are plentiful and cheap. For the smoked salmon, you can use cheap trimmings rather than slices as you are only going to chop it up anyway, so the whole thing becomes a super-affordable luxury. I used orchiette pasta, but whatever shape you have to hand will work just fine (short pasta is best for catching the creamy sauce though). Mine was made with cream, but you can use creme fraiche for a lower fat alternative. The best wine matches for this dish run to the more crisp, zingy white options like a dry Riesling, a Muscadet or a Sauvignon Blanc.
- enough pasta for 2 people (I used orchiette pasta which really grips the sauce)
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch of fresh asparagus (slim spears work best)
- 100g smoked salmon trimmings
- a little flour
- 125ml single cream
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the asparagus spears by snapping or chopping off about 1cm of the thick end of the stem. If the stems are very tough, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the outer layers of the lower third of the spear. Chop the spears into 2.5cm lengths, reserving one whole spear for garnish
- Prepare the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to the package instructions.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan and add the shallot. Sautée over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is softened but still as dente.
- Stir in the flour – enough so that all the liquid in the pan is absorbed. Stir constantly to prevent lumps. Add and stir in the cream a little at a time, stirring continuously to prevent lumps. If you find that the sauce is too thick, thin it with a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water.
- Add the smoked salmon trimmings and heat until barely heated through (you con't want to cook them!), then turn off the heat. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix well.
- Using a vegetable peeler, shave the reserved whole asparagus into long thin shavings. Divide the pasta among two serving bowls and serve, topped with asparagus shavings.
If you love asparagus, be sure to follow my Awesome Asparagus Recipes Pinterest board! You might also enjoy these salmon and asparagus recipes from other bloggers: Michelle’s smoked salmon paté; Margot’s chargrilled asparagus with Parmesan & balsamic glaze; Katie’s bacon, tomato & asparagus pasta; Ren’s Smoked salmon, asparagus & cream cheese pasta; Michelle’s asparagus quiche; Nazima’s charred asparagus with peanut, sweetcorn & chive dressing; Camilla’s salmon, courgette & shallot quiche; Jen’s smoked salmon, courgette & dill pasta; Sarah’s asparagus & bacon pasta; Danii’s asparagus, lemon & goat’s cheese pasta; Helen’s smoked salmon verrines; Sarah’s baked rosti with smoked salmon; and Laura’s roast asparagus, chorizo & butterbean salad.