Photos: Getty Images/Amanda Thompson

Ah, spring: frisky lambs, horrible hay fever and fabulous fresh produce

Sure, everything around you might be reproducing with disgusting enthusiasm, but at least there’s asparagus. Here’s a vinaigrette to save the day.

Spring has sprung! New things are growing! Lambs are frisking! Last week I went outside briefly without a raincoat! Not that I am actually enjoying this fresh season, of course. I now complain not just for the usual good reasons (the world is on fire, politics are crazy, that nagging pain in my left elbow is probably elbow cancer, nobody makes a really comfy bra, etc etc) but because I am too busy necking back alarming amounts of antihistamines to be happy about anything. 

One of the downsides of provincial life in October is that there is a shitload of nature everywhere and it all keeps trying to sexplode all over you. You can’t stop it. Everything around me is reproducing with disgusting enthusiasm – my car, my house, my street, my children are all covered in the fertile yellow powder of pine pollen and drifts of fruit blossom petals. Just thinking about it now is making my nose run. How can anyone enjoy that? 

The spring stack (Photo: Amanda Thompson)

I tell you what though – there are strawberries. And new potatoes. And asparagus for a brief time. I have often and often told my children that when I die they must chuck my body into the outside freezer until the next asparagus season comes around. I have put up with a lot of indignities in my life but a funeral without asparagus rolls will not be one of them. And although asparagus rolls are the best (FACT), all of these new spring greens bursting forth right now are too many and varied and delightful to miss out on. For maximum enjoyment of tender leafy things of any kind, you need this secret recipe that is so old and basic that it is no secret at all – that is, if you already know it. 

To perform this very easy culinary magic trick you will need a screw-top jar that does not leak, a lemon, some garlic, and some good olive oil.

Step 1: lemon juice. Step 2: olive oil (Photos: Amanda Thompson)


Squeeze a lemon and put the juice in your screw-top jar. With your bottle of olive oil, get down nice and close to the jar; using your keen cook’s judgement and steady hand, pour in twice as much olive oil as lemon juice. Because the oil will handily sit on top of the juice, you can pause, add a bit more, and see the quantities coming right just by looking. Bingo. It doesn’t matter how much juice you have – the ratio is always the same: just remember twice the oil as juice, and you have a classic dressing. Add a hefty pinch of salt and one or two finely chopped cloves of garlic, and you are done. 

Screw the lid tightly on the jar and shake the crap out of it – perhaps get a kid to do it. According to parenting books, letting kids help prepare a healthy meal makes them more likely to actually eat the resulting healthy meal. Like all parenting advice from books this is laughable horseshit but kids do love shaking things violently so why not. You will end up with a glossy, classy wee drop that can be used as a salad dressing, a marinade, a pasta sauce, a vampire repellent. So versatile. Change it up by adding a spoonful of whole seed mustard or pesto occasionally. 

Totally shook (Photo: Amanda Thompson)

I swear this goes with anything – there’s not a leaf nor a legume it doesn’t improve – but I particularly like it with asparagus and new potatoes. The spring stack recipe pictured – origins lost in the mists of time – originally used salmon or prosciutto as the protein component, which is nice, but good sinus-unblocking medication is expensive so you’re getting the poached egg version this week. The egg yolk yummily mixes in with the lemony dressing anyway so it’s kind of like a fancy asparagus eggs benedict. 

I won’t patronise you by telling you how to cook a potato or a bunch of asparagus – just choose fresh, new produce, boil things briefly and you are already a winner. Toss the vege in the garlic vinaigrette when still warm, place on individual plates, poach your eggs and pop on the top. A bit of pepper and you’re away. 

You can keep the vinaigrette in the fridge for three days but keep the lid tightly on because it does stink a pungent stink. Do not consume before going on a hot date unless you know for sure that they have some kind of serious garlic-breath kink. But other than that, enjoy.

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