Asparagus & pea salad with minty pesto

Combining asparagus and pea, this beautiful salad captures the freshness of the new season.  The vegetables are cooked briefly in boiling water (a technique known as blanching) and then plunged into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green colour.

INGREDIENTS

500g asparagus, ends trimmed

2 cups shelled English peas or thawed frozen peas

For the pesto:

1/4 cup raw pine nuts

2 cups packed mint leaves – thick stems removed

1 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves – thick stems removed

1/3 cup hot tap water

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 clove garlic finely sliced (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch ground black pepper

METHOD

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Have ready a large bowl filled with ice and water.  Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until bright green and just tender, 2-4 mins.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the ice bath.  Add the peas to the boiling water and cook until bright green and just crisp-tender (1-2 mins).  Drain and transfer to the ice bath.  Let the vegetables cool completely, then drain and pat dry. Set aside.

To make the pesto:

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins or until they are fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool while you blanch the mint and parsley.

Blanch the mint and parsley by bringing a large saucepan of water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water next to the stove. Add the mint and parsley to the boiling water and leave it for 5-10 seconds, or just until they wilt. With a slotted spoon, transfer the herbs to the bowl of ice water. Swish them around for 30 seconds. Drain into a colander and, with your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

In a food processor combine the pine nuts, mint, parsley, hot tap water, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic (optional) salt and pepper. Pulse until finely chopped. Then set the processor on continuous speed and puree until creamy. If you like a slightly chunky pesto, stop the machine before it becomes smooth.

Place the asparagus and peas in a serving dish and drizzle with minty pesto.

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