Poached Spring Vegetables with Caper Mayonnaise

This recipe is from the beautiful cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Tender spring vegetables are poached in a golden elixir of lemon juice, olive oil, and lots of white wine (2/3 of a bottle!). The rich yellow poaching liquid looks like pure melted butter, but there’s actually no butter in it at all. Vegetables cooked this way taste wonderfully fresh and flavourful. This is served with caper mayonnaise.

poached spring vegetables
Choose the freshest seasonal vegetables for this dish, whatever catches your eye. Ontario asparagus is really beautiful and at its peak right now with tightly closed spear heads that are tinged purply blue.  I also used fiddleheads, baby fennel, slender bunched carrots, and a couple of handfuls of fresh green peas.

poached spring vegetable stock

poached spring vegetables broth

poached spring vegetables

If you’re using fiddleheads wash them in several changes of water to get rid of the loose ferny bits, they will float away in the water. Retrim the cut end each fiddlehead to freshen them up. If your carrots are too long to fit in the pot, cut them in half.

One thing I would do differently next time would be to cut the baby fennel into eighths instead of quarters. This is mainly for visual reasons, plus it would make for a more delicate bite. When I look at the blocky fennel in my photos it drives me a bit crazy.

poached spring vegetables

I made two changes to the original recipe. Firstly I reduced the amount of olive oil in the poaching elixir from 1 cup to 2/3 of a cup. Also the original recipe gave instructions to make the mayonnaise from scratch, but raw eggs freak me out a bit. Instead I used my beloved store bought Veganaise and added capers and lemon zest to it. This mayo would also be great on sandwiches or in potato salad.

Poached Spring Vegetables with Caper Mayonnaise

Slightly adapted from Poached Baby Vegetables with Caper Mayonnaise in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4


1 bunch slender carrots, peeled
4 baby fennel, trimmed and cut into eighths
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off
couple of handfuls of fiddleheads, trimmed
couple of handfuls fresh green peas, shelled
dill, to serve

Poaching liquor

2 1/2 cups white wine
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup lemon juice (from approx 3 lemons)
2 bay leaves
1/2 onion, cut in two
2 celery stalks
good pinch of salt

To make the poaching liquor, boil the wine in a large wide pot for 2 to 3 minutes. Add all the other poaching liquor ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Begin poaching by adding the vegetables that will take longer to cook first – the carrots and fennel. After 5 minutes add the delicate green vegetables (asparagus, fiddleheads, green peas) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Use tongs to gently move the vegetables around so they all get a turn in the poaching liquor. Be careful not to overcook, they should still have a bit of crunch to them.

Strain vegetables over a large bowl to catch the poaching liquor and reserve. Discard the aromatics (bay leaves, onion, celery). Serve vegetables with some of the stock spooned around them. Top each portion with a dollop of caper mayonnaise (recipe below) and garnish with dill. Serve warm or cold. The remaining poaching liquor can be stored in the fridge for up to one week to be used again.

Caper Mayonnaise

1/3 cup mayonnaise or Veganaise
2 tbsp capers, drained and finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped

Fold the capers and lemon zest into the mayonnaise/Veganaise.

poached spring vegetables

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