Lemon and Almond Asparagus (Gluten Free, Vegan)

I have been feeling quite at a loss and unmotivated to blog of late – evidenced by the fact that I did not put up a recipe last week. For as long as I can remember, being in the kitchen baking and experimenting has been like therapy. My coeliac disease diagnosis challenged that, but also spurred me on to get good at baking gluten free. Now, nearly three years on from my coeliac diagnosis, I still have high coeliac blood markers, despite a strict gluten free diet, and recently had a second gastroscopy with results that indicate refractory coeliac disease, which is where the intestinal villi do not heal, despite a strict gluten free diet. Many years ago, I did a PhD and although I don’t use it at all now, the researcher in me that was cultivated in that time deals with many problems by hopping on to Google Scholar and educating myself as much as possible. So now I know a bit about refractory coeliac disease and the possible next steps, but I won’t know what my gastroenterologist will want for and from me until my next appointment.

Not long after the gastroscopy, I had my routine, three-monthly blood tests for coeliac disease and other things, and they showed that my coeliac markers had risen slightly. My understanding is that the most likely reason is exposure to gluten, so, although I cannot think of any specific occasion for that, after discussions with my wise husband and bearing in mind different treatment options that I had read about for refractory coeliac disease, I decided to see what happens if I start eating an extremely unprocessed, wholefood diet to reduce the risk of any gluten contamination. I am still baking for my family but it is frustrating to not taste my baking and I find it difficult to be enthusiastic about creating new recipes when I can’t taste and test and adjust and work out exactly what I want the final result to be. Recipes like the muffins that I last posted are ones that I developed before starting on this diet and which my family are still enjoying.

Although I am finding this time hard and frustrating, I have also been challenged to trust God in a whole new way. He is allowing me to tread this path, He knows what will happen even when I don’t know and in Him I find hope and strength that goes beyond this world and food. I believe that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth as a man over 2000 years ago, died, and rose again so that I can be in relationship with God. That relationship gives me hope that one day in heaven, forever, food won’t be a problem or challenge for me anymore, and even more than that, that I will be able to participate in feasting and joy with others in a way that I cannot now.

For now, as much as an even more restricted diet than a standard gluten free diet is challenging, I am learning to appreciate produce – pretty much the ultimate naturally gluten free group of foods – in a new way and to be creative with produce because I still want to eat good food. And so this asparagus dish was born. It is super lemony and makes a delicious spring side dish. My kids aren’t so into any part of asparagus except the very tip but the LOVE the almonds that dress this dish up. This makes enough for 2 to 4 servings as a side dish alongside other dishes.

What you need:

1 tablespoon of mild olive oil

1 bunch of asparagus (the ones in the shops in New Zealand come as 250 gram bunches)

3 tablespoons of raw almonds, roughly chopped

Juice of half a lemon

Salt to taste

What to do:

1. Place the oil in a frying pan over a medium to high heat, to heat up.

2. While the oil heats, trim the asparagus according to your preferences – I don’t mind the woody ends, so usually just trim off the hardest ends and then halve the asparagus so it fits into my small frying pan.

3. Once the oil is hot, gently tip the frying pan in different directions to spread the hot oil across the entire bottom of the pan, and then add the asparagus in a thin layer across the entire bottom of the saucepan.

4. Cook the asparagus over a medium to hot heat for about 5 minutes, or until softening, making sure to turn the asparagus spears or jiggle the pan to move them around a bit, to make sure that the asparagus cooks on all sides.

5. Add the chopped almonds to the pan and fry with the asparagus for a couple of minutes.

6. Add the lemon juice to the pan (being careful in case it spits). Continue moving the asparagus and almonds around the pan for a few more minutes until the lemon juice covers everything and any extra juice at the bottom of the pan has evaporated.

7. Add salt to taste and remove the pan from the heat.

8. Serve hot and enjoy!

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