A few weeks ago we took a trip to Washington D.C. It was our first time visiting with our daughter, who is now six and old enough to really enjoy such a trip, take it all in and be able to keep up with us!
What a great city. So much to see and never enough time. I have to admit, this was not a foodie trip, even though Washington has some incredible restaurants. We were on the lookout for history and in Washington you really don’t have to look very far. In fact it’s hard to escape it even if you wanted to. We are, by now, totally ‘museum-ed out’ having wandered around a few of the Smithsonians, numerous memorials and monuments, the house where Lincoln died, Arlington and Mount Vernon. Oh and for my other half we traipsed out to the Steven Udvar-Hazy museum near Dulles airport to marvel at the space shuttle Discovery and their collection of old aircraft. I must admit aircraft and space aren’t really top of my list of ‘must-see’s', but even I was impressed.
The highlight of the trip for me was the day we spent out at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s family farm in Virginia. Among other things we learned a lot about the food that was eaten in Colonial times and how it was prepared in the kitchens. Their walled kitchen gardens still provide fruits, herbs and vegetables for the Inn at the site. We visited Washington’s water-powered Gristmill and Distillery to find out how he ground corn and wheat to make flour and cornmeal and also whisky. By 1799, the year he died, Washington was running the largest whisky distillery in the country.
In the Mount Vernon museum we found recipe cards featuring some of Martha Washington’s favorite recipes. Here is one of them - Ragoo of Asparagus. The recipe has been modernized by Nancy Carter Crump for her book ‘Dining with the Washingtons’ but is based on a recipe by Hannah Glasse which dates from 1763. The Washington’s were famous for their hospitality and entertained guests most nights of the week when they were at home in Mount Vernon. There is something really cool about cooking and eating a recipe from 1763 and it’s delicious!!
3 (1.36 kg) pounds of asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
5 tablespoons of butter or whichever spread you use or olive oil
1 medium onion
2 Belgian endives, trimmed and thinly sliced longwise
1 small head of soft lettuce (Boston or similar), shredded
1/2 tsp salt
grinding of black pepper to taste
4 tblsp all-purpose flour
2 cups (500ml) chicken or vegetable stock.
Boil the asparagus until tender, drain and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the butter or oil and add the onion and endive. Saute for approx 5 minutes until tender. Add the lettuce and seasoning and cook for a few minutes more until the lettuce is soft.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and mix well. Add the stock and add back in the asparagus. Heat until warmed.
Pour into a serving dish and serve warm. We had it with roast chicken and it was delicious.