Spring and all good things come out of the earth. For the past several years I have been buying my asparagus from Lucija Borg in Xaghra Gozo. Now her sons have come back from Australia and are marketing the asparagus (along with mange tout and herbs) in a big way.
I went to the Farmers market on Saturday, and found the asparagus stall straight away. They were selling both thicker and thin ones. I bought 4 bunches, and that evening we had fresh Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce – simply delicious.
The next day I prepared an Asparagus risotto for lunch, using our best MATTEI (Cap Corse in Corsica) vermouth.
Tomorrow I shall try asparagus frittata and if I can buy some fresh prawns I shall mix them with the asparagus to make a delightful pasta dish.
Here are the recipes I have tried successfully, do buy some asparagus and try these and indeed any other recipes you can think of (pass them on too!)
ASPARAGUS WITH CLASSIC HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
When freshly picked, you can’t do better than cook the fresh asparagus and serve them with a classic hollandaise sauce.
Prepare a bunch of Asparagus by snapping off the end ‘woody’ stems. Set aside. Bring a narrow pot of water to the boil.
Make the Hollandaise sauce:
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
100g salted butter, cut into pieces
¼ level teaspoon salt
Put the egg yolks and vinegar in a bowl and stir till they are well mixed. Place this bowl onto a pan of simmering water and heat gently stirring until the yolks thicken.
Add one piece of butter to the egg yolks and whisk over the gentle heat until the butter melts. Add the remaining butter a little at a time whisking continuously.
At the same time, plunge the asparagus upright into the pan of boiling water, and boil for 6 minutes or until the asparagus is cooked to the bite, drain and place in serving dish.
When all the butter has been added to the bowl over the gently simmering water, continue to whisk until you have a thick sauce. Remove from the heat, and add the salt and pepper. Serve warm with the cooked asparagus.
asparagus topped with Hollandaise sauce
ASPARAGUS GRUYERE TART
A nice way to use asparagus which you can prepare beforehand.
1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry approx. 34cmx23cm
500g asparagus (on the thin side) woody ends of stems cut off
150g Gruyère cheese, shredded
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 200c/400f/gas 6
On a floured surface roll out the defrosted puff pastry. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (usually wrapping the pastry in the box), allowing a little paper to hang over. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 2cm (¾ inch) in from the edges to mark a rectangle taking care not to cut right through the pastry.
Using a fork pierce dough inside the border. Brush the border with a little beaten egg seasoned with salt and pepper. Chill the pastry for 15 minutes then bake until golden and puffed up, about 15 minutes.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and gently press the central area down with a spoon (so that the pastry has a high border.)
Now sprinkle the pastry shell with the Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell. Arrange in a single layer over the Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until asparagus spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
NB you can also use some prepared hollandaise sauce instead of the cheese. Just add another beaten egg to the sauce, and fill the pastry shell with this mixture, topping with asparagus as above and baking until the asparagus is roasted, and the hollandaise has a golden brulé appearance.
NB The pastry case can be baked 1 day in advance, then cooled and stored in an airtight container. Next day, fill pastry case and proceed with the rest of the recipe
What about a pasta dish using the fresh asparagus?
PRAWN AND ASPARAGUS LINGUINE
- 8 sticks of asparagus – woody ends removed, and the rest ,chopped at an angle (3cm pieces)
- 250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
- Juice from a lemon
- 1 glass of white wine
- 2-4 red chillies (to suit you) – finely chopped
- 400g king prawns
- 400g dried linguine pasta
- Good Glug of olive oil
- Handful of fresh basil – chopped
- Sprinkle of dried oregano
- Pinch of salt and pepper
Fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add in your pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes (see instructions.)
Whilst you pasta is cooking, put a large frying pan on medium heat and add in your olive oil. Throw in your tomatoes and fry for 4 minutes. Then add in the garlic, chilli, asparagus and prawns and cook for another 3 minutes.
Pour in the white wine and add the salt, pepper and oregano. Leave this to simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens.
Once cooked, drain the linguine and add to the sauce. Add the lemon juice and basil to your linguine and heat for 1 minute, before plating up!
Or a risotto?
500g asparagus, woody ends removed
850 ml chicken stock
Rock salt and freshly ground pepper
1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped
50g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
250 g risotto rice
50ml vermouth – I used the MATTEI (of course) Vermouth from Cap Corse, Corsica!
150g Parmesan, freshly grated
Heat your chicken stock
Cut the tips off the asparagus and keep to one side. Chop the tender parts of the stalks into approx. 2.5cm pieces.
Blanch the asparagus tips for 2 minutes, then blanch the stalks for about 3 minutes. In a blender, pulse the stalks with a ladle of the stock.
In a heavy saucepan, cook the onion in half the butter and the oil over a low heat for about 6 minutes until soft. Add the rice and cook gently, stirring for 2 minutes to coat the rice with the oil. Start to add the hot stock, ladle by ladle, stirring constantly, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. Continue until the rice is al dente, usually about 20 minutes, add the stalk puree, vermouth, asparagus tips, the rest of the butter, and the Parmesan.
Stir to combine and season. Serve with more Parmesan.
And this, the Queen of cream soups;
CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP
450g (1 lb) fresh green or white asparagus
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh parsley
800ml (1 ½ pints) chicken stock, or water and chicken stock cubes)
35g ( 1 ½ oz ) butter
25g (1 oz) flour
large pinch grated nutmeg
2 egg yolks
100ml ( ¼ pint) fresh cream
Fried bread croutons
Prepare asparagus by breaking off their woody bottoms.
Cut off tops for garnish and set aside.
Chop the stalks and put into a pot with the chopped onion and chopped parsley. Add the chicken stock and cover pan. Simmer for 15 minutes until asparagus is tender.
Put into blender and blend till smooth, and return soup to the pot. In another small saucepan, melt the butter and then add the flour to this, stir till smooth for a minute then remove from heat and press this through a fine sieve into the soup. Blend smoothly and bring the soup to the boil, stirring constantly, then simmer for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary and add a sprinkle of grated nutmeg.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan cook the reserved tips for about 5 minutes in some water until tender. Place a few asparagus tips into each soup plate and add the liquid to your soup.
To make the liaison, mix the egg yolks and cream well. Add a few spoonfuls of hot soup and mix well before straining into the soup through the fine sieve, stirring all the time. Mix well and heat up without allowing it to boil.
Serve soup in soup plates garnish with cooked asparagus tips and some fried bread croutons.