Saturday 20 December 2014

Five ways to cook asparagus

Making the most of seasonal asparagus this May is a priority...

Patricia Murphy

Published 06/05/2014 | 11:32

Asparagus on rustic wooden background
Although we look upon asparagus as something of a vegetable delicacy, its distinctly woody flavour is something to be lapped up, not feared.
Asparagus, goat's cheese and smoked bacon quiche
Asparagus, pancetta and parmesan linguine with chive cream
Although we look upon asparagus as something of a vegetable delicacy, its distinctly woody flavour is something to be lapped up, not feared.

Making the most of seasonal ingredients this May is a priority and when beautiful vegetables such as asparagus are knocking about it.

Although we look upon asparagus as something of a vegetable delicacy, its distinctly woody flavour is something to be lapped up, not feared.

High in vitamin A and C and packed with iron and calcium asparagus is a great accompaniment to summer suppers. Asparagus can be quite pricey so make sure that when you are placing it into your shopping basket, that the stalks are straight and firm and the tips perky rather than limp to ensure you get the most out of it.

The ends of larger spears of asparagus are inclined to be quite tough and although edible, don’t make for a pleasant experience. With these, lightly bend the spear until the asparagus snaps naturally and discard the woody end. The great thing about this seasonal favourite is its versatility. Boiled, steamed, grilled or roasted all makes for different  flavours.

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Five Ways to Cook Asparagus

Grill

Place a large griddle pan upon a medium heat and put your bounty of asparagus onto the heat. Cook for five minutes, turning each stalk a few times throughout the process. Asparagus works well with most herbs so it is prime opportunity to use any fresh herbs in your kitchen such as parsley. Finely chop your herbs and mix together with a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Plate up your charred stalks and drizzle your mixture over it.

If the barbeque is fired up, there is nothing stopping you banging your asparagus upon those delicious flames.

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Boil or Steam

In a saucepan bubbling with boiling water and a pinch of salt, throw in your asparagus and cook until the stalks are tender. To steam, place your vegetables above boiling water and similarly seek out tenderness in the stalk. Remove both from the heat when you feel there will still be a bite to it. If you are preparing your asparagus for later blanche your vegetables in ice cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.

Reheat in a pan with melted butter or warm olive oil and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Serve alongside a grilled fillet of salmon to optimise the experience.

Roasted

Preheat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and place your prepared asparagus into a baking tin. Finely chop some seasonal wild garlic, which can be foraged even in the depths of the city, and place into your baking tin (thyme also works well). A pinch of salt and pepper and a glug of olive oil, make sure your asparagus is thoroughly coated. Roast for five minutes.

Asparagus, pancetta and parmesan linguine with chive cream

This creamy dish makes for an indulgent supper pairing the short lived seasonal asparagus with salty pancetta, rich parmesan and a punchy hit of chives.

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(Serves 2)

Ingredients

150g linguine

1tsp olive oil

8 asparagus spears

50g thick cut pancetta (diced)

50ml double cream

50ml vegetable stock

2tbsp grated Parmesan

2tbsp chopped chives

Salt and pepper

 

Method

* Start by cooking the pasta in a pan of slightly salted boiling water until cooked, but still slightly al dente. Drain and drizzle with a little olive oil.

* Put a medium-sized frying pan on the heat and add a drizzle of oil. Finely slice six asparagus spears, with the other two spears cut into four pieces. Put them all in the pan and saute on a medium heat.

*Now add the diced pancetta and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the cream, vegetable stock and Parmesan. Then add the cooked pasta and chives, cook on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. If the sauce gets a little thick, add a touch of water.

*Once cooked, serve with a grating of fresh Parmesan and a little seasoning.

 

Asparagus, goat's cheese and smoked bacon quiche

Asparagus pairs well with eggs. Whether drowned with rich homemade hollandaise, paired with softly poached eggs, thrown into a frittata or in this case incorporated into a quiche, it just works.

(Serves 8)

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Ingredients

For the pastry:

(Optional; alternatively buy a block of shortcrust pastry)

250g plain flour

125g unsalted butter (room temp)

1 egg

2tbsp water

 

For the filling:

30g butter

2 rashers of thick smoked back bacon (finely chopped)

6 asparagus spears

100g goats' cheese

300ml double cream

200ml milk

4 medium eggs

Salt and pepper

2tbsp grated Parmesan

1 loose-bottomed tart case (20cm diameter by 3-4cm deep or a 35cm x 12cm fluted flan tin)

 

Method

* Start by making the pastry: sift your flour into a large bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix the egg, then add to the flour and bring together with your hands. Add the water and knead on a cold floured surface until fully mixed. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

* Next, remove your pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured work surface until it's an even thickness of about ½-1cm.

* Grease your tart case with butter then line it with your pastry, making sure you press it down into the edges of the tart case all the way round (use a 2cm ball of pastry to do this to stop from piercing the pastry).

* Prick all over the pastry base with a fork, to release trapped air and stop the pastry from rising.

* Now line the pastry case with parchment paper and fill it with baking beans or rice. Then place onto a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes at 190c. Once you've done that, remove the beans and the paper from the case, brush the pastry with a little milk or egg wash, then pop back in the oven at 180c for 10 more minutes until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

* For the filling, melt the butter in a pan and add the diced bacon, fry until golden brown and cooked, then set aside. Now get your asparagus spears, trim off the hard root, cut them lengthways then add to a hot griddle pan with a little oil and cook until charred.

* Spoon the bacon mixture into the cooked pastry case, add the asparagus and crumble the goats' cheese on top. Make your mix up by adding the cream and milk to a jug, adding the eggs and then whisking together. Add a little salt and pepper to season.

* Then pour the mix into the pastry case - don't worry if you have some mix left over. Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan and bake the tart in the oven at 180c for about 20-30 minutes until the filling is golden and the mix has set.

 

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