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HEALTHY EATING: Susan Jane White on Asparagus tips

The latest research on folic acid is rather titillating. Sufficient quantities of this B vitamin can help prolong sexual orgasms. I wonder who signed up for those trials. And whether the placebo group were just plain boring? Suddenly, folic acid seems as important to my hedonistic rights as my favourite prawn curry. Bullet-proof pleasure.

Where can we stock up on this much-coveted substance? Your local grocery store. Asparagus is full of folic acid. That's why they call it Vegan's Viagra. So, you see, it's not only the suggestive shape of asparagus that acts as a stimulant for naughty thoughts.

You need to be familiar with two varieties: the white Bassano and the green Vaucluse. White asparagus is commonly found marinating in jars or tins. A dirty shame in my opinion, as they are already succulent when consumed raw. Originating from northern Italy, the wonderful unique flavour of the Bassano white asparagus actually carries its own DOC classification. In fact, many festivals are held around Europe in honour of this ugly fat veggie.

The ubiquitous green variety does not enjoy its own DOC, but has a lot more aesthetic and nutritional kudos. Chlorophyll, the 'blood' of plants, gives the Vaucluse its verdant glow. Its slender, tender stems are best kept al dente by boiling in a steep-sided pan to allow the asparagus cook vertically. Or by roasting in a big tray for 10 minutes. This way their heads won't fall off with overcooking; definitely important if serving as an aphrodisiac.

Uncomplicated Roasted Asparagus

A basic recipe, but supremely tasty. Why mess with it? Should you require a few more bells and jazz hands, think petits pois, freshly ground black pepper and crumbled goat's cheese.

If you're suffering from a thumping head and a slothful liver -- it is Sunday morning after all -- you'll be relieved to learn about the abundance of glutathione in asparagus. This maestro of antioxidants helps detoxify the bloodstream and jump-start lazy livers. Glutathione is like fly paper to the body -- all the pesky unwanted stuff sticks to it. Low levels of glutathione have been associated with poor health, delayed recovery and aging. Not the sort of phenomena you want to court.

You will need:

Large bunch of green asparagus

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Start by removing the tougher ends of each asparagus. Legendary food writer Harold McGee's trick is to gently bend each spear until it snaps. Trust the veg -- it's sort of like natural selection. Discard the stalky parts and tumble the tender heads in a baking tray with sesame oil. Bake at 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6 for 10-15 minutes, which should make them tender but not squishy. Arrange the asparagus on a large serving plate alongside last month's cholesterol-busting wasabi mayo recipe. Or use them as soldiers for a soft-boiled egg.

Roasted asparagus is also delectable with a simple splash of ume dressing. Ume is a Japanese pickled plum dressing available in all good gourmet stores and international sections of larger supermarkets. Ume hits all the best spots -- sweet, sour, umami and salty. It's my culinary Band-Aid for any wounded recipes. Try it and you'll understand why.



Sunday Indo Life Magazine