feeling more able, with asparagus

It’s funny the things you latch on to as a child, particularly in a family as large as mine. The little sayings and jokes that become part of the fabric of family life, your family culture as it were. Years ago there was an epidode of the US sitcom Alf, where one of the children dressed up as an asparagus for the school play. Now this was no ordinary asparagus; it was a singing and dancing one that even had it’s own jingle: ‘a-spar-a-gus, a-spar-a-gus, it makes you feel more a-ble’

Some of my siblings were so impressed with the asparagus song that every time mum served us the vegetable they would give a rendition. And it stuck. So much so that even now as adults, whenever we get together as a family and there’s asparagus on the menu, someone will burst into song…priceless.

Yet even if it didn’t have it’s own theme song and wasn’t packed with vitamins, I would still be vying for the title of asparagus’ number one fan. The simple truth is that I love it, even the tinned stuff (although that is a different beast entirely and I can understand why some people dislike it). Finely sliced raw into salads, charred on a bbq for a delicious smoky variation, simmered into a soup, the crowning glory on a goats cheese tart, as an accompaniment to scrambled eggs, even pureed as a bed for pan fried fish, the possibilities are endless.

But honestly, the best way to celebrate the slender perfection of asparagus, be they green or white or purple, is to simmer it in salted water until it is just past being crunchy (I guess you could call it al dente) then serve while still warm with a little pot of nutty roast garlic mayonnaise, or bathed in a warm dressing of coddled egg….all good things….

asparagus with roasted garlic & cashew mayonnaise
serves 4 as a starter

Making mayonnaise in a food processor makes me nervous, a result of too many botched batches.  I prefer to make it the old school way with a whisk and a lot of muscle. If your mayo splits you can mount a rescue mission. Start with a fresh yolk and very gradually whisk in your split

Feel free to vary the nuts. I’ve had success on different occasions with slivered almonds and chopped pistachios.

2 bunches asparagus
1 head garlic
375ml mild or light flavoured olive oil 
2 egg yolks**
3T white wine vinegar
2T lemon juice
100g cashews roasted & roughly chopped

Wrap garlic in foil and bake at 180C for 25 mins or until very soft. Cool then peel cloves and mash into a pulp with a fork.

For the aioli combine yolks and vinegar. Add oil drop by drop while whisking vigorously. As the volume increases you can start to add the oil more rapidly. When the mayonnaise is very thick season with lemon juice, salt and pepper then stir through the garlic puree and nuts. The mayo will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Simmer asparagus in a large saucepan of salted water for 3-6mins or until al dente, or just past being crunchy. Drain and divide between 4 small plates and serve with small pots of mayo on the side.

** As the eggs do not receive any heat treatment, it is safer not to serve this mayo to pregnant ladies.

roasted garlic & cashew mayonnaise

asparagus with warm coddled egg dressing
serves 1 as a main course or 2 as a starter

This recipe was inspired by one of my favourite chefs: Jarad Ingersol of Danks Street Depot. This makes a great quick springtime dinner. Feel free to increase the quantities if you have more mouths to feed.

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed 
1 anchovy fillet, chopped
1 sm sprig rosemary leaves chopped
1T red wine vinegar
1T extra virgin olive oil
small handful sliced almonds, toasted
2 eggs at room temperature
crusty sourdough, to serve

Get two saucepans of water on the boil; one large enough for the asparagus and the other for the eggs.

Meanwhile combine anchovy, rosemary, vinegar and oil in a small bowl.

Place eggs into the boiling water and cook for 4 mins. Drain and using a tea towel to protect your hands, crack warm egg into the dressing and scoop out all the flesh. The yolk should still be runny and the white just cooked. Season dressing and keep warm.

Cook asparagus in the other saucepan for 3-6 minutes until tender and no longer crunchy. Drain and place on a dinner plate. Drizzle with warm dressing and top with toasted almonds. Serve immediately.

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