Saturday, 18 June 2011

Remembering asparagus!

Since the asparagus season is over (for those who don't know, it runs from the Grand National to the Derby) I thought I would write about asparagus - sparrow's grass. Despite it making your wee smell funny, it is one of the most flavoursome vegetables and versatile - as a starter, accompanying a main course or, combined with other stuff, a great main course in its own right.

First the boring bit before I describe the recipe that's pictured above:

Asparagus is a herbaceous, perennial plant growing to 100–150 centimetres (39–59 in) tall, with stout stems with much-branched feathery foliage. The "leaves" are in fact needle-like cladodes (modified stems) in the axils of scale leaves; they are 6–32 millimetres (0.24–1.3 in) long and 1 millimetre (0.039 in) broad, and clustered 4–15 together. The root system is adventitious and the root type is fasciculated. The flowers are bell-shaped, greenish-white to yellowish, 4.5–6.5 millimetres (0.18–0.26 in) long, with six tepals partially fused together at the base; they are produced singly or in clusters of 2–3 in the junctions of the branchlets. It is usually dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants, but sometimes hermaphrodite flowers are found. The fruit is a small red berry 6–10 mm diameter, which is poisonous to humans.

Got all that? The plant also has supposed medicinal qualities although I'm pretty (by which I mean 100%) sure that it doesn’t cure cancer.

So, that recipe – roast asparagus salad with poached egg – which comes from Steve Parle (or rather the roast asparagus bit does):

1 large bunch of asparagus
8 sweet cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp of small firm black olives, stones removed
1 scant tsp of capers
6 sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic, cut into 4
3½oz/100g lamb’s lettuce, washed and dried
1 scant tsp white wine, cider or sherry vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2oz/50g aged pecorino or other hard, picante cheese

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Snap the tough stems from the asparagus and place in a roasting tray with the tomatoes, olives, capers, thyme and garlic. Glug over a little olive oil and roast for five to 10 minutes until the asparagus is soft and the tomatoes have burst.

Remove the tray from the oven and add the vinegar and a little more olive oil. Break the tomatoes up a little into the oil and vinegar to make a sort of dressing.

Lay the lettuce on a serving plate and place the asparagus on top.

Pour over the juices from the roasting tin then shave over some cheese.

My version has two variations – the addition of a poached egg perched atop the roasted sparrow’s grass and a particular cheese:

Pecorino Tartufo is an old style of Umbrian pressed sheep milk cheese. The cheese's buttery nutty flavour is enhanced with the addition of aromatic black truffles giving it a unique signature.

Well there had to be some mushrooms involved somewhere!


1 comment:

Pam Nash said...

I've been making asparagus risotto at least twice a week since it came into season - food of the Gods!

I'll try this recipe, thanks, albeit without the doesn't like me and I don't like *it* ;)