Recipe of the Week: Asparagus – three ways!

Asparagus.

Asparagus

To me, it seems like this spring vegetable is often the bridesmaid but never the bride. It appears to be used a lot as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a dish rather than being the focal point. And that is a shame.

This seasonal plant (part of the only and garlic family) is at its best right now and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – preserved, wrapped in bacon to be served as an hors d’oeuvres, grilled on the bbq (giving it a wonderfully nutty taste), or simply served steamed with melted butter.

One thing with asparagus is the distinctive “asparagus pee” smell. Apparently up to 2/3rds of the population can have “asparagus pee” which is produced by the metabolism of a sulphorous compound called Mercaptan. This same compound is found in rotten eggs, onions, garlic and skunks scent!

Regardless, we always enjoy asparagus in our house, particularly in risottos or on eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce. Here are three other ways to make asparagus the centre of your next meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Eggs

Asparagus with Poached Egg

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 medium thick asparagus bunch, tough ends removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ounces shaved parmesan

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet with a rim, toss asparagus with oil. Season with salt. Bake until asparagus is lightly browned and tender, 15 to 18 minutes (timing will vary depending upon thickness of asparagus).
  2. In a small saucepan, cook balsamic vinegar and sugar over medium-high heat until syrupy and reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 6 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet with 2 inches of water to a simmer over medium heat. Add cider vinegar and season with salt. Break one egg at a time into a cup, then tip cup into pan. Simmer until whites are set and yolks are soft but slightly set, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spatula, scoop out eggs one at a time and drain on paper towels. With a paring knife, trim edges.
  4. Divide asparagus among four plates and drizzle with reduced balsamic. Top with shaved Parmesan and an egg.

Asparagus and Parmesan Tarts

Asparagus and Parmesan Tart

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 sheet of fresh or frozen ready-rolled puff pastry cut into 4
  • 300g asparagus trimmed and cooked in simmering water for 2 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone mixed with 3 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) shavings to serve
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Spread the mascarpone mix over the pastry tarts, leaving a 2cm border.
  3. Lay a quarter of the asparagus on top of each.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden.
  5. Sprinkle with Parmesan shavings.

Open Ravioli of Asparagus

Open Ravioli of Asparagus

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 200g asparagus tips, blanched for 2 minutes
  • Garlic clove , crushed
  • 1 shallot , finely chopped, fried in a little butter
  • Small glass dry white wine
  • 142ml carton double cream
  • 6 fresh lasagne sheets, trimmed into squares and cooked until al dente

Method

  1. Add the wine to the garlic and shallot mixture. Bubble until reduced by half.
  2. Add the cream and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the asparagus and stir to warm through.
  4. Stir in the basil.
  5. Serve 3 sheets of pasta per person, layered up with the asparagus sauce.

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