Slowly but surely, this year’s asparagus season is approaching it’s last stretch in our region while, at the same time, Mother Nature is picking up the pace with the temperatures. Ergo: time for a delicious, healthy, pretty and seriously satisfying quick-fix involving the star of the season!
Since today is also one of those days that is a) too hot to keep the PC running for an extended period and b) way too sunny to sit inside for an extended period, I’ll keep this one short so all of us can go out and collect some sunny vitamins before not spending a lot of time in the kitchen tonight~! So, without further ado, dinner (or lunch!) for two:
The Tarragon & Green Apsaragus Relish
Just on a side-note: This started out as an almost desperate grab for a flavor-boost when an exceptionally weak-tasting batch of asparagus tried to rain on my parade. By now it has become a regular part of the dish since a little boost in the asparagus-department and a bit of texture and zing on top of a creamy soup never hurts~ But it’s not an essential part of the dish per se, so if you’re short on time or patience, you could skip it… if you’re really, really sure about it~
250g Green Asparagus, woody bits snipped off and cut into bite-sized pieces
75g Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
½ Lemon, Juice and Zest – keep the other half for the soup
50ml Grapeseed or mild Walnut Oil – make sure whichever oil you pick isn’t strong enough to overpower the asparagus
2-3 Leafy Sprigs of Fresh Tarragon, leaves picked and finely chopped
Alt: a handful of Chervil, finely chopped
A Generous Pinch each of Salt, Pepper and hot Chilli Flakes
This, just like the soup, is made in the blink of an eye, by the way~
1) Blanch the asparagus bits in lightly salted water until they’re al dente. If you have a sieve or one of those nifty chinese noodle baskets, simply pop them – inside the basket – into the stock pot phase one of your soup is cooking in.
2) Once they’re ready, douse them with ice cold water to stop the cooking process.
3) Transfer them into the jug of your blender or into your food processor and add all of the remaining ingredients
4) Whizz the lot of them until they’ve turned into a bright green purée – I keep mine on the chunkier part and even stir in a couple of whole pine nuts at the end to keep the relish biteable – take it as far as you like, anything goes~
5) Taste, adjust, seal it in an airtight container and place it in the fridge until you need it to appear on top of your soup!
The Creamy White Asparagus Soup
500g White Asparagus
A pinch each of Salt and Sugar
½ Lemon, Juice and Zest
2 Shallots, finely diced
100ml Low Fat Cooking Cream – fat or no fat… that’s not the question. Full fat swallows up a lot of flavor, and asparagus can be too delicate for the full load
Opt: 1 Tsp Lecithin for a durable foamy texture – if you want to wow your guests with a bit of Kitchen Alchemy
800ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock for the veggie version
A couple of Strawberries, thinly sliced – for decorative purposes
1) Add the butter and the shallot dice to a very large pot – one large enough to hold everything at once.
2) Set the pot onto medium heat and, while stirring occasionally, sauté the onions until they start to turn translucent.
3) In the meantime, peel the asparagus spears and cut off the woody ends should you find any.
4) As you’re working your way through the pile, dump all of the “undesirables”, peels and woody bits, into the shallot-pot, then follow them up with the stock of your choice and watch them turn into something very desirable within a couple of blinks.
5) Turn the heat to high and bring the fragrant lot to a rapid boil.
6) Add a generous pinch each of salt and sugar along with a splash of lemon juice and a crack of pepper as the liquids pick up the pace.
7) Give everything a good stir once they’re merrily bubbling away, then turn the heat back down to medium-low and allow the stock to simmer gently for the next 15 mins.
8) Place a large sieve or colander on a second pot, strain the stock into its new vessel, discard the asparagus remains and set the asparagus’yfied chicken stock back onto medium heat.
9) Add and simmer the asparagus spears for 10-12 mins until they’re deliciously tender, then remove 4 of them for decorative purposes.
10) Take the pot off the heat and stir in the cream as well as the lemon zest and the lecithin in case you’re going down that road. I used it a couple of times and the difference in foamyness is quite noticable, but it doesn’t have all that much of an impact if you serve up the freshly frothed up soup right away… if you can get your hands on the stuff easily, full foam ahead! If not… plate up quickly!
11) Either way, thoroughly whizz through the liquids with a stick blender until the soup turns out silky smooth – continue the journey of the stick blender near the surface to froth it up just before plating up.
12) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper and lemon juice if necessary – don’t forget to add a bit of the relish onto your test-spoon~
13) Cut the spears you’ve saved from the blender earlier into bite-sizedpieces and divvy them up into two warm soup dishes or bowls.
14) Ladle in the soup and dot the servings with the relish, a couple of extra tarragon leaves and strawberries.