So… as it turned out, I was right not to trust the suspiciously innocent-looking blue skies I mentioned last time – a serious case of November-in-March-ick, thunder- and hailstorm and massive amounts of… lukewarm drizzle being blown around (and under* any defense you might have put on/up) by the storm included came to pay us a visit since then to really, really get us into the right mood for Spring. Meanwhile, the first edible signs of Spring are popping up all over the markets, our first Asparagus, for example.
Ridiculously overpriced, low-in-taste due to their pre-season state and thereby merely acknowledged with a curt nod and an internal threat along the lines of “soon, very soon…” followed by evil-plan laughter. And plan, I did! I went through my stash of asparagus-related recipes, old, new, experimental and anything in between to get at least one special asparagus dish lined up for each week of the regular season – and I actually stumbled across one recipe I prepared for you guys last year but that somehow slipped through the cracks. So, to get you into the Springtime Swing as well, here’s a little sneak-peek on all the delicious things to come~! These amounts will net you 4 generous servings as a starter or 2 as main dish.
The Wild Herb, Loquat & Asparagus Salad
500g White Asparagus, peeled and woody bits removed, sliced into bite-sized pieces
500g Green Asparagus, woody ends snipped off
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Sprigs of Thyme, leaves only
Salt and Pepper to taste
100g Wild Herb Salad Mix
½ Bunch of Radishes, carefully cleaned and finely sliced
4 Loquats, pitted and sliced
Alt: Apricots work nicely as a rep for the loquats
1) Brush the green spears with olive oil and give them a light dusting of theyme leaves, salt and pepper.
2) Pop a griddle onto medium-high heat and, once it’s sizzling hot, arrange the green asparagus inside.
3) Griddle them until they’re nicely marked up, then immediately take them out and cut them into bite-sized pieces and spread them out on a cold plate to stop the cookimg process.
4) Replace the griddle with a pot large enough to hold your white asparagus plus enough water to cover them.
5) Add a splash of lemon juice, salt and sugar to the cooking water and cook the white asparagus for 6-7 mins until a bite-test tells you they’re perfect.
6) Douse them with iced water to stop the cooking process and allow them to drip off in a colander.
7) Transfer them into the bowl holding your dressing once a) they are cooled off completely and b) the dressing is ready~ Allow them to marinade for 30 mins to 1 hr in there.
8) Keep the remaining ingredients, herbs, radishes and loquats ready-to-use and nearby until you’re ready to serve.
The Raspberry Dressing
1 Unwaxed Lemon, Zest and Juice
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Dark Honey
1 Bunch of Chives, very finely chopped
120g Raspberries – you may want to consider keeping a few for decorative purposes. I usually don’t, because if they’re not put to use immediately, they don’t survive long enough to decorate anything~
1 Bunch of Watercress
Alt: Red (Radish) cress works nicely, too
1 Loquat, pitted and roughly chopped
Herbed Salt, Pepper, chili flakes to taste
Opt: more lemon juice or a mild white balsamic vinegar
1) Add the lemony parts, mustard, honey, raspberries, loquat bits and a very generous dose of salt, pepper and chili flakes to a stick blender-friendly container and have at it.
2) If raspberry seed fragments that might have escaped the blender bother you, pass the dressing through a fine sieve on its way into a larger bowl – if not, simply transfer the proto-dressing into a bowl once thoroughly whizzed.
3) Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary – hold your horses on additional liquids for the moment, you’ll see why in a sec.
4) Gently fold the white asparagus bites into the lot – they’ll give off some moisture and additional aroma during the marinading process.
5) Top it all off with the watercress and chives but don’t fold them in until you’re ready to plate up.
The Pan-Seared Hake
4x 200g Hake Fillets, skin on
Alt: Dorado, Tilapia, Monkfish… anything with light and firm meat to it. Skin on, bones out
½ Unwaxed Lemon, Zest
1 Sprig of Thyme
Hot Chili Flakes
1-2 Generous Scrapes of a Tonka Bean
Alt: a few Vanilla Seeds or Vanilla Salt
1 Tbsp Ghee
1) Allow the ghee to melt and heat up in a wide pan sitting on medium heat.
2) Lightly tilt the pan to evenly gloss the entire surface. Generously sprinkle the surface with sea salt flakes and place the thyme sprig in the center.
3) Give the pan 2-3 mins to get back up to speed, then place the hake inside, skinside facing down.
4) Dust the meaty side of the filets with lemon zest, chili flakes, tonka bean or vanilla seeds/salt.
5) Pop the lid onto the pan and fry the fish for 4-5 mins until the skin has developed a delicious crisp and the “cooked through” line visible on the side-surface has risen up around 7/8 of the way to the top.
6) Carefully flip the fillets and slide the pan off the heat.
7) Place the lid back on and allow the fillets to sit in the residual heat for 1 min more.
Assembling the Dish
1) Retrieve the various components of the salad and start by divvying up the greens, radishes and loquats.
2) Top off each pile with the griddled green asparagus and marinated white asparagus.
3) Drizzle the servings with the dressing/marinade still left in the bowl.
4) Place the fish on top with the crispy skin facing up – if you like it to stay crispy up until the last bite of it – or facing down if you’re more the “delicious-looking meat” or “skip the skin entirely” kind of person.
5) Either way, grab a fork and…