Asparagus Three, the Blogspot

Back in the UK, I’ve noticed that in the media, topics, like buses, come in threes.  For instance, I’d flick through an article in the second section of the Guardian: maybe about female circumcision, education-other-than-at-school, or some other equally right-on Guardian topic.  Two or three days later, listening to say Women’s Hour on Radio 4, they’d be discussing exactly the same subject, with exactly the same slant.  Then the following week, maybe on Channel 4, it would appear yet again.

Recipe from Kalba's blog. Recommended.

And so it has been in the world of blogging.  On April 24th, Kalba’s blog dropped into my in-box. I complained immediately. It was about asparagus, and I could have written it myself.  Not all of it.  I’ve never run a restaurant, and I’ve never lived in Norfolk.  But like her, I do like green asparagus, the thinner the better:  I don’t like the blanched, thick white spears  favoured by the French and throughout most of mainland Europe.

Then on the 30th April, Bloggerboy, the writer of my other favourite blog, Welcome Visitor, pitched in with an account of the German love of asparagus. He even convinced me to have another go with the white stuff.

An asparagus stall at Mirepoix

So now it’s my turn to write an asparagus blog.  In Mirepoix market yesterday morning there were quite a few asparagus stalls, and I picked the one where I could buy thin and thick green spears, and white too.  ‘I’m not too keen on the white spears’, I confided to the stall holder, ‘but I’m sure I must be wrong when you all seem to like them so.  How do you like to cook them?’.  If I’d expected to have my hand wrung in gratitude at my acknowledgement of his expertise: if I’d expected him to call over his wife to share her culinary tips, I would have been disappointed.  What I got was a Gallic shrug.  He was mystified by the stupidity of my question.  ‘Well, you could use them in tarts, or omelettes.  Whatever you like really’.  I realised our conversation was at an end.

Asparagus & strawberry tart

Luckily, there are recipe books, and there are other blogs.  I’ve just tried a suggestion from another blog I enjoy, ‘Chocolate and Zucchini’, which is available in English and French.  Asparagus and strawberry tart. A very odd idea indeed, but it works.  In fact it was memorably good.

This is what we ate yesterday evening, from Denis Cotter’s wonderful vegetarian book, ‘Paradiso seasons’.

Gratin of Asparagus, Roasted Tomatoes and Gabriel Cheese with Chive and Mustard Cream.

Ingredients – for 2

4 -5 large tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to season

Drizzle of olive oil.

40g. fine breadcrumbs

40 g. Gabriel cheese, finely grated.  I can’t get this, unsurprisingly, and maybe you can’t either.  Settle for a hard, densely textured cheese.

1 sprig thyme

I tablespoon butter, melted

30 ml. vegetable stock

30 ml. white wine

150 ml. cream

Small bunch of chives, chopped

½ tsp. hot mustard

16 asparagus spears

Heat oven to 190 degrees.  Cut tomatoes into 3-4 thick slices each.  Place on oven trays lined with baking parchment, season and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast until lightly browned and semi-dried – you may need to turn them once.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the thyme, the butter, and most of the cheese.  Season.

Boil the stock and the wine until reduced by half.  Add the cream and mustard, bring it back to the boil and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes until pouring consistency.

During this time, briefly cook the asparagus.

Heat a grill.  On each plate, place 6 slices of tomato, lined up 3 x 2, and cover with 5 asparagus spears. Place a single line of tomatoes on top, then 3 more asparagus spears on top.  Spoon a little mustard cream over the top, then finish with a generous sprinkling of the crumble. Cook under a hot grill for 2 – 3 minutes until the cream is bubbling, and the top is crisp and brown.  Put remaining cream back on the stove, whisk in the rest of the cheese and chives, and pour round the finished gratins.

Just enough for a second helping?

Alternatively (and this is more my style), arrange the ingredients in an oven dish instead of individual plates, and bake for 10 minutes until the cream is bubbling  and the top is crisped and brown.

This too is a really tasty simple dish, well worth adding to the regular asparagus repertoire.

Um, have you noticed, I still haven’t got round to thinking about those wretched white spears?

Nothing to do with asparagus. Our garden, south of France, 4th May 2010

7 thoughts on “Asparagus Three, the Blogspot”

  1. I couldn’t agree more about white asparagus. As I’m not lucky enough to have a glut here I tend to keep it simple: melted butter, a splash of lemon juice and parmesan shavings.

    Like

    1. That’s still my favourite way with asparagus really. It’s only since we came here that we’ve had the sort of quantities to think a spot of experimentation wouldn’t come amiss. How come you’ve got time to read blogs at the moment? Shouldn’t you be out doorknocking or something??!

      Like

      1. You are, of course right. I alow myself treats to keep me going and your blog is one of them!

        Like

  2. Ah Margaret, I see that you are resisting the superiority of the continental taste. That’s OK. Just keep trying them once a year until you see the light. In the meantime, the green variety does seem to have caught on in Germany and France as well, so you can enjoy your favorite kind as often as you want.

    Like

    1. I keep giving myself a hard time that I can’t seem to gear myself up to the stuff after a couple of bad experiences. Do you ever use that depressing phrase ‘I know what I like’…..? I must have reached that stage in life. Oh dear.

      Like

    2. Thursday 6th May: I’ve done it, cooked the white stuff. Back in the 1970’s Shirley Conran coined the phrase ‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom’. Well, I don’t actually agree with that, but I can tell you that life is far to short to peel an asparagus. I prepared it to the best of my ability, and it was OK, but while I’m skivvying, it won’t be cooked again anytime soon. I’m sure the loss is mine, but I’ll take the risk.

      Like

  3. Oh well, it was worth a try. Yes, the peeling is time consuming. I’m going to the Kleinmarkthalle tomorrow to see what’s available. I hope they have wild asparagus. I may even try to make a hollandaise sauce.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s