Asparagus lightly steamed, crisp, long stems of green asparagus, dipped in lemon butter, the juice gets trapped in the spears, suck it out, twirl again in the sauce and bite off the tip. Swirl the stem in the melted butter and nibble your way down the stem – mmmm!
Now we all know that we should be eating asparagus when it is fresh and in season, but it is so hard to resist the out of season imported asparagus, because it is so delicious. The Asparagus is a very fragile vegetable, it gets damaged pretty quickly, it loses moisture and that wonderful sweetness slowly starts to diminish after it has been harvested. So food miles that get clocked up from imports can affect the quality. That is why local is always lekker, it is close to where the harvest took place and it reaches our tables quicker. Enough already about food miles, but I felt that I had to plant the quality seed in your head.
Now this wonderful spear-shaped vegetable has a tip and a stem – all edible. There are more than 300 species of asparagus available, but what we know best are the white and green asparagus.
White asparagus is grown in deep trenches which protect them from the sunlight and interrupts the greening process of photosynthesis, this is called blanching, this is why they cost more than the green asparagus. This is labour-intensive farming.
The way to choose asparagus is to inspect the stem end. If they look wrinkled or split and dried out, then walk the other way darling. But if the tips, which are leafy buds, become a fern-like plant they do need to be tight and clean and bright. If they look floppy or weepy, take to the road. If there is just one patch of slime on the spear or the smell is horrendous you will taste it when it is cooked. Always choose them the same size so that they cook at the same time and don’t keep them longer than a day or two before cooking them, the fresher the better.
Would you like to know how to cook them? Bend them at their base and you will discover their natural weak spot and then they will snap and break. Don’t want any woody ends now. I don’t do this often, but you can peel the stems for a few centimeters with a potato peeler. It makes for a nice presentation. To cook them, tie a few with string and cook in boiling salted water, stems in the pot with the tips standing proud. Cook for about 5 minutes or so until tender, then drain and cool. I hate flinging them into cold water as I feel it robs them of flavour. Whether you eat them hot tossed in butter or covered in a sauce of your choice, or cold with a dollop of mayonnaise always choose the freshest asparagus you can find….enjoy!
Green Asparagus with Pork Fillet Wraparounds and an Asian Dipping Sauce
The quantities given for the sauce are merely intended to be a guide. So trust your taste buds, take the recipe and own it.
1 pork fillet
salt and milled black pepper
fresh green asparagus spears, blanched and refreshed
250 ml (1 c) Indonesian sweet soy sauce
125 ml (1/2 c) rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
125 ml (1/2 c) pickled ginger
1 red chilli (optional)
1. Cut the pork fillet into thin slices.
2. Gently beat the slices to flatten them lightly. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place 1 asparagus on each slice of pork and roll up.
4. Whizz all the sauce ingredients together in a blender. This keeps for weeks – if you have anything left.
5. Heat the oil in a pan and fry wraparounds quickly on all sides, but don’t overcook.
6. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with sauce.
7. Pour the remaining sauce into a bowl for dipping.
* Can be used as finger food, or as a plated starter, or even served with wilted greens and noodles as a main course.
* This is such a sexy dish – watch how the girls eat them; the tip always goes into the mouth first. The boys seem to bite the bottom off first! It’s true, believe me. I’ve studied this.
How to buy asparagus
Always choose spears with tightly closed heads and slender, crisp stems.
© Rude Food Nude Food Good Food by Jenny Morris