Tag Archives: asparagus

Asparagus Fritters

My recent success with elderflower fritters seems to have cured me of my phobia of frying food at home. An illogical fear, I know, as I really love tempura, but I have only ever had it when I’m out for dinner. I like it when the batter becomes crisp and you can still see what the vegetable is. I’m not so keen when there is a lot of batter and just a little bit of vegetable. The batter then tends to puff up and become soft, spongy and heavy. So, feeling a bit bolder, I wondered…would I be able to make something tempura-like(*) at home according to my preferences without setting fire to my kitchen?

I had a few spears of English asparagus and a little leftover homemade satay sauce. So I tried the batter I used for the elderflower fritters (minus the sugar), coated the spears and was sure to shake off any excess batter (it worked for the elderflower fritters, I reasoned it would work here too), and in no time, I had indeed whipped up a tasty little snack.

This worked really was because the batter was very thin and very crisp, it turned golden quite quickly and so looked appealing, and the asparagus was cooked but still quite firm. Also, the batter did not seem to have soaked up the oil – it may well have done, all I can say is that it was crisp and did not seem to have acted as an oil sponge! I left the satay sauce cold, and in my view, this was a pretty good snack to serve up with drinks on the terrace.

For the asparagus fritters (this would easily coat up to 50 pieces):

• 100g plain flour
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (sunflower or groundnut)
• 175ml sparkling mineral water
• 1 egg white
• unflavoured oil, for frying (corn, peanut, grapeseed etc).

In a bowl, slowly combine the flour, oil and water until smooth. Add the sugar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Finally, beat the egg white to stiff peaks, then carefully fold into the batter.

Heat the oil carefully. Test it with a small cube of bread – it should brown quickly.

Using fingers, dip each piece of asparagus into the batter, shake off any excess, and drop into the hot oil. Cook until golden.

Serve the asparagus with satay sauce.

For satay sauce: fry some very finely chopped onion, garlic and ginger in some olive oil. Add 4 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter, and stir well. Add some soy sauce and chilli sauce to taste, and enough water to make a smooth sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes until desired consistency is reached.

Worth making? I was surprised just how good this was. This is in part due to my lack of familiarity with how to deep fry foods, but I have had enough “odd” tempura over the years to be able to say that this version was a decent attempt. I will definitely be making this again in the near future.

(*) I am sticking with the term “fritter” rather than “tempura” as I don’t know enough about making tempura to claim the more sophisticated name.

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Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto – simple ingredients, so it should be easy, yes? But my experience is that all too often, it is just not quite right, and the worst offenders are often restaurants. I’m looking for good flavour and nice texture, not porridge made with rice.

After lots of practice, I think I’ve nailed it. Here are my tips. If you disagree, let me know, but I think this works well: first, make sure you use arborio rice. I shudder when I think of my early student attempts using plain long-grain white rice! Second, actually follow the recipe and make sure you add the stock a little at a time – it makes a real difference. Third – cheat and keep it “dry” towards the end, then add a couple of spoons of cream at the end for a luxurious, creamy result.

For the risotto:

• 150g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 100g mushrooms
• 100g asparagus
• 2 tablespoons cream

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil and butter for 5 minutes. We want the onion to be lightly coloured. Once ready, add the garlic and cook for another minutes.

Now add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time (if you don’t, the rice will burn). Add the wine, and it will bubble up. Reduce the heat, and allow most of the liquid to evaporate – you know it is gone when it looks “oily”. Now add to stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, and allowing the risotto to cook and, in each case, only add more stock when most of the liquid has evaporated. This should yield a creamy risotto with defined grains of rice, rather than a rice “porridge”. Check the rice – it should be almost cooked (firm, but yields when you bite it and no hard centre).

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms and the asparagus. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated (you will find a lot of liquid comes out from the mushrooms). Add the Parmesan cheese, and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat, stir through the cream, cover the pot and allow to sit for two minutes.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.

Alternatives: this recipe is quite adaptable. You can add anything you want in place of the mushrooms and asparagus – truffle oil works well, as do peas and mint, or just a good measure of saffron for a brilliant sunset yellow risotto.

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