Friday, April 27, 2012

Asparagus – a feast of ferns !

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Over the years, several strange gifts have appeared on my doorstep. Once, just after moving into a new home, the doorstep vanished under a stunning 12ft Christmas tree ... I took an educated guess and reciprocated with homemade mince pies, wonderful neighbour.
Less delightfully... in a different house on a stormy Hallowe’en, I went to answer a loud knock at the door. There, glowing eerily in the darkness, was a large, elaborately carved Jack-O-Lantern, complete with flickering candle. That was plain spooky, particularly given how isolated the house was. I slammed and double-locked the door.
Apart from the odd tray of seedlings/bottle of Baileys from the neighbours, nothing unexpected or mysterious has appeared on my last few doorsteps ... until this week. Just as I was craving healthy greens, there appeared a bouquet of asparagus. I am utterly clueless as to where this beautiful bouquet came from, but I know exactly how I am going to deal with it.
I am going to bend each fat fern until it snaps, leaving a woody stalk (for vegetable stock) and a tender spear.
My No. 1 way of cooking asparagus:
I am going to take enough spears to feed two people, anoint them with extra virgin olive oil, spread them in a single layer on a baking tray, sprinkle on some Maldon sea salt and a twist of black pepper and roast them at 180°C until the tips start to crisp and brown – about 10 minutes - to be eaten immediately, forks optional.

Awesome asparagus!
 The rest of this gorgeous bouquet of ferns will be lightly pickled in olive oil and lemon juice as follows:
275mls white wine vinegar
225mls extra virgin olive oil
100 mls freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, cut into large strips. (try to avoid the white pith as this can be very bitter)
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fine table salt
500g asparagus spears

You will also need a 1 litre sterilised jar (run it through the dishwasher, or wash it thoroughly and dry it in the oven at 100°C).

1                    Place all the ingredients except the asparagus, in a large saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring once or twice to make sure the sugar has dissolved.
2                    When the mixture is boiling carefully add the asparagus spears. Cover the saucepan with a lid and continue to let the mixture bubble for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3                    Transfer the hot asparagus to the jar, then pass the liquid through a strainer, into the jar to cover the asparagus. Leave to cool before sealing. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, although it is ready to eat straight away – as a starter, or added to salad. Allow to come back to room temperature before serving to get the full delicious asparagus/lemon flavour. The pickling juice also makes an unusual salad dressing. 

Pickled asparagus won't win any beauty contests but your tastebuds will love it!
Pickled asparagus isn’t going to win any beauty contests but oh, your tastebuds will love it!
Cork World Book Fest Food Blogging Workshop - I had a blast in Cork last weekend giving the food blogging workshop. It was booked out despite the nasty weather and it was a delight to meet both seasoned and fledgling bloggers and to see that the Irish Food Bloggers Association was well represented. A huge thank you to my hosts, Cork City Libraries, and their awesome librarian, Ann Riordan!
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  1. You must have a secret admirer in the neighborhood. I am definitely going to try out th pickled asparagus. I love those and buy them in a jar. Great recipe, thanks and have a lovely weekend.

  2. Pretty cool getting surprise gifts on your doorstep-I like the thought of giving as well as receiving like that.
    Both of these recipes are a great way to prepare asparagus, so I would say you made the most of your gift. The pickled asparagus would be a great gift, but I would have to save a few jars back for myself-yum! Enjoy the weekend!

  3. What a wonderful present! My all time favorite vegetable! (Maybe food.) My niece just asked me if I had an easy asparagus pickle recipe -- now I can say, "Yes!"

  4. What a lucky woman to get a present like that. I can't imagine there was no card or explanation. You live in a cool place. :)

    This pickled asparagus looks wonderful. As Tina said, it would make a great gift but I'd end up eating it all by myself.

  5. You have such a wonderful neighbourhood - I love that when you think of something, it appears :D
    Magic, I reckon :)
    Your tips on grilling and picking asparagus sound wonderful - a favourite vege of mine!

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. Lucky you Hester! A stalker maybe? And that's two things I've never done with asparagus.. nice recipes! A.

  7. Wish I had your neighbours!

    I have never been torn up about asparagus.

    Maybe I should try it again, I love roasted vegetables :~D

    Have a Joyful Day!


  8. Man, I never get gifts like that. I've never had asparagus pickled, I need to try those. But my favorite way is just roasted with a little olive oil too. I'm heading to the farmer's market in a bit I will be on the lookout. Hope you have a great weekend.

  9. What a lovely surprise! I love roasting my asparagus, too...YUMMY! Hope you're enjoying your weekend~

  10. I love asparagus! I also add parm cheese. I have not had pickled asparagus. I think I would really like it.

  11. How awesome is that! I'd love to be gifted a bunch of asparagus!! The first way is my fav way to enjoy asparagus, give them a little roasting with olive oil & a sprinkle of salt. I have to be honest though. I've never tried them pickled! Both sound fantastic!

  12. Gorgeous photos...what a cool (weird) gift. I would eat a million of these spears.

  13. How lucky are you to have such wonderful neighbors, although I would be going crazy wondering who left the asparagus. I roast mine too, but haven't tried it with fresh mint. I'll bet it adds a light and refreshing flavor. Have a good week!

  14. Why doesn't anyone leave gifts of asparagus at my door?! Lol, that's a great surprise. Love that you're keeping it simple and both roasting and pickling them. Side note - I totally would have slammed the door on the jack o lantern - creepy.

  15. A neighbor brought my mom asparagus last week. Perhaps it was your neighbors that brought yours?
    I've never tried pickled asparagus but the thought of it is a delicious one!

  16. Kinda an awesome gift! I've been eating so much asparagus lately and I can't wait to try and pickle what I have left.

  17. Oh, how I love asparagus. I've never tried pickling it, but now you've got me curious. Love your stories of neighbors leaving lovely things on your doorstep.


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