Monday, 25 April 2016
New season asparagus with anchovy, mint, parmesan and butter
Following on from the burrata mentioned in my last post, my second course of lunch was all about the asparagus. Every year I wait with excitement for the first British asparagus to hit the shelves of my local greengrocer. To me, the beautiful, soldier-like prongs are always confirmation that Spring proper has arrived. Of course, demand has ensured that it is available year-round in the supermarkets from Central America and the Middle-East, but I try to only eat it for the few short months that it is harvested over here. The freshness and taste is so distinct from those that have travelled thousands of miles, and it is something to be truly cherished.
When thinking about the produce that any new season brings, I always overthink and imagine tens of utterly complicated and ‘impressive’ ways that I can showcase a given ingredient. And although there will certainly be more intricate asparagus recipes coming to this blog in the near future, I wanted the first batch of the year to be a much simpler affair. The star of this dish is the asparagus, and nothing else.
As this came between other courses, I wanted it to be refreshing to eat and quick to prepare. On both fronts it was a winner. With two pans and ten minutes it was on the plates and ready to eat. Although anchovies and parmesan can be relatively heavy ingredients, neither dominated, instead providing a moreish, rich background to the lemony and minty asparagus. The proof of the pudding was the sight of my parents huddled around the butter pan, cleaning any leftovers with chunks of bread.
20 large asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled
For the anchovy butter:
6 anchovy fillets
1 lemon, zest only
1 garlic clove
A small handful of grated parmesan
½ a lemon, juice only
20 or so mint leaves
20 or so thin parmesan shavings
To make the anchovy butter, drain the anchovies and chop finely. Grate the garlic clove and lemon zest and stir together in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Add the chopped anchovies along with the butter and grated parmesan, and mix until everything is well combined. Cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Heat a separate frying pan to a moderate-low temperature.
Spoon the butter into the frying pan and gently melt, stirring occasionally.
Drop the prepared asparagus into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, until al-dente in texture.
Arrange the cooked asparagus onto each plate and pour over a generous amount of the anchovy butter. Sprinkle over the mint leaves and parmesan shavings. Finish finally with a squeeze of lemon juice and a few cracks of black pepper.