Drummond House Irish Asparagus ©KingdomFoodTours
A seasonal delicacy – how I like to cook asparagus
I recently came across a wonderful Irish producer and was delighted to get some produce delivered thanks to a very kind friend. I might have said it before, but I will never stop repeating myself when saying how passionate Irish food producers are and how many amazing products are available here in Ireland.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly like to eat what’s in season – and guess what, asparagus’ short season is almost over and you might still be in time to taste some really good Irish grown asparagus.
Drummond House in Co. Louth grow both garlic and asparagus which they first harvested in 2017. As you might know or not, it takes about 3 to 4 years for the vegetable to be ready to harvest. At the end of each season, the whole plant is cut right back for it to rest during the winter and restart its growth in the spring. After three years, the asparagus is harvested and cut by hand right under the earth. It has an amazingly delicate flavour and it is full of minerals, fibre, antioxidants and plenty of vitamins. If you then combine them with garlic scapes – well you give yourself a great immune system boost.
My delivery had some elephant garlic scapes too. Scapes are part of the garlic plant and are harvested about 3 weeks before the harvest of the garlic itself. At the top of the scape you have a little bulb which would bloom into a flower. I pickled some of these and turned out delicious. Scapes are so rich in flavour and are delicious chopped into a stir fry, roasted, grilled, barbecued or even turned into a delicious pesto. If you never got to try some, you might still be on time for this year’s harvest.
First thing that comes to my mind when having fresh asparagus is always a good risotto. I usually don’t take measurements when cooking (sorry!) but I will try and give you some approximate amounts…
To make risotto for two people, all you need is
- Asparagus (about 3-5 per person)
- Arborio risotto rice (about 70 gr per person)
- 1/2 Onion
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 small carrot
- Olive oil and butter
- Dash of white wine
- Vegetable stock (about 500 ml)
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley
First thing, cut your asparagus – the very ends might need to be set aside as they are sometimes too woody and to hard to cook but I always keep them and add them to my stock. If I have time, I always like to make my own stock by boiling water with a carrot cut in four pieces, a potato cut in half, some celery, an onion, a tomato and your asparagus ends and some salt. Let it simmer for about half an hour and it will be ready to use…
While the stock cooks, chop onion, carrot and celery very finely and start cooking them in a bit of olive oil and butter. When golden, add your asparagus but keep the tops – I always add them later on so they don’t overcook as they are much softer. Cook for 5 minutes and then add your risotto rice, stir in for about 1 minute on high heat and then add a dash of white wine. When the wine has evaporated add the stock, one spoon at the time and keep stirring and turn down the heat to simmer. Making risotto for me is like a small ritual – you need to take your time and look after it, taking good care of it. Taste the rice after 10 minutes, now add the asparagus tops (they will cook fast) and make sure not to add too much stock as you keep adding it until the rice is cooked but you don’t want to have to strain any out. So, when the rice is almost done – still slightly hard – turn off the heat and add a good bit of butter and some Parmesan cheese, you will stir this in slowly in a process called ‘’mantecare’’ which basically means mixing into a starchy, creamy consistency. No cream needed, the stock will have completely absorbed and butter and cheese will give you a nice creamy risotto! You can now plate, and sprinkle over some more cheese and chopped parsley.
I also made some roasted asparagus following Denis O’Connor’s recipe in Dingle Dinners by Chef Trevis Gleason. The recipe is very simple and Denis, from the Half Door Restaurant in Dingle, cooks asparagus with roast salmon fillet. Trevis sat down with several chefs and collected the recipes and menus these chefs like to share with their family at home in this beautiful book. Trevis recently published a new book with the same concept dedicated to the food producers and chefs of the Burren, in Co. Clare – Burren Dinners.