I have a newfound love of asparagus, fostered by the lovely buffet menu at the Hilton in Gurgaon. They have a truly amazing salad spread and superb asparagus is almost always featured. I like to have it with a thai chilli sauce dressing and shavings of parmesan - the combination of flavours and textures is to die for.
Recently I found that the Spencer's hypermarket stocks asparagus and that has become my weekly indulgence. I had bought asparagus from the Malviya Nagar subzi mandi earlier but never quite known what to do with it since I don't like Hollandaise and feel that asparagus soup doesn't bring out the delicate flavour of the vegetable.
Last week when I bought over a pound of fresh asparagus, I was once again at a loss for what to do and decided to consult one of my favourite cookbooks - World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey. Her descriptions of the settings and the recipes are glorious and guaranteed to immediately motivate you to start cooking. I tried out one of her recipes for asparagus, with some of my tweaks, and lo and behold - it's become a household favourite, not just for me, but my husband and 4 year old son. It's simple, fast and delicious:
Asparagus with soy dressing:
1 or 2 pounds Asparagus
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1-2 green chillies (depending on your palate and the fieriness of the chillies)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons water
1 tsp soy sauce
Juice of half lemon
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
handful of pine nuts or small skinned almonds (you can substitute with hazelnuts or macadamia if you like)
- Chop off the woody stems and cut the asparagus into thirds. Soak in water for 15 mts or so while you're preparing the other ingredients.
- Pour in a glug of olive oil (I use plain olive oil for cooking and extra virgin for salads, but please yourself) into a wok and heat on a medium flame. Put in the nuts and stir for a couple of minutes till they get somewhat browned and crisp. Take the nuts out and spread on a napkin to cool.
- Now add the onion, garlic and chillies to the oil and cook for a minute or two.
- Then drain the asparagus well and add to the wok and stir till all the vegetables are well mixed.
- Add the water (use your judgement about the amount of water needed), salt and sugar and bring to a simmer. Cover the wok at this point and let cook for a few minutes until the asparagus is tender.
- Uncover the wok, add the soy sauce and lemon juice and mix well. Let most of the water boil away and then add the sesame oil.
- Check the seasoning to make sure the flavours are balanced - hot, sweet, salty.
- Mix in the roasted nuts and serve immediately. If you feel like it, you could also add some roasted sesame seeds just before bringing it to the table.