Irish gold: Three asparagus recipes to totally spark joy
Try this seasonal treat in a home made jambon, in a salad and in a soup
Asparagus, bacon and Durrus cheese jambon
Years ago, I worked on the cheese stall in the Galway farmers’ market. I had just got just set up when my good pal Gerry Flynn walked up to me and said: “You better hightail it to the organic veg stall, they have the Irish gold!”
I looked down at his hands, and he had a magnificent bunch of the wonkiest asparagus I’ve ever seen, lovingly wrapped in the previous week’s edition of the Galway Advertiser.
I ran down at break-time and managed to get the last bunch. It was the very first time I had ever seen Irish asparagus, and by God, it was just amazing.
We like to stick with old-fashioned dishes when it comes to asparagus, such as our delicious soup made with the stalks – because my motto is always to waste nothing. This soup is perfect with fresh goat’s cheese and a few quick-pickled onions on a nice slice of brown bread.
Jambons are definitely an Irish delicacy, probably the best thing you’ll find at the hot counter of a garage forecourt or supermarket deli. The good news is they are super easy to make at home.
This one, inspired by the baker Graham Herterich of The Cupcake Bloke, is bigger than usual, for sharing. I make it with Durrus cheese, but Gruyère, Taleggio, Fontina, Raclette or perhaps a ripe Camembert are good cheeses to use; any soft cheese that melts easily will be perfect.
It is basically Durrus cheese wrapped in a puff pastry duvet, with grilled bacon and asparagus on top. Not your average student jambon, this is a fancy one, and it would be lovely with a salad alongside.
But if you want your salad to be the star, try this one with hot smoked trout, poached eggs and lemony asparagus. If there was a Hall and Oates soundtrack to go with this, it would definitely be Rich Girl. It is very luxurious, looks pretty, and makes you feel like you’re a Marie Kondo disciple. That is, it totally sparks joy.
ASPARAGUS, BACON AND DURRUS CHEESE JAMBON
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml full-fat milk
150g cheese, grated (we use Durrus)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
350g asparagus, woody bottoms removed
8 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp
1. First, make your cheesy filling by melting the butter in a small pan set over a medium heat. Stir the flour into the melted butter and cook for about five minutes.
2. Slowly whisk in the milk, continue cooking until the roux thickens, stirring constantly.
3. Add your chosen cheese and stir in until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
4. Pre-heat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.
5. Put the puff pastry sheet on a baking tray lined with parchment. Spoon the cooled filling into the center of the rectangle, then fold the corners of the puff pastry in, so that they meet in the middle to make a big parcel.
6. Brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
7. While the pastry is in the oven, blanch (briefly cook) the asparagus in boiling water for three to four minutes; drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
8. When it is cooked, take the jambon out of the oven and leave it to cool slightly on a wire rack. Top with the bacon and asparagus. This is best eaten while it is still warm and gooey.
ASPARAGUS, POACHED EGG AND HOT SMOKED TROUT SALAD
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 large free-range eggs
250g asparagus, woody ends snapped off
200g salad leaves
4 hot smoked trout fillets
Lemon wedges, to serve
1. Bring a large, deep pan filled with water to the boil, add the vinegar and lower the heat right down.
2. Crack each egg into the pan carefully. Cook gently for three to four minutes and then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
3. While the eggs are cooking, blanch the asparagus in another pan of boiling salted water for a minute or two (the time will depend on the thickness of the spears so check them as they cook). When you’re happy with them, drain away the water.
4. Divide the salad leaves between four plates, top each with the trout fillets, the eggs and the asparagus and season well. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.
ASPARAGUS AND WATERCRESS SOUP, WITH TOASTED SEEDS
250g of the not-too-woody ends of asparagus
1 medium onion
2 sticks of celery
1 small potato
200ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
50g crème fraîche
A handful of toasted nuts or seeds for garnish.
1. Chop all the vegetables except the watercress into similar-sized little cubes.
2. In a saucepan on a medium heat, melt the butter and cook the veg until it is soft.
3. Add the vegetable stock and bay leaf, bring to the boil and cook for a further seven minutes.
4. Fish out the bay leaf, turn off the heat and add watercress.
5. Make sure your soup cools down a little before whizzing it in a liquidiser or with a soup blender. When you have your desired consistency, stir in the crème fraîche (and/or a drizzle of herb oil) and garnish with toasted nuts or seeds.