Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Stalking for Beginners

Asparagi al Arancia e Zenzero, su Prosciutto e Pasta Sfoglia
Asparagus with Orange and Ginger on Black Forest Ham & Puff Pastry

It's that time of year again folks- and even though the sun may not be shining yet, asparagus is in season and tender for the picking! Whether small and tender, or thick and juicy like these, the delicious stalks of the white asparagus are definitely at their prime right now- so get them while they are fresh!

There are many ways to prepare asparagus- whereby most of them call for masses of butter or worse still, a drenching coat of Hollandaise sauce. No, no-not for me! I am always amazed at the heavy and fatty sauces that often get poured over something so essentially light and delicate. So I decided to try something a little different...

I started off by peeling the asparagus- the white ones do have to be peeled well in any case. Using a potato/vegetable peeler, remove the peel from just below the head of the asparagus to the bottom of the stalk. You can save the peel and the end-bits of the stalks to make a great base for a sauce or soup- just like I did! Roll on tomorrow and a pasta dish very possibly based on this combination here... as it was soooo delicious!

Sautée the peeled and trimmed asparagus in a little butter for 2-3 minutes. Add grated ginger and the zest of an orange, salt, pepper and chili flakes, along with a tiny hint of nutmeg and deglaze with the juice of half an orange. Continue cooking at a moderate heat with the lid on for a further 3-4 minutes until the juice has reduced down and is slightly syrupy... and very delicious!

Next step is to cut a pastry base and to spread it lightly with mustard. Now arrange a few slices of very thinly sliced ham on top. I used Black Forest ham, basically because I live here in Germany and it is readily available! The bottom line is- asparagus and ham taste terrific together- so use whichever ham your personal favorite is.

Now lay the asparagus stalks on top of the ham and place the pastry into a very hot oven for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry has puffed up nicely around the outside edges and browned nicely on top... it's so easy! Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh parsley and a few fresh chili flakes and enjoy!