Asparagus, take two
A rather lovely trait of spring is its unpredictability. Last Saturday, I was picnicking in the shade of an almond tree, barefoot. Today it snowed. Which brings us to take two in the great green fest : cream of asparagus soup, piping hot.
One of the best thing about these babies is how, when you bend them, they snap at the exact spot where they begin to be edible.
It used to riddle me with anxiety, the cutting of asparagus. Once I let in a fearful amount of fibrous horrid bits into a risotto, and from then on I regarded a bunch of green spears as a minefield.
Once I learnt that trick, however, I breathed again. It´s the work of minutes to prepare a bunch and steam or grill them. Eating them, of course, is the work of seconds.
But what about the inmense amount of debris? You pay a fairly hefty quantity of your hard-earned for a bunch, and to have a good 60% go in the bin rankles a little. Enter the soup.
What you do is this. Make trhee piles. One, a very small one, for the tips. Another, large one, for the middle bits, which you´ll cut in sections of about an inch. A third, smaller, of the really bad looking woody bits. Clean them, especially the woody ones, which might be muddy as well.
Now put the horrid pile in a pan with some stock (a cube, of course!) and let it boil for twenty minutes or so, then strain it well. Now you have asparagus infused stock.
Meanwhile, sweat an onion in butter or olive oil or both. Add the middle bits, sautee them for a couple of minutes, then add the stock and let that boil away for ten minutes or so, until the asparagus are tender. Then blitz, and blitz well. You´ll be left with a bright green chunky looking slop, that you´ll strain, pressing with the spoon.
Now is the time for frustration, when you realise that a good third of the volume is staying in the strainer, leaving you with a very thin green consommé that you´re beginning to think you don´t really want.
Don´t worry. Just add a couple of rice cakes, or some left over rice you thoughtfully froze for just such an occasion, and thicken it a little. Then add some lemon zest, salt to taste, and cream. About 100 ml. if you were starting with a litre of stock.
This is will leave you with a delicate, elegant light green soup that can be served hot or cold. The thing to add to it, of course, are the lightly steamed tips of the asparagus you started with, but let´s face it, there´s a good chance that you may have eaten those while the soup cooked. In which case I have one word for you: croutons.