Spring is in the air!

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Daughter Serena (left) and Michele looking excited to get my asparagus!
Daughter Serena (left) and Michele looking excited to get my asparagus!

This week Celebrity Chef & Fellow Master Chef Steven Saunders, proprietor of The Little Geranium in La Cala celebrates the arrival of spring with a delicious Asparagus dish!

TEMPERATURES over here on the Costa del Sol are running above average for the time of year, apparently.

To be honest I can see it in my garden. The Birds of Paradise flowers are out and looking great and the bougainvillea looks fantastic and is in full bloom. That’s all a little early possibly two weeks or so and I think therefore we can safely say spring is here on the coast!

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Back in the UK we have been hearing of snow and of course the dreadful storms like Dennis that have caused havoc and flooding, so we are privileged to have spring arrive so soon. So with all this lovely weather it’s not surprising that the seasonal vegetables and fruits have shifted up the charts.

I have been buying asparagus from Granada that is perfect due to the rain we had early in the New Year followed by a mini heatwave helping to push those little blighters up from the soil reaching for the skies!

My creative mind has been thinking of ways of using asparagus and I have been reminiscing about growing my own asparagus in our vegetable garden at home when I was living in Cambridgeshire.

I had taken a liking to all the fresh produce that my first wife Sally was growing. We had green beans, brussels sprouts, rhubarb, tomatoes, potatoes, squashes, leeks, celery, loads of herbs and of course asparagus.


Sally had taken a degree in Horticulture and not only had green fingers but had the passion to grow everything. I was fascinated by the terracotta domes (cloches) covering the asparagus. I asked her about them and she explained that whilst there was not so much heat in the atmosphere by covering them, it helped the warmth push them up out of the ground.

“Doesn’t that mean that the asparagus will be white if they are covered?” I asked.  (I knew that was how white asparagus is grown) “Yes” she said “but when they start to move we reveal them to the sun and they turn green.”

I had a photo shoot pending with OK magazine coming up and they liked the idea of shooting it in our vegetable garden with me holding bunches of herbs and asparagus.

I looked under the cloches but the little blighters hadn’t come through much and as it was sunny I removed the cloches to get some sun on their little skins and speed up the process. I felt that I would then legitimately be able to say that I helped grow these fine specimens as I cheesily smiled into the camera.

It had been a really hot day and that night I had dreamt about going to the veg garden and seeing my giant (Jack and the beanstalk style) asparagus! The next morning I went to take a sneaky peek, but to my shock and horror the little spears had been eaten away by rabbits.

There was a lot of mess everywhere and I knew Sally would be livid for me interfering, so I cleaned up the mess and placed the cloches back.

A couple of days later over dinner Sally said …”you know it is really strange that the asparagus hasn’t come up yet.”  “Strange… yes” I said. “Maybe you haven’t got green fingers after all!” As I spoke I could see the rabbits in my imagination, laughing!

Steven Saunders’s opinions are his own and are not necessarily representative of those of the publishers, advertisers or sponsors.


Spring asparagus, goat’s cheese custard, wild mushroom & truffle.
Spring asparagus, goat’s cheese custard, wild mushroom & truffle.

Asparagus

Asparagus – two ways

This simple dish has the advantage of two textures, several sensational flavours and it is easy to prepare.

Ingredients for asparagus (serves two)

  •  8 spears of green fresh asparagus
  •  100ml of water
  •  50g of butter
  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  Maldon salt
  •  Micro cresses to garnish
  •  Truffle oil
  •  (Basil oil optional)

For Mushroom Duxelle

  • 2 handfuls of mixed wild mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and chopped
  • 1 shallot peeled and chopped
  • A little olive oil
  • A little truffle oil
  • Seasoning

To make the Mushroom duxelle

Pan fry the mushrooms with the garlic and the shallot in the olive oil until cooked and then blend in your food processor with a little truffle oil, taste, season and reserve.

For Goat’s Cheese custard

  •  100g of good quality goat’s cheese, or vegetarian goat’s cheese
  •  2 cloves garlic peeled
  •  250ml of whipping cream
  •  4 eggs (separated)

To make the custard

Blanch the garlic cloves in a little boiling water for two minutes to remove the bitterness. Bring the cream to the boil and add the goat’s cheese and garlic. Remove from the heat, pour into a blender and blend.

Separate the eggs. As the blender is going, add the three egg yolks and one whole egg. Blend for five minutes then pass through a fine sieve.

Pour about 1cm of the mix into small 2-inch ramekins then put them in a bamboo steamer and cover and steam the custards for about 15 minutes until the custard is set (when you shake it, there should be a slight wobble in the centre). Once cooked, place in the fridge to rest.

For beetroot

  • 1 small cooked and peeled beetroot
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of sugar

To make the beetroot puree

Warm the cooked beetroot in boiling water to soften for one minute and then add it your food blender and add a little oil and the sugar and salt and blend to a puree and reserve in the fridge.

Tempura batter

  • 250g of Oriental Tempura flour mix
  • 1 small 50cl bottle of cold sparkling water
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Maldon salt
  • Ice cubes

To make batter

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and add the cold water and stir (Don’t whisk) so that you have a lumpy batter and now add the olive oil and seasoning. Reserve.

To cook and construct dish

Bring the 100ml of water to the boil, add the butter and oil and blanch four spears of asparagus for one minute and remove onto tissue paper.

Toss the other four spears through a little flour and then dip them into the tempura batter and deep fry at 190ºC until crisp (two minutes) and remove onto tissue and season.

Carefully turn out the goat’s cheese custards onto the plates.

Quenelle the mushroom duxelle neatly onto each plate.

Spoon the beetroot puree artistically onto the plates (see photo).

Put two fried and two blanched asparagus together on each plate, season with Maldon salt and top with micro cresses, drizzle the goat’s cheese custard with truffle oil. Serve.

Follow Steven on Instagram … saunderschef  –  Email any questions … steven@thelittlegeranium.com

The Little Geranium, Winner of Best Contemporary International Restaurant 2019  Costa Del Sol – www.thelittlegeranium.com



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