No excuses for another asparagus recipe, the season is so short, it’s just got to be enjoyed while it is here.
Later on in the year this recipe is brilliant with other small salad vegetables, such as radishes, baby carrots, small broccoli florets or anything else that will look realistic ‘growing.
(As in Heston Blumenthal’s Planted Garden from which this canapé or starter is adapted and simplified).
For my take on this I have used little 6cm mini terracotta flower pots (from Amazon) and have lined each of them with a plastic fromage frais pot.
Rectangular dish or dishes, preferably terracotta or earthenware also look quite realistic, especially for a larger planted garden where the different vegetables can be placed in rows.
Ingredients - makes 6 pots
Mayonnaise – shop bought or home made, flavoured with lemon, garlic or herbs. The mayonnaise needs to be quite thick so the asparagus will stand up in it. Salt and white pepper 150 gms pitted black olives in brine, drained, rinsed and patted dry. 15gms Grape-Nuts (miss these out for the gluten free version)
One bunch of asparagus or asparagus tips.
To make the ‘soil’, dry the olives, rinse and place them on a lined baking tray. Bake in the oven for 2 hours at 110. Chop them up roughly and put back for another 2 hours. When completely cold, chop finely by hand (a food processor will turn them into a paste).
Turn the oven up to 180 and toast the Grape-nuts on a baking tray for 6 minutes (watch, they burn very easily). Cool and lightly crush with a rolling pin.
Mix the chopped olives with the crushed Grape-nuts (missing the Grape-nuts out for the gluten free version – the ‘soil’ will just be darker).
Wash and lightly steam the asparagus. It needs to remain reasonably firm. Chill immediately in iced water and pat dry with kitchen towel before cutting into 4cm lengths. It looks best if the asparagus spears are slightly different in height. Don’t waste the cut offs, they are delicious in a salad.
To serve, the base can be prepared several hours ahead and the vegetables added a couple of hours before serving. Fill the lined pots with mayonnaise (flavoured and seasoned to taste).
Sprinkle the soil evenly over the mayonnaise. Plant the asparagus, 3 to a pot to look as if it is growing and season well.
Just use slightly larger pots for an individual starter or put a larger dish in the centre of the table for everyone to help themselves- great for a BBQ.