There’s been a seismic shift in my life situation over the past few weeks - and yes, it’s been every bit as horrible as it sounds. All self-care has gone out of the window and I’ve thrown my despairing food-blogging hands up in the air more than once because there has been no time for me to be creative. Nevertheless, with just a few more days left to get your hands on the last of the English Asparagus - the notoriously short season starts on St. George’s Day and ends on 21st June - I was determined to blog one of my all time favourite asparagus recipes.
Thankfully, not much original thought was required. I’ve borrowed this recipe straight out of Rose Elliot’s book ‘The New Vegetarian Cookbook’ - although I’ve more than doubled the amount of ingredients than the original recipe calls for, because it just doesn’t make enough of this delicious savoury loaf to satisfy my greed for English asparagus.
If I wasn’t strictly Primal, I would most enjoy eating a couple of slices of this asparagus loaf for a lazy lunch in the garden on a warm summer’s afternoon, with a few Jersey Royal potatoes, homemade mayo, a fresh leaf salad and a glass of ice-cold wine. My food fantasy aside - and the fact that so far this year there’s been precious little summer weather to speak of - mangetout peas and some crisp lettuce will do just as nicely in place of potatoes for a lovely Primal-inspired summer dinner party dish. Alternatively, cut the loaf into tasty, canapés-sized mouthfuls to serve with drinks, transport to a glamorous picnic, or serve as a delicious vegetarian option as part of a buffet party spread. I think Asparagus Loaf is very, very delicious - anywhere, anytime, any place.
Asparagus Loaf (serves 6)
1 medium onion, peeled and grated
225g Parmesan or Vegetarian Parmesan-style Cheese (I used Gran Moravia)
225g organic ground almonds (I bulk buy ground almonds online here)
4 large organic eggs
285ml single cream (I actually used 250ml organic double cream and made up the quantity with filtered water)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly-grated nutmeg (I used about ⅓ of a whole nutmeg)
750g green asparagus (at least 30 decent-sized asparagus spears)
Sprigs of organic watercress - to garnish
Boil a kettle of water.
Set the oven to 190℃ / 375℉ / Gas mark 5
Snap the ends off the asparagus spears and using a potato peeler trim off the bottom third of the spears to make sure that all the tough part has been removed - you should end up with about 325-350 grams of trimmed asparagus.
Pour the boiling water from the kettle into a large pan. Put the trimmed asparagus into a steamer basket set over the boiling water, put the pan lid on and steam the asparagus for 3 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, drain well again and set aside.
Grease a 2lb loaf tin with melted butter and line with a long strip of baking parchment to cover the base and short-end sides.
In a large bowl, mix together the grated onion, cheese, ground almonds, eggs and cream.
Season with sea salt (about a teaspoon), a generous grinding of black pepper and the nutmeg.
Put a layer of this nut mixture into the base of the loaf tin, then neatly arrange a layer of asparagus spears on top. Continue in layers like this until all the ingredients are used up, ending with the nut mixture.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, until risen and firm in the centre.
Cool completely in the tin, then slip a knife around the sides and carefully turn out onto a plate.
Strip off the paper. Cut into slices. Arrange the slices on a plate - or individual plates - and garnish with watercress.
It’s well worth taking the time to arrange the asparagus spears neatly into the loaf tin.
You’ll end up with 4 layers of the nut mixture and 3 layers of asparagus spears in your loaf tin, so try to split your ingredients evenly upfront. When baking this for the blog, I threatened to run out of the nut mixture for the final layer. From experience I know that If the top nut layer is too thin, when the loaf is cut into slices it will tend to break off. Annoyingly, I also ended up 2 asparagus spears short, which then had to be steamed separately!
Season carefully as Parmesan cheese tends to be salty.
If you’re making canapés - makes about 48 - cut the slices neatly again into thirds.
Although leftovers keep well in a sealed container in the fridge, if the size of this loaf is too much for your needs, simply halve the ingredients and bake in a 1lb loaf tin for 45-60 minutes.
Carbohydrates 11g Protein 28g - per serving