OK, I keep banging on about asparagus. Well, it takes my mind off the imminent end to this year’s wild garlic. The asparagus season is so short it’ll be a distant memory in a month so we should make the most of it. It’s individual, vesritile, tasy and easy to cook so there’s so much you can do with it… And yet I tend to do the same thing with it every time. Griddling or oven roasting is great but where can I go for inspiration? The Great British Asparagus Feast at Yurt Lush next to Bristol’s Temple
Meads Station last month was a great source of inspiration. Hundreds, if not thousands of English grown asparagus spears were accompanied by crab, adorned by mushrooms, pickled specifically to go with cheese and even served atop a Jersey Royal. Genius! The feast was a one off crowdfunded venture to celebrate the humble asparagus spear. In fact, asparagus is the first ever vegetable to crowdfund its own party! But I can’t return to a one off party when I need my fix so where should I go for more inspiration on how to enjoy asparagus? Whenever I’m chatting to the ever inventive and enthusiastic Freddy Bird, executive head chef at Lido, we connect over our passion of seasonal ingredients so we started enthusing about asparagus season months before it arrived. Just enough time to arrange an exclusive for one4thetable.com of course!
So off I trotted with Alan in tow to Bristol’s finest eatery where I first stumbled upon one of the best looking and tasting dishes of the season. Sat overlooking the Lido in the sunshine with a glass of white wine makes me feel like I’m on holiday and not like I’m just a few miles from home. That feeling was elevated when a touch of Spanish fun arrived at the table.
I’ll be honest, snails aren’t always the first thing on my ‘food heaven’ list. I’d rather have a garlic mushroom but perhaps that’s because you don’t always get them cooked in an original way that stimulates your senses in every way. The prettiest bowl of food I’ve had all year appeared with the most beautiful snails draped in bright green asparagus spears on top of savoury rice scatterd with chorizo. It was quite simply delicious. The key is the new season garlic bulb that Freddy uses in the rice which compliments the asparagus perfectly. The depth of flavour provided by the snails and the chorizo elevate this dish onto another level.
On the wine front, I often go with Sauvignon Blanc when
asparagus is cooked simply or served with zingy, fresh accompaniments. But there’s much more to this dish and it needs something different to go with it. For many years I’ve been a fan of white Rioja. It varies in style from light and delicate to creamily oaked so you don’t always know what you’re getting. I have long been a fan of López de Haro Rioja Blanco. I’ve loved it ever since I tasted on my very first visit to Lido in 2014. It’s crisp, citrus and tropical fruit flavour is moreish and a great match with seafood and it seems… asparagus. It has a butteriness which you need for the texture of the creamy rice. It also has a rounded, generous tang which is great with chorizo and enough weight about it to go with the earthy snails. Whilst the wine isn’t available in Lido any more, the 2014 vintage is in Majestic Wine Warehouses across the country and online at £8.99 or £6.99 on the mix 6 deal.
Try the wine at www.majestic.co.uk and get over to Lido while asparagus season still reigns and get yourself down to Lido at Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2BJ Spa reception: 0117 933 9530 / Restaurant Reservations: 0117 332 3970
Follow the antics of our local green hero on Twitter @BritAsparagus
Read Freddy’s blog on the Lido website: http://www.lidobristol.com/blog/ or on twitter @freddy_bird and if you fancy trying this showstopping starter at home, check this recipe out!……
Arroz con caracoles – Bomba rice, asparagus, new season garlic, chorizo
“New season garlic has a punchy flavour in the aioli in this dish and a beautiful, soft delicate flavour when cooked in the rice.”
Serves 4 as a starter
24 snails (cooked, in their shells and stuffed with garlic butter)
12 spears of ‘sprue’ asparagus
1 bulb of new season garlic
200g bomba rice
1 cooking chorizo, diced
Glass of good white wine
Chicken stock – hot
Parsley – fine chopped
First make the alioli
Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic with Maldon salt in a pestle and mortar until smooth.
In a mixing bowl add a good squeeze of lemon & 2 egg yolks. Next mix about 100ml of extra virgin olive oil and 100ml vegetable oil. Slowly add this mix to your yolks, whisking constantly until emulsified. I mix the two oils as i find just using olive oil is a little bitter for the dish.
For the rice
First prep your asparagus – discard at least the first inch of the stalk. Then slice up the bunch every half centimetre reserving about two inches of asparagus tips to garnish the dish. Set aside.
Remove the outer layer of skin form the whole bulb of garlic, then cut in half, remove the tough middle root and fine dice the entire bulb. Season & sweat down in olive oil over a low heat in a wide, flat bottomed pan until soft (but not coloured). Then add the rice and cook until translucent (about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the wine, cook until almost evaporated and then slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly and adding stock when necessary. After about 15-20 minutes you should have a creamy rice with the consistency of molten lava. Check the seasoning, drop the asparagus slices in (if they are small enough the residual heat should cook them perfectly) and cover with a lid and leave too rest.
Meanwhile roast the snails in a hot oven (200 degrees +), gently fry the chorizo (don’t let them get at all crispy) and blanch the remaining asparagus tips.
To serve, fold a good dollop of the alioli and fine chopped parsley through the rice, then add half of the snails.
Spoon the rice in to shallow bowl plates, then arrange the remaining snails and asparagus on top. Scatter over the chorizo dice and drizzle over any remaining chorizo oil. Eat immediately.