Cook asparagus like Yotam Ottolenghi with these three recipes

Get the fresh asparagus you can, and cook it quickly for the best tasting results. PHOTO: ST FILE

(GUARDIAN) - Most asparagus dishes are easy to prepare (this is no artichoke or broad bean) and quick to cook (longer cooking makes it go grey and lose its body).

The price you pay for this instant veg, though, is that it has to be super-fresh. As Jane Grigson observed: "Asparagus needs to be eaten the day it is picked. Even asparagus by first-class post has lost its finer flavour."

Realistically, most of us don't live by an asparagus field, so have to extend Grigson's one-day rule. Even so, the principle is clear: for this delicate vegetable, the fresher the better.

1. Asparagus with pine nut and sourdough crumbs

Please don't be put off by the anchovies in this, even if you don't like them. There are only two fillets, and they add a wonderfully deep, savoury flavour; there's nothing fishy about the end product, I promise.

If you're not convinced and would rather leave them out, increase the salt slightly. Serve with meat, fish or as part of a spring meze; or, for a summery starter, with a poached egg.

Prep 5 min

Cook 20 min

Serves 4


30g crustless sourdough bread

30g pine nuts

2 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped

Flaked sea salt and black pepper

25g unsalted butter

400g asparagus, woody ends trimmed

1 Tbs olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

10g basil leaves, finely shredded

½ tsp each finely grated lemon zest and juice


1. Heat the oven to 220 deg C.

2. Blitz the sourdough in a food processor to fine crumbs, then pulse a few times with the pine nuts, anchovies, a generous pinch of flaked sea salt and plenty of pepper, until everything is finely chopped.

3. Put a small frying pan on a medium-high heat with the butter and, once it starts to foam, fry the crumbs for two to three minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown and crisp. Tip the crumbs on to a plate and leave to cool.

4. In a medium bowl, mix the asparagus with two teaspoons of oil, the garlic, a quarter-teaspoon of flaked sea salt and a good grind of pepper. Spread out the spears on an oven tray lined with baking paper and roast for eight to 10 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and leave somewhere warm.

5. In a small bowl, mix the basil with a teaspoon of oil, the lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of flaked sea salt.

6. Sprinkle all but a tablespoon of the crumb mix on a large platter or between four individual plates. Top with the asparagus, then spoon over the basil and lemon salsa, and finish with a final sprinkling of crumbs.

2. Soft-boiled egg with avocado, chorizo and asparagus

Play around with this egg-in-a-cup dish, depending on what you have around: sliced cherry tomatoes are a good addition, for example, as is grated cheese or a drizzle of truffle oil. Omit the chorizo, if you like, to make it vegetarian. Serve with toasted bread.

Prep 5 min

Cook 15 min

Serves 4


70g cooking chorizo, skinned and broken into 2cm chunks

4 large eggs, at room temperature

8 asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed and cut into 6cm-long pieces

2 ripe avocados, stoned and flesh scooped out

1 Tbs olive oil

2 tsp lemon juice

Flaked sea salt and black pepper

80g Greek-style yoghurt

5g parsley leaves, finely chopped


1. Put a small frying pan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, fry the chorizo for three to four minutes, stirring to break up the chunks, until cooked through and crisp. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

2. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium, lower in the eggs and cook for four minutes. Add the asparagus to the same pan (with the eggs still in there), cook for another two minutes, then drain and put both eggs and asparagus in a small bowl filled with cold water. Run under the cold tap for a minute, to stop the cooking process.

3. Put the avocado in a separate small bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Add the oil, lemon juice and half a teaspoon of salt, and mix well. Divide this mixture between four small glasses, top with first the yoghurt and then the asparagus pieces, and season with a pinch of salt.

4. Carefully peel the eggs, put one into each of the glasses, then scatter over the chorizo crumbs and parsley. Add a good grind of pepper and another pinch of salt, and serve.

3. Kale and grilled asparagus salad

There's a little bit of massaging and marinating involved here, but you can do that well ahead of time, if need be. Just don't mix everything together until the last minute.

Prep 5 min

Cook 35 min

Serves 4-6


30g sunflower seeds

30g pumpkin seeds

1½ tsp maple syrup

Salt and black pepper

250g kale, stems discarded, leaves torn into roughly 4-5cm pieces

3 Tbs olive oil

1½ tbsp white-wine vinegar

2 tsp wholegrain mustard

500g asparagus, woody ends trimmed

120g frozen shelled edamame, defrosted

10g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

5g dill, roughly chopped


1. Heat the oven to 160deg C.

2. Mix both seeds with half a teaspoon of maple syrup, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then spread out on a small oven tray lined with baking paper. Cook in the oven for 12 minutes, until the seeds are golden brown, then set aside for about 20 minutes, during which time they will clump together and crisp up as they cool. Once cool, break the candied seeds into 2-3cm pieces.

3. Put the kale in a large bowl with the remaining teaspoon of maple syrup, two tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, mustard and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Using your hands, mix together and massage the kale for about a minute, until it softens and takes on the flavours of the marinade, then set aside for at least half an hour (or up to four hours, if you want to get ahead).

4. Warm a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and, when hot, add the asparagus and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt, and fry for six minutes, turning regularly so it starts to brown and soften. Leave to cool, then cut on an angle into 4cm-long pieces.

5. To serve, toss the edamame and herbs into the kale, then spread out on a large platter. Top with the asparagus and candied seeds, and serve at once.

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