Asparagus is an elegant vegetable with a simultaneous sweet, slightly bitter flavour. These really do signify that spring is here! I get in to a bit of a frenzy at this time of year trying to eat as much of it as I can. This recipe really gives you an asparagus overload, with the tips used in the salad, and the stalks used to create a delicious velvety dressing. Asparagus is a healthy addition to any meal, beating most veges in folic acid, along with a good dose of vitamins.
The Asparagus Dressing:
5-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 or 2 lemons
2 teaspoons grated zest
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 clove garlic crushed
Salt and Pepper
For the Salad:
1 cup fresh shelled peas (or cup defrosted frozen peas)
2 packs fresh sugar snaps, strings removed and cut diagonally into 3
500g asparagus, stalks trimmed, tips and stalks separated
4 free range eggs
2-3 spring onions sliced
1 bag French beans cleaned and chopped into bite size
2 good handfuls fresh spinach washed
White vinegar for poaching eggs
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch peas in water, boiling until just tender, about 1 minute. Transfer with slotted spoon to a strainer under cold running water to stop the cooking process and retain the lovely bright green colour. Add snap peas to boiling water and cook until just tender, 1 minute again. Transfer to strainer. Add asparagus tips (not the stalks) to boiling water and cook again until just tender, about 1 minute. Transfer also to strainer. Set vegetables aside to drain.
2. Next pop the asparagus stalks into the boiling water and cook until completely tender, about 2 minutes. Put into a small blender. Add 5-6 tablespoons olive oil, shallots, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Blend until asparagus is completely smooth. Season the puree to taste with salt and pepper and more olive oil or lemon if desired, then set aside to cool slightly.
3. Toss the peas, sugar snaps, beans, spinach, spring onions and asparagus tips with 1/4 of the dressing in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad evenly amongst four flat bowls.
4. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Pour in a good splash of vinegar. Reduce heat until water is at a simmer. Poach the eggs for about 2 mins for a runny yolk. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs and place on top of each salad.
5. Drizzle more dressing over the salad and egg and serve immediately. Place leftover dressing in a bowl on the table. This is so delicious and mainly healthy, people will want to gobble it up.
N.B. If you want to bulk this salad up for more hungry members of your family or party, boil up some bite-sized potatoes to add. Also crispy bacon makes a nice addition for those not so keen on vegetarian.