It’s Friday! This week appears to have lasted about 412 years. We’re away for the weekend for a lovely old chum’s wedding in a tipi in the middle of the Peak District which I am massively excited about. Less excited about the 6am start tomorrow, but we’re heading up as early as possible so I can photograph her getting ready. Aww. We’re easing the pain of the early start by having friends round for dinner tonight, which means more cooking. Hooray! I’ve already decided for my own sense of calm (I am really struggling using the SLR in the kitchen without somehow managing to accidentally cook it – any tips gratefully received), that I will try and take some general “having people round for dinner” photos rather than “here is what I cooked and how to cook it”. We’ll see.
In the meantime, here is something perfect for the current weather – fresh green summery veg with all the cosy comfort of crispy baked cheese. It’s basically what warm-but-rainy evenings are made of.
Asparagus gets laughed at a bit because of The Smelly Wee Gene thing. I’m glad to not be afflicted by such diuretic dramatics and also think that if we were all so concerned with what happened to our food after we ate it, we’d probably hardly eat anything at all. Which would be rubbish.
I never much cared for asparagus as a kid. My mum would often boil it until it was limp and a bit yellow, which tasted a bit bleurgh to my delicate young palate. When I went to art college in Loughborough, my mum would grab armfuls of the stuff on her occasional visits, as it was crazy cheap in the market there for some reason. It’s crazy cheap at the moment, too. So I grabbed a pack of the slimmer stemmed variety to have with some grilled salmon the other night.
People tend to chop the woody stalky bits off the end. If you give the asparagus a little rinse in cold water first, you can twist the ends off (just less than an inch is usually fine, I find) easily using your fists.
Begin by heating the oven to 150 degrees, and arrange the asparagus on a lined baking tray. Like beautiful slimey green tendrils. With creepy claw-like pincer hands. Errr… yum?
100g apprx. plain flour*
100g unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon mustard
As much delicious cheese as you see fit. (I used about 25g I think?)
salt & pepper
*I have an ongoing problem with weights and measures. The main problem being that… I don’t own a set of kitchen scales. I KNOW. It’s becoming damn near impossible to cook/write down what I do without them though so next week, I promise. Maybe. If I remember.
Let’s talk about cheese for a second. This would be fine with cheddar. It definitely requires grated hard cheese, but the flavour is up to you. I like my cheese stinky and ripe and a bit blue. The stinkier the better, I say. We bought some brilliantly locally-named ‘Ally Pally’ from the farmers’ market at the weekend, made by the great Wildes Cheese. It has been delicious and this was a great way to use up the last of it.
This is a really quick easy recipe – 10mins prep, 10 mins cooking. Amazing.
1 – While the oven heats up, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan.
2 – Once melted, add the flour and whisk together to form a golden runny mixture.
3 – Kill the heat, and very gradually add the milk, whisking as it pours in. You’ll notice it starts to combine and form a sauce getting thicker and thicker.
4 – Get the pan back over a gentle heat and keep stirring for another few minutes, until the sauce has thickened up.
5 – Off the heat, add the egg yolk, some mustard, salt and pepper. Give it a little taste at this point to see if it needs anything else. I had paprika on standby but forgot to add it. It might work. It is impossible for me to say.
You’re ready to pour the sauce over the asparagus. Cover as much or as little of the vegetables as you want. You could leave the tips and ends poking out to get nice and roasted (recommended), or you could probably cover the whole lot in cheesy gloop.
Sprinkle your cheese on top over the sauce, and bake for 10 minutes.
Finish it off with a blast under the grill to get that golden crust of cheese. Beautiful.
Serve with some grilled fish, or anything really. I had planned to add a poached egg on top but after all that whisking and almost grilling the camera and my cardigan sleeve, I really didn’t have the energy. This is probably all a lot easier if you don’t photograph it as you go along.
Good job you’ve got me to make those mistakes for you, eh?