Superb Iberian ingredients and minimal faff
Thick, ivory-white asparagus tends to have more savoury depth than the more readily available green variety. It’s mostly grown on the continent, where it’s both highly prized and highly priced. The white spears are the result of a lack of chlorophyll, since the stalks are grown in the dark, constantly surrounded by soil in earthed-up beds—a labour-intensive process. I’ll admit that most of the white asparagus I’ve eaten in Spain has come from a tin, with a rather slimy texture—but these griddled spears still have the perfect bite.
12-15 spears of fresh white asparagus (thickness can vary, as can appetites)
100g manchego cheese
75g marcona almonds, fried and salted (as sold by Brindisa)
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Slice the woody ends from the asparagus spears and peel off any thick skin from the lower end of the stalks. Boil the spears in salted water for 5 mins and then drain on kitchen paper.
Heat a large griddle pan or barbecue. Place the asparagus on a tray and drizzle over 2 tbsp oil—you don’t need much, just enough to help the caramelisation process. Roll the stalks over to cover in a thin layer of oil. Lay the spears over the hot griddle in one layer (you may need to cook in a couple of batches) and turn them with tongs as they begin to colour. Cook until tender to the point of a knife.
Use a potato peeler to shave manchego in thin slithers over the asparagus, sprinkle with the almonds, the extra virgin olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and a little salt and pepper.
Recipe: Jenny Chandler
Image: Kim Lightbody