If you have a glut of asparagus in the garden (lucky you) or you’ve had a splurge at the farmers’ market, this is a lovely summery soup to make.
In fact as Jane Grigson pointed out in her Vegetable Book you can make it with the asparagus trimmings left over from another recipe, the water you cooked the asparagus in and just three or four whole stalks. It really depends on how much you have to hand.
My version of the soup is rather more extravagant because with a whopping great asparagus bed in the garden I can afford to be profligate. Lucky me.
Arancini are little crispy balls of leftover risotto, fried in a crunchy coating. Delicious and a great way to make a small helping of leftover risotto go a long way. Both soup and arancini make good starters (though not together) or a light lunch.
Ingredients for the soup:
Around 20 fat spears of asparagus
100g chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 heaped tbsp flour
1/2 litre vegetable stock (see below)
Salt, pepper, chopped parsley
A swirl of cream to garnish
For the stock:
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
The woody parts of the asparagus stems
The stalks from the parsley
A glass of white wine
6-8 black peppercorns
A fresh bay leaf, torn to release the aroma
Water to cover
First make the stock. Put the chopped vegetables in a large pan with the herbs and peppercorns, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until it tastes suitably asparagus-y. Mine took around 40 minutes at a bare simmer. Strain and set aside the stock, discarding the vegetables.
Soften the onions and garlic in the butter in a covered pan.
Cut the asparagus into 2cm lengths. You can steam the tips separately if you would like to use them as a garnish – or just chuck it all in.
Stir the flour into the buttery onions, then add the vegetable stock along with the chopped asparagus and cook until the maximum flavour has been extracted. It doesn’t matter if the asparagus goes limp, you’ll be pureeing it.
When it tastes strongly asparagus-y, puree it in a blender then put it through a sieve to extract any stringy bits.
Season with salt to taste and a little pepper and add more stock if necessary to get the desired consistency. Mine came out creamy and velvety, so much so that I scrapped plans to make this a cream of asparagus soup. You can freeze the soup at this point if you wish.
When you want to eat it, put it a pan, heat to just below boiling and stir through the parsley. Garnish with a swirl of cream and a few asparagus tips, if using.
This is also excellent as a chilled soup, but you may need to thin it down a little and increase the quantities of salt and pepper.
I used the leftovers from a recent Spring Vegetable Risotto but these are excellent with mushroom risotto too. In an ideal world you would wrap the filling round a small nugget of mozzarella cheese, giving you a gooey, melting centre when cooked, but you can make them without.
I rolled the arancini in Japanese panko breadcrumbs, which are particularly light and crunchy, but home-made breadcrumbs work too.Those weird orange ones you get in tubs? Avoid.
More grated parmesan, salt and pepper if necessary
Oil for frying
Mix the leftover risotto with the beaten egg and a few breadcrumbs if necessary to get a mixture which is gooey enough to hold together but firm enough not to fall apart. Add more grated Parmesan and salt and pepper if required to get a good flavour.
Roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls, then put more breadcrumbs on a flat plate and roll the arancini in them to coat.
Put an inch or so of oil in a deep frying pan and fry the arancini all over until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool slightly but eat warm. They’re good as a snack or as a starter, especially with a dressed green salad on the side.