I’m trying to cram in as many asparagus recipes as possible before we have to leave the asparagus patch to turn into greenery fit only for use in flower arrangements, so look out for another one before the end of the week.
I owe the idea for this post to my American friend Karen but I borrowed the tempura batter recipe from the new Mildred’s cookbook.
Mildred’s, for those not in the know (and as a confirmed carnivore I wasn’t until a few weeks ago) is a long-established vegetarian restaurant in London’s Soho, cooking up fabulous internationally-inspired recipes. Vegetarian friends love it and non-vegetarians think it’s so good they barely notice the food doesn’t have meat in it.
Mildred’s use the batter – and of course you can too – for peppers, carrots and courgettes. They also add black and white sesame seeds but I felt that was gilding the lily when it came to asparagus. Oh, and they use a different dipping sauce and add a noodle salad. Just buy the book, you won’t regret it.
Ketjap manis is an Indonesian soy sauce, sweeter and thicker than the regular sort. It’s available from Oriental food stores (and Tesco) but if you can’t locate it, try light soy cooked down with palm sugar. Or stir in some runny honey until it’s slightly thicker and sweeter – about the consistency of maple syrup.
Tempura Asparagus with a Spicy Dipping Sauce
1 large bunch of asparagus (5-6 spears per person)
1 litre of sunflower oil
For the batter:
330 ml ice-cold sparkling water or soda water
180g plain flour plus extra for dusting
1/2 tspn baking powder
For the dipping sauce:
75 ml mirin
50 ml ketjap manis
1 small red chilli, sliced into thin rings
1 small thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside for the flavours to meld.
Trim the asparagus by bending the stems until the woody part breaks off and rinse.
Fill a saucepan, wok or deep fryer with the oil and heat until a cube of bread turns brown within 30 seconds (180c/350F).
Put the sparkling water, flour, eggs and baking powder in a bowl and whisk briefly to make a batter. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit lumpy. Put some flour on a plate and roll the damp asparagus in it to coat lightly.
Dip each piece into the tempura batter and cook in batches in the hot oil for 3-4 minutes until lightly golden.
Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Fish out any stray fragments of batter from the oil between batches.
That’s it, just keep going until you’ve used up all the asparagus. Eat immediately with bowls of the dipping sauce.