I bought half a kilo of Asparagus the other day and started making new dishes / experiments with it. I have already posted the recipe for Asparagus Bruschetta with Goat’s Cheese, which is an appetizer. Now follows a soup.
This recipe is based on a similar one from a German book. It is cooked in a typical German way. Which means that vegetable stock (Gemüsebrühe) is a must. Germans rarely cook their soup without stock made with a typical combination of vegetables, which they call Suppengrün (literally meaning greens for the soup). Supermarkets stock portions of Suppengrün bundled together in the vegetable section. This bundle contains a stick of leek, a piece of celeriac, a carrot or two and a couple of parsley sprigs. This combination is stocked pre-cut in the freezer section too. Of course, like most things, this too has a short-cut, which is those universal vegetable stock cubes. But as the catchline for Bru coffee in India goes – ‘Real pleasure can’t come in an instant.’
Framing the picture: asparagus spears; In the frame (from left to right): spinach leaves, tomato, carrot, leek, red onion, celeriac, parsley
Now, then, to the recipe for Asparagus Spinach Soup
For ½ litre vegetable stock (in case not popping a stock cube into the soup)
1 small red onion
1 medium carrot
about 50 g. celeriac (or celery sticks, if that is more common in your area)
1 stick of leek
1 small tomato
2 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
a pinch grated/powdered nutmeg
crushed pepper to taste
For the soup
200 g. green asparagus (about 7 spears)
a handful of fresh spinach leaves
2 shallots / 1 onion
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for garnishing
1. For the vegetable stock, peel the onion. Wash the rest of the vegetables. Chop all of them fine.
2. Transfer into a pan with ¾ litre of water. Bring it to a boil. Add the parsley, bay leaf, nutmeg and pepper. Simmer partly covered on low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour.
3. While the stock simmers, wash the asparagus and spinach.
4. Cut and discard the fat ends of the asparagus. Cut the tops about 1.5 inch long. Cut the rest of the asparagus in 1 inch long pieces.
5. Chop the spinach.
Clockwise from top: chopped spinach, chopped asparagus, asparagus tops
6. Peel the shallots/onion and chop fine.
7. Once the stock has simmered enough, strain it and gather the clear stock. If you like your soups broth-like, retain some of the strained vegetables. Otherwise, the strained vegetables should be discarded. Do not worry, though. About an hour of simmering is enough for the nutrients from the veggies to dissolve into the water.
8. Now, heat the oil in a pan big enough to accommodate the whole of the soup. Sauté the shallots/onion in it till translucent.
9. Add the asparagus tops & pieces and the chopped spinach.
10. Steam them in the covered pan for 2-3 minutes.
11. Open the pan and fish out the asparagus tops. Set them aside for garnishing.
12. Add the stock to the pan and cook the whole mixture for five minutes.
13. Add milk, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
14. Puree the soup with a hand blender or in the blender attachment of a mixer.
15. Serve hot garnished with asparagus spears at the sides and grated parmesan on top. (There is no parmesan to see in my photograph. I added loads, but it all kept sinking to the bottom of the dish. Titanic, anyone?)
I think this soup is a great delicacy to offer when entertaining. And more so, if entertaining a pregnant woman. Asparagus and spinach – both are rich in Folic Acid, which is something a would-be mother can never have too much of.
By the way, this is my entry for Sweetnicks’ ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday # 15.