Balancing act is key to the presentation of food

Valerie O’Connor sings the praises of asparagus which, despite its unseemly olfactory side effect, is a wonderful addition to your kitchen.

It’s said that we eat with our eyes, my son said he tried this and it was messy and painful , not to mention that it didn’t work. 

If I get a plate of food and it’s all beige, or shades of brown or white, I instantly feel a little bit down and as if the food I’m presented with isn’t going to make me feel good at all.

I’ve sent meals back, more than once because everything on the plate was the same colour, yes I know this makes me sound impossible and of course something like pasta carbonara would be an exception but I would never order that as it wouldn’t be a real one. 

Case in point; a pie with roasted parsnips, potato and jus, all brown and medieval looking, sent it back to get some colour. 

It made it’s return trip wearing the middle finger, disguised as a basil leaf.

A little something green on or near a plate is ideal, essential even. 

A few more coloured veggies and then you have that beautiful thing called balance, balance of colours usually brings difference of textures, keeping your food interesting to eat and chew and better for you too.

April is a thrilling time for the excited eater. 

It heralds the closing of the hungry gap; that time we used to ride out as the stored spuds and carrots of winter were used up and the fresh greens of spring hadn’t yet poked through. 

As another beige food evening almost presented itself in one of my favourite Limerick pubs, the whole affair was made better by the plonking of an enameled dish of darkly-delicious looking greenery. 

It was asparagus and a hardy spinach, cooked just right and slathered in real, salty butter.

Balancing act is key to the presentation of food

How did they know? 

The dish became centre stage as we descended on it, declaring our forgotten love of the asparagus shoots, those alluring, sexy beasts who just come and go as they please. 

I once cooked asparagus, served steamed with a just-right boiled egg as part of a ‘romantic’ dinner at home. 

My guest couldn’t get over the idea that green soldiers and a breakfast egg could be so damn well sexy.

The elusive spear does get a lot of credit for being an erotic veg, (somehow the two words don’t go together) but it can make your pee quite stinky. 

Even so, its shortlived season and delicious and unique flavour and texture make it a food worth getting excited for.

In Germany, asparagus season is such a big deal that they open kiosks everywhere selling the stuff, the albino variety being favoured. 

The speediness of cooking this veg makes it appealing, and you need to do little to it to make it impressive. Irish or European varieties are preferable to those from Peru that cost 59c.

Growing asparagus requires a plot of garden that can be dedicated to the stuff and left for two years before you can expect anything. 

Meanwhile, get out and get some of this vibrant and nutritious powerhouse from your market or co-op and do some impressive but easy things, usually involving butter.

You can cook aparagus in the oven, on a griddle pan, barbeque, in, or above water and serve it in many ways. 

It goes well with parmesan or feta, lemon and basil, pancetta and on it goes. 

I like to steam it for 3-4 minutes over a pot of boiling water, that way I’m less likely to overcook it. The tips need to retain some crunch to be truly delicious. 

To prepare, hold the spear and bend it, where it naturally breaks off at the end, you can discard this as it’s a bit woody. 

To griddle the spears, brush them lightly with olive oil and cook for two minutes each side on a hot griddle pan, pop these, roughly chopped, into an omelette with some good cheese and puff it up under the grill.

However, my favourite will always be with a runny egg.

Boiled Egg with Asparagus Soldiers

Duck eggs are the best eggs for this, their velvety yolk is an instant, luxurious sauce that’s already been packaged and presented for you. 

This is a great instant light meal for when you want to eat something delicious and fast.

Ingredients

1 duck egg

1 Bundle fresh asparagus spears

Sea salt and black pepper

Method:

1. Put a pan of water on to boil, (ideal if you have a colander that it fits over with a lid. Put in enough water to cover the egg. 

2.Wash the spears and break them at their natural place. 

3. Make a tiny hole in the fat end of the egg, use a pin or a thin knife to do this, this will let the air escape and stop the egg from cracking. 

4. When the water is boiling, pop the egg in and put the steamer basket or colander with the asparagus on top. Pop on a tight lid. 

5. After 4 minutes check the asparagus by sticking it with a knife, there should be a slight resistance. 

6. Take the steamer off the water and get your plate ready, with an egg cup. 

7. After another minute, depending on the size of the egg, it should be ready. Spoon it out and into the egg cup. 

8. Pop a nice chunk of butter onto the spears and chop the head off your egg, hopefully it’s runny. Dunk and enjoy.


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