Asparagus is really good right now with firm young stalks that snap easily. Here’s a delicious soup that’s completely vegetarian, is simple to make and impressive enough for a posh dinner party.
According to this interesting article in the Huffington Post, asparagus is one of several non-organic vegetables and fruits that are OK to eat (if eating strictly organic produce is your thing) – an informative list and good to know!
ASPARAGUS & PARMESAN SOUP
2 bunches of firm young asparagus stalks
2 oz (56g) of butter
A little olive oil
4 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped
3 pints (1.7 ltr) of organic vegetable broth
The finely minced zest and juice of half a lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup (80ml measure) of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra to serve
In a heavy soup pot, heat the butter until foaming and gently sauté the shallots until they’re translucent.
Rinse the asparagus, cut off any tough ends and trim off the tips, setting those aside.
Cut the asparagus stalks into short lengths and add them to the shallots along with the broth. Season very lightly with sea salt, bring everything to a boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Allow it to cool slightly then transfer in batches and blend in a food processor, or do it in the pot with one of those hand-held things – until it’s smooth enough.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small sauté pan and sauté the asparagus spear tips until lightly tinged with brown – set them aside.
Bring the puréed soup back to a low simmer in the pot, then stir in the cheese, lemon zest and juice. Check the salt (the cheese is slightly salty so don’t overdo it), then finish it off with a good grind of black pepper.
Divide the asparagus tips among warmed serving bowls, pour over the soup and top each with a few extra shavings of Parmesan just before serving – or pass it around and let everyone help themselves.