asparagus with lardo, parmesan and toasted hazelnuts

last year my favourite tv cookery show was tom kerridge’s proper pub food – really interesting recipes which weren’t dumbed down but were achievable at home despite, presumably, being based on recipes that would be served in his 2 michelin starred pub.

i cooked quite a few of the recipes and in most cases found particular elements of the dish that i loved – it was a little odd to find this, rather than loving a dish as a whole, but actually it’s great as it has encouraged me to try particular components with different accompaniments. particular favourites included the cavolo nero salsa that accompanied a pork belly recipe and the dal that accompanied a braised ox cheeks dish (the ox cheeks were a disaster for me, ending up really bitter so lots of tweaks were needed to rescue them!). friends raved about the slow-cooked lamb with boulangere potatoes.

anyway, to get to the point, he has a new tv show – spring kitchen (which has an annoying daytime tv magazine format but i’m ignoring that as the food being cooked is good). this asparagus dish was in the first episode and i made it that weekend, delighting in the fact that white asparagus is so easy to buy here in germany.

the white asparagus is braised in a butter and water mix, which creates a lovely flavour; it also gives you the start of a dressing - a bit of lemon juice for acidity plus, if you have it, smoked butter (i didn’t have any so i  skipped this part of the recipe). the lardo really works well and i liked the fact that the slices cooked underneath the asparagus stays soft while those that are on top end up crispy (i’m not sure this is what the recipe intended but i loved the contrast so would try to replicate it).

despite missing out a few components of the recipe – the smoked butter plus reduced pork sauce – the resulting dish was wonderful with lots of interesting flavours and a complexity that was well worth the effort.

tom kerridge’s white asparagus, parmesan and toasted hazelnuts (serves 2 as a starter)

10 white asparagus spears, 8 spears for cooking, 2 spears for slicing raw (abby note: i used the tips from 4 green spears for my garnish)

25g hazelnuts, broken in half or crushed

30g piece of parmesan

50g butter

salt and pepper

100g smoked butter (abby note: i didn’t use this and didn’t replace it with anything)

½ lemon, juice only (to taste)

100g piece of lardo, trimmed and sliced on a meat slicer into 3mm-thick slices large enough to cover the bottom of each small serving dish, about 10x7cm (abby note: i just got 4 slices from the deli)

250ml pork , reduced to half its volume over a low heat (abby note: i didn’t use this)

5g picked chervil leaves

preheat the oven to 200c and preheat the grill to high. using a fine vegetable peeler, in long smooth strokes, peel the eight asparagus and trim 1cm/½in down from the tips and ends to neaten the peel line. using a scourer, rub the asparagus until the peel marks have been removed (abby note: no rubbing for me!). set aside.

tip the hazelnuts onto a roasting tray and roast the hazelnuts until golden-brown (abby note: i toasted mine in a frying pan, which means you can avoid putting the oven on). leave to cool. cut the parmesan into cubes about 4mm square (about 6-7 cubes per serving).

add 100ml water and the butter to a shallow pan and season the liquid with salt and pepper. bring to the boil and add the asparagus. cook until tender - by this point the liquid should have reduced to an emulsion. remove the asparagus and set aside. turn the heat down and add the smoked butter gradually to the cooking liquor until the butter is fully mixed in (abby note: that was the bit i missed), add a little lemon juice, salt and pepper.

using a mandoline, carefully slice the two remaining asparagus spears lengthways. preheat the grill to hot.

to serve, put a layer of lardo into the bottom of each serving dish. lay four cooked spears and top with the smoked butter asparagus cooking liquor. add the parmesan, sprinkle over the hazelnuts and then divide the raw asparagus slices between each dish and dress with a little of the pork sauce; scatter over a little of the chervil. lay a slice of lardo over each plate covering the asparagus - if some shows that’s fine. place under a hot grill to warm and melt the lardo; finish with a little more chervil.