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How to make asparagus mousse, and strawberry cream pots

15 May 2020


GETTING groceries at the moment feels like Supermarket Sweep: a dash to find what’s available, then work­ing out back at home what to cook. The asparagus season is short; if you can find some, try this Asparagus mousse. It’s really just a sieved, creamy purée set with gela­­­­tine.

60g (2 oz) butter
1 leek, sliced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, bruised
450g (1 lb) asparagus
150ml (5 fl. oz) light stock
200ml (7 fl. oz) whole milk
300ml (10 fl. oz) whipping cream
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
60g (2 oz) rocket
gelatine to set 1 litre (2 pt)
zest and juice of ½ a lemon

In a medium pan, melt the butter with a little oil over a low heat, and then wilt, without brown­ing, the leeks. Add the celery and garlic, and con­tinue to stew until soft but not brown­­­­­­­­­ing. Snap the woody ends of the asparagus and discard, chop the stalks, and put these and about half the heads into the pan, reserving the other heads for later. Now add the stock and increase the heat so that every­thing simmers and reduces; this should take about 15 minutes.

Next, add the milk and cream, com­­bining well and simmering for a further ten minutes to cook and re­­­duce more. Season, add the nutmeg and rocket, then whizz up with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Pass through a sieve into a large bowl to give a smooth purée.

Prepare the gelatine, either soak­ing about 8 leaves or mixing the powder with a little liquid, then whisk­­­­­­­ing into the purée. Pour into ramekins or a glass bowl, cover with clingfilm, and set in the fridge for 12 hours. (Ramekins take less time.) Before serving, flash-fry the re­­­maining asparagus spears in oil, stir in the lemon zest and juice, season, and place on top of the mousse.

Trying to make Strawberry cream pots with egg yolks, fresh fruits, and lovely cream has proved a challenge. It should be as easy as warming a large pot of cream, stir­ring in 5 egg yolks, a blended and sieved punnet of strawberries, and baking in a bain-marie on low for 90 minutes.

But this is lockdown living, and there’s no guarantee on ingredients, like wartime rationing. So, instead, take 850ml (1½ pt) of the best full-cream milk you can find, mix 5 tablespoons of custard powder with a little of it into a smooth paste, then combine all in a pan on the hob with 3 tablespoons of sugar, heat, and bring to the boil until thick.

At this point, you could add a pun­­net of chopped strawberries (washed and hulled). Oth­­­­­erwise, stir in 3 tablespoons of strawberry jam with 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, and combine. Pour into ramekins to cool a little, then into the fridge to chill. Dust with icing sugar, then serve garnished with mint leaves and a shortcake biscuit. Think of VE Day!

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