Asparagus season is here! As I love this veg, I’m making the most of its wide availability and cook bunches of it every week these days. The sturdy green variety is particularly versatile. It can be blanched or griddled, used as part of a stir-fry or shaved in raw ribbons to make up a salad and the result will be delicious every time. When I truly want to make this vegetable shine, I turn on the oven and make a large platter of roasted asparagus with new potatoes, a quick vinaigrette and a load of chopped fresh herbs.
When you prepare potatoes and green asparagus in the oven together, magic happens. The fresh and grassy flavour of the asparagus is enhanced, while the tips turn nice and crisp. As the potatoes are roasted in their skins, the centres turn creamy and develop a deep, sweet and almost caramel-like flavour.
These flavours come together when you mix the vegetables with the vinaigrette: a simple mixture of oil, mustard and vinegar, with a generous dose of freshly chopped herbs. I make it with a combination of my personal favourite herbs: dill, tarragon and chervil. Asparagus is good with almost all soft-leaved herbs and when I first added them, I was mainly thinking of that fact. But while these herbs do taste amazing with the asparagus, they work even better with the potatoes. Dill, tarragon and chervil all share a soft licorice and aniseed flavour which enhances the sweetness of the potatoes. The capers and vinegar balance this sweetness, while mustard and course sea salt crystals make the whole thing nice and savoury.
This combination is a firm favourite at our place. But if the herbs I used don’t happen to be to your taste, or not all of them are available, you can easily adapt the recipe using herbs to match your personal preference. Basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley make good alternatives, for example, as do peppery water cress and garden cress.
Happy springtime cooking!
Oven-roasted asparagus with vinaigrette, fresh herbs and capers – serves 4
- 1 kg small new potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
- 6 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 kg green asparagus
- bunch of tarragon
- bunch of dill
- bunch of chervil
- carton of atsina cress (optional)
- 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. sugar (optional)
- 2 tbsp. capers
- coarse sea salt, to taste
Heat the oven to 220oC/425F/Gas7.
Mix the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, then spread them on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes.
Bend the bases of the asparagus to snap off the woody ends. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Mix the asparagus through the potatoes and the oil left on the baking sheet, then roast the vegetables together for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the herbs. In a bowl, mix the vinegar with the last 4 tablespoons of oil, the mustard, the sugar if using, and some salt and pepper. Whisk to a vinaigrette, then stir in the herbs.
When the vegetables are done, arrange them on a large platter and toss with the vinaigrette.
Enjoy straight away, scattered with the capers and a pinch of course sea salt.