With Chef Joe Grbac, Saxe Restaurant
As the days get longer, the signs of spring are all around. Trees are bursting with new growth, leaves and blossom are everywhere. And in the vegetable patch, asparagus – the king of the spring greens – is beginning its welcome reign.
Asparagus grows amazingly well here and nothing can emulate its flavour. More than 90% of all of Australian asparagus is grown in Koo Wee Rup, a town about 63 kilometres from Melbourne.
There are many ways to enjoy asparagus. Seek out the larger spears that are about as thick as your thumb, lightly oil, salt and cook over a preheated grill or barbecue. Or boil some water, then drop three eggs in and cook for six minutes, remove and place in iced water to cool, then peel and crush. Meanwhile, blanch asparagus for 2-3.5 minutes then remove and dress with the crushed egg, a good lug of olive oil and a pinch of salt flakes.
For pure indulgence seek out some white asparagus spears, one of my favourite vegetables ever.
Spring is also the start of the season for peas and broad beans. When choosing broad beans look out for smaller, shorter beans with no black spots. The pods should be firm and stiff, the inside furry white. If you manage to get baby ones, don’t even cook them – just peel them from the outer big pod then crush using a mortar and pestle, add some lemon zest, olive oil and enjoy with some just-boiled pasta and fresh ricotta.
Baby Globe artichokes are a lot of work to peel and braise, but the rewards are so great. Try them out in by sauteeing them with garlic and onion or roast them. They are great dressed with either a zesty lemon flavour or with creamier options such as aioli or a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
By late September you will begin to see one of my favourite fruits, the mango. The aroma can stop you in your tracks! To serve, simply peel and dress very lightly with a few drops of lime juice. Add some passionfruit seeds and you are in heaven. There’s no better combination to grace the top of a pavlova, making this the perfect way to round off a spring menu.