Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Asparagus Strudel - A yearly request

Every year I ask my sister what she wants me to cook for her birthday. And every year I hope that she'll say something that surprises me, that gives me an excuse to consult all my recipe books and dive into an elaborate, time-consuming, special occasion cooking binge. But year after year her response is always the same: "Your Spargelstrudel, Jen". I try to reason with her - "Oh but I saw the most amazing recipe for a rack of lamb" or "There's this mushroom leek tart that you would surely love, I mean you like mushrooms, right?" - but without any success. All she wants - all she has been waiting for since the last bite on her last birthday - is my asparagus strudel.

So, I sigh, and go to the market to pick up some green, seasonal, local asparagus. Then I go home and sigh again, as I roll out the puff pastry dough, while the asparagus briefly boils with some salt, sugar and butter, and place a layer of famers ham on top of the dough. Then I cut the asparagus in half, lay them over the ham, cover with a generous amount of shredded gouda and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. And I sigh again, as I role up the sides of the dough and put it into the preheated oven for about 25 minutes.

Then I twiddle my thumbs and stare into the air, not sure what to do with myself as this whole processes didn't take more than 15 minutes. But then I remember that I'm also in charge of the cake and am happy again.

I sigh one last time as I bite into the strudel, because year after year I wonder how something this simple can be this good and why I don't make it more often. Happy birthday, sis.

My take on an asparagus strudel

In any dish, the quality of the ingredients largely influences its success  - and when only four ingredients are involved, the quality is key. I only make this strudel when asparagus is in season. I buy good quality puff pastry (made by a local bakery but I hear the DuFour puff pastry you can get in the U.S. is really good). I use my favorite Gouda (feel free to use any cheese you think would go well) and ham produced by a local farmer.

Makes 1 strudel

1 rectangular puff pastry dough (about 250g // 8.8 oz)
100g // 3.5oz of your favorite smoked ham
500g // 1.1 lbs of green asparagus
130g // 4.5oz of Gouda, coarsely grated
5g // 1 teaspoon of butter
Salt, pepper, sugar

Preheat oven to the temperature listed on the puff pastry package (around 200°C // 400°F).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wash the asparagus and chop off the woody ends and cook them in the boiling water with a dash of sugar and a teaspoon of butter for 8-12 minutes.

In the meantime roll out the pastry dough, and cover the middle with an even layer of ham, leaving enough room on the left and right to be able to close the strudel at the end (see photos above).

Drain the asparagus and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them off a bit. Then cut them in half, so that they are about the length of the ham layer. Place them next to each other on top of the ham. Sprinkle the gouda on top and season with salt and pepper.

Carefully fold the sides of the puff pastry over the filling and seal, pressing down on the seams. You can brush the strudel with milk or an egg yoke before placing it in the oven for the time written on the puff pastry package (normally around 25 minutes).

Enjoy with a nice salad!

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