I have come to the conclusion that asparagus is highly over-rated. Sure, it looks interesting and makes a great subject for photography and is probably extremely healthy to the boot. All I know is that out here, asparagus is very expensive and just not worth the expenditure. I’m probably in the minority when it comes to dislike of asparagus, but I think I can live with that.
The first time I ever ate asparagus wasn’t in the best of circumstances. It was about 10 years back when Akshaya and I were on a trip from Goa to Lisbon in Portugal via Milan. After a long and tiring flight to Milan we had to take a short flight into Lisbon. We got into one of those cute toy-like planes when the pilot, who also seemed to be the purser, came to us with a long list in his hands and a very worried look on his face.
It turned out that despite our asking for 2 vegetarian meals, a very efficient computer system had sent in a request only for 1! He was quite upset about the mistake and assured us that they would provide us with enough bread/ rolls/ butter/ cheese/ jam/ spreads/ fruit/tea/ coffee and whatever else he could think of offering us from their stock on board.
We reassured him saying we were fine so long as we got some form of vegetarian food. The plane took off and our food arrived. Those were the days when the word “vegetarian”, in many parts of the world, meant steam cooked vegetables seasoned with salt and pepper!
So naturally, the vegetarian meal which we had ordered turned out to be some boiled/ steamed carrots and asparagus accompanied by salt, pepper and a little bottle of olive oil! Akshaya being a typically smart 4 year old took one look at it, wrinkled her nose in disgust and told me, “Amma, you can have that and I’ll have the other food!”
So there I was, towards the end of a long journey and a few twenty or thirty thousand feet above land, trying very hard to soothe the rumbles of my angry (and hungry) stomach while chewing away on salted and peppered asparagus doused with olive oil. Can you imagine what sort of a meal that was to someone brought up on Indian food? Adding insult to injury, I had to watch my daughter feasting on a comparatively sumptuous selection of fruit and yogurt, a variety of bread rolls with cheese, butter and fruit preserves!
Recently, for the first time, I came across fresh asparagus at my vegetable market. Anything new (well, not quite) and different is always fodder for this blog and my camera. Ignoring the rather persistent memories from the past, I bought a few of those slightly expensive stalks of green and thought they would be more palatable if hidden in a tart.
Living in the hot and humid tropics means that one is almost always sure to fail with butter laden dough. Gordon Ramsay’s rough puff pastry is what I normally resort to when I need to make some of my own. So armed with some home-made pastry and an asparagus tart recipe put together from too many sources to mention, I made a tart.
I believe the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy”, but for me and asparagus it was a case of “Twice bitten, shy forever”! I have finally arrived at the conclusion that asparagus and I (we) were never meant to be. None of us really liked it though the tart was definitely an improvement over my previous experience! So why am I posting this after all the complaining I’ve been doing? For two reasons, actually. The first is that I believe this being a more “exotic” variety of vegetable out here, we probably haven’t been getting the best of the asparagus crop.
The other reason is that for those of you who do like asparagus, because you should definitely try this tart as it is good. The rough puff pastry is a time saver and the paneer/ ricotta filling is a delight. If you want, leave out the asparagus as I would, and just add another couple of layers of potatoes and you’ll have an even better tart.