Tuesday, 18 February 2014


White Asparagus poached in a cream sauce , Pine Genoise sponge , Toasted pine nuts , Juniper berries , Pine oil , Conifer fronds and new season pine shoots.

                     I stumbled across this pairing a few months ago and have wanted to give it a try ever  since. So when finally white asparagus made its way to the shelves, I went about foraging for a good source of wild pine and conifer trees growing in the neighbouring parklands. In this dish I infused sugar with pine needles and then used the sugar to make the genoise , which is a form of sponge named after the Italian city of Genoa. The genoise sponge is known for not using chemical leavening but giving the cake its volume through a technique of suspending the batter with aeration. Unlike a basic sponge the eggs are separated and introduced to the mix by creaming the yolks first with sugar and then down the track folding in the egg whites. The original recipe called for the use of essential pine oil of aroma therapy quality, I opted for infusing olive oil with pine needles over a low heat to make the pine oil instead, as I find the essential oil to overpowering for this application.                                                          
                      I began preparing this plate by making the genoise first. To do this I first placed sugar and pine needles in a coffee grinder and pulverised to a powder pouring through a sieve to remove the chaff. I then placed the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and beat until tripled in size. To this I added a little green colouring and plain flour and some corn starch and whisked to form a batter. In a separate bowl I beat egg whites with a little cream of tartare to a soft peak and folded this carefully into the batter before pouring into a lined cake. The sponge was baked in a 180 deg.c oven for around 15 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool. While this was cooling I prepared the asparagus by chopping into pieces and poaching in a little cream and salt and pepper until soft and tender. The asparagus were then removed from the heat and set aside for plating later. To make the pine oil I simply infused pine needles in olive oil over a low heat for about 45-50 minutes before cooling. To accompany I dressed the conifer fronds and pine shoots in olive oil and toasted some pine nuts in a hot skillet. to finish I cracked some pepper medley over the dish and crushed some juniper berries for more of that alpine touch of flavour.


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