Asparagus, fennel and beetroot with verjus

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Just when I thought Ottolenghi was infallible – I made this.

On paper it was going to be great. Three of my favourite ingredients are beetroot, asparagus and fennel – and they are all in this dish. And they all require no cooking (unless you’ve roasted some raw beetroot).

Actually – it’s worth making the comparison here between the shop bought stuff that has been prepacked – and buying raw beetroots and roasting them. The stuff in the packet just doesn’t have the flavour and generally has a very high water content – it’s a poor imitation of the real thing.

Often books ask you to boil them in water – or roast them wrapped in foil. I do neither. I simply top and tail them – put them in a Halogen oven and roast them – with no oil – just as they are – until they are tender – which generally takes 40 minutes. Let them cool – peel them – and they will be so tasty and not at all wet.

Anyway – back to the recipe. There are only two other ingredients to this recipe. Pinenuts – which you toast at the end – and Verjus.

I first saw Verjus when I watched Australian Masterchef. The Australian format of Masterchef is far superior to the UK version – far more engaging – and you really get to know the competitors and the hosts/chefs. Anyway – on the show they visited the farm of Maggie Beer. She used verjus in one of her recipes and sung its praises so I was curious to get some.

Verjus is a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit (says WIKIpedia). This is quite an understatement – it’s MEGA acidic and sour. I tasted it before I carried on with the recipe! 

The recipe wants you to reduce 320ml of this very sour juice down to 3 tablespoons – 45ml. So make it even more sour and acidic. I have to say the result was intense.

I’m quite well known at work for liking really sour sweets – and really salty liquorice. I’ve yet to be defeated on the sour sweets – but I reckon the reduction of this verjus could be used to create a monster! It was probably the most sour thing I’ve tasted. Maybe there are different sournesses (is that a word) of Verjus – I hope so – otherwise I’ll never use this ingredient again.

The dish is essentially all the prepped vegetables with the Verjus dribbled on top – and then dressed with the pinenuts and some dill.

Neither of us liked it – it was too sour. It was like having all the moisture sucked out of your face. Not good. Such a shame because the Fennel and the Asparagus were very good before the dressing (chef’s snacks!).

Oh well – you can’t win them all.

 

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