Green Asparagus, Romesco and Idiazabal Cheese

This recipe for Green Asparagus, Romesco and Idiazabal Cheese is a perfect easy starter for a Spanish dinner party.

Sabor: Flavours from a Spanish Kitchen
By
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Introduction

I love this with a crispy fried egg (puntilla) on top, or shaved summer truffle. You may not need all of the romesco, but it isn't possible to make a smaller amount in the blender. Any that's left over will be delicious with everything, and it keeps well in the fridge.

Serves 4-6
Easy

Ingredients

16 fresh medium-sized English asparagus spears, hard woody ends snapped off (usually the end 3-4cm)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
80g roasted hazelnuts, roughly crushed with the back of a knife
2 shallots, chopped
3 tbsp Pedro Ximénez (PX)
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra for the griddle
80g Idiazabal cheese, or other sheep's cheese
½ bunch of basil
For the romesco (makes around 500g):
3 whole heads of garlic
250ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the garlic, tomatoes and bread
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g whole blanched almonds
6-8 fresh ripe plum tomatoes
2 slices of stale bread
1-2 dried chillies (depending on their size), soaked in warm water for a couple of hours
3-4 dried choricero peppers (depending on their size), soaked in warm water for a couple of hours
100ml sherry vinegar

Essential kit

You will need: one large griddle plan.

Instructions

First, you need to roast all the ingredients for the romesco. Preheat the over to 170-180C. Cut the garlic in half crossways and place it on a large piece of foil. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and fold over the foil to close. Roast for 20 minutes, until very soft, then squeeze out all of the cloves.

Put the almonds on a baking tray in a single layer and roast in the oven until a light golden brown (around 6-7 minutes).

Remove the core from the tomatoes with a small knife, place on a roasting tray with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 8-10 minutes. The tomatoes will start to break down and lose their liquid and the juices will colour with the olive oil.

Put 1cm of oil into a pan on medium heat and fry the bread until golden brown on both sides - it should be toasted and have absorbed all the oil.

Put the tomatoes (with their skins) into a blender with the garlic, chillies and choriceros, the 250ml of olove oil and the vinegar, and blend to make a dark, thick paste. Rip up the toasted bread and add along with salt, pepper and the almonds. Pulse to blend, so that it comes together but you keep some texture - of you want it to be creamier, keep blending. Keep it warm until you need it. 

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 40 seconds, then remove to a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking and keep them green.

Mix the crushed hazelnuts in a bowl with the shallots, vinegar and olive oil to make a dressing. Shave the Idiazabal.

Drizzle a little more olive oil on a large griddle pan and put on a medium heat, then add the blanched asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook for around a minute - just enough to caramelize slightly and warm through. 

Spoon the romesco on to your plates, place the asparagus on top and drizzle over the hazelnut dressing. 

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