With Spring in the air, there are ample signs of newness burgeoning around. The season’s first rush of asparagus is just one of them. After making do with winter’s stony victuals and stock vegetables, it’s hard to pass up a bunch of asparagus with tender and supple shoots, the olive-like green leeching from the tips down to the bottom, fading to milky white just where the knobby trim lines stand out. Rich in vitamins B1, 2, 3, 6 and K, this Spring symbol can be cooked in a variety of ways, where it is notable in a colorful medley or just by itself. It is a perfect pick for a weeknight dinner, as one pads along the produce section with a bubble afloat on one’s head, filled with a potpourri of the finest food visuals, ingenious permutations that would braid well with the framework of the asparagus-centered meal.
Roasted asparagus and a spiced-up Tadka-style version of mashed potatoes make a terrific twosome, served on white china with a mist of roasted cumin powder along the lengths of succulent, shrivelled stems and the fiery glob of that pasty tuber. The dinner table is sure to come alive with peppy conversations that smack of fulfillment, and one will be left wishing for more dinners of the kind that will go blissfully pocketed into the folds of warm memories.
Tadka-licious Roasted Asparagus and Spicy Mashed Potatoes
For the Asparagus:
2 bundles of tender Asparagus spears
2 tablespoons light olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
Wash, trim and pat dry the Asparagus spears, line them in a single file on a baking tray. Sprinkle the salt and pepper, drizzle the olive oil and rub onto the spears to mix well. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until browned. 2-3 minutes before turning it off, sprinkle the sesame seeds and let them roast to a light brown as they glue onto the spears like tiny pearls.
For the Potatoes:
5 red skin potatoes
4 tablespoons mustard oil
1 teaspoon each of mustard, cumin, turmeric
1 tablespoon crushed red chilli flakes
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon green onions, finely minced, for garnishing
Wash, peel, salt and boil the potatoes until soft and buttery. In a pan, warm up the oil and season with mustard until it splutters and then add the cumin, turmeric, red chilli flakes. Toss the potatoes in and mash with the seasoning, checking for salt, spice and heat to redress accordingly. Let cook on low heat for 2 minutes, then scoop out big ladlefuls of it into bowls, inverting them onto plates in little mounds. Garnish with the green onions and a dollop of butter if you so please.
For a Tadka-style ta-da finale, mist plates with roasted cumin powder, along the asparagus stems and around the spiced-up globs of mashed potatoes. Enjoy with warm toast, soft, layered rotis, or even a bowl of creamy tomato soup for a healthy round-off. Or if you’re in the mood, a swig of the finest Riesling, perhaps from the Waiparan trails, would be just perfect to wash this down with.