Asparagus tempura with stir fried noodles

Food blogs and RSS feeds are marvellous things, forming a huge recipe book that you can search for inspiration. The other day I came across this recipe on Nigel Slater’s feed for The Guardian, which helped me avoid a repeat of asparagus on toast. Twice in one week is not what you’d want to see in a blog I imagine.

Now tempura didn’t seem filling enough on it’s own and the fridge seemed to only hold old parsnips, fruit and carrots, hardly inspiring for some stir fried noodles with veg no matter how much I want to minimise our household food waste.

Shyly tucked away though, in the back corner, was the light green centre of a savoy cabbage. I’d forgotten it was there, but a stir fry would be a fitting end for it.

To keep the attention on the asparagus, I used about half the dipping sauce to flavour the noodles, and added a few dashes of mirin, sesame oil and light soy sauce.

My timing was a little off on this so if you’re doing the asparagus tempura get that ready first and as soon as you start the stir fry throw the noodles into the water from the asparagus steamer and start frying the tempura.

Nigel Slater’s Tempura:
Serves 2
asparagus 12 spears

For the batter:
plain flour 90g plus a little more
cornflour 2 tbsp
egg yolk 1, beaten
iced water 200ml
deep oil for frying

For the dipping sauce:
lime juice 30ml
lemon juice 30ml
orange juice 50ml
dark soy sauce 6 tsp
caster sugar 1 tsp or to taste

Make the dressing: put the juices in a bowl, stir in the soy sauce and sugar. Set aside.

Cut the asparagus into short lengths and steam for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender. Cool quickly under cold running water and set aside. Briefly boil the broad beans and chill under cold water.

Sift the flour and cornflour into a large bowl. (Sifting makes a lighter batter.) Pour in the beaten egg and iced water and mix, briefly, with a fork or chopsticks. Now mix in enough extra flour to take the mixture to the consistency of double cream. (Probably a further couple of tablespoons.) Test for consistency by dipping in a piece of asparagus: it should lightly coat the spear, but you should be able to see through it. Don’t worry about lumps, and try not to overmix, which will result in a heavy crust.

Get the oil hot, ideally to 180C. Test by dropping in a dot of batter. If it rises to the surface immediately, it is hot enough.

Dip the asparagus and broad beans in the batter then straight into the oil. Fry until the batter is crisp – a matter of seconds – not allowing them to colour much past a pale ivory. Serve immediately with the sauce.

A by-no-means-authentic stir fry

Small onion
Clove garlic
2 cm ginger
Cabbage
Carrot
Ground nut or vegetable oil
Sesame oil
Light soy sauce

Thinly slice all the vegetables and put the wok on a high heat.
Add the ginger, fry for 30 seconds and then add the remaining veg. Stir fry vigorously for about five minutes before adding half the dipping sauce and the cooked noodles. Before serving, drizzle over a little sesame oil, a few dashes of mirin and light soy sauce.

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