Marinated Sardines, Poached White Asparagus and Truffle

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh sardines, approximately 15 cm (6 inches) long, descaled, filleted
  • fine sea salt
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white wine vinegar
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil

Poached White Asparagus

  • 8 thick white asparagus spears
  • 13 g (½ oz) sea salt
  • 10 g (¼ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 50 ml ( fl oz) olive oil

Hazelnut Vinaigrette

  • 1 French shallot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 50 g ( oz/ cup) hazelnuts, blanched, toasted and coarsely crushed
  • 50 ml ( fl oz) hazelnut oil
  • 15 g (½ oz) chives, finely chopped
  • 12 g (¼ oz) black truffle, finely diced (if not in season, use good quality black truffle paste)
  • sea salt

Celery Leaf Salad

  • 250 g (9 oz) inner leaves of celery heart
  • 15 g (½ oz/½ bunch) chervil
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • borage or other edible flowers, to garnish

Method

Lay the sardine fillets on a clean tray and season both sides with sea salt. Cover and leave for 3 hours in the refrigerator to cure. Fill a shallow bowl with a small amount of vinegar — just enough to be able to submerge the fillets. Rinse the fillets in vinegar by dipping them in briefly; do not leave them submerged. Pat dry with paper towel and lay the fillets flat in a single layer on a rimmed plate or in a shallow bowl. Add enough olive oil to cover. Allow to marinate for at least 6 hours.

Remove the bottom fibrous part of the asparagus stems and gently peel the asparagus from just below the tip, reserving all the trimmings. Put the trimmings in a medium saucepan and cover with 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) water. Place over low to medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain the poaching liquid into a bowl, add the salt, sugar, vinegar and olive oil and stir to combine.

Place the peeled asparagus in a large frying pan in a single layer and cover with the poaching liquid mixture. Poach over very low heat for approximately 20 minutes: the asparagus should still retain some texture — firm but not crunchy — and yield slightly when pinched. Gently transfer the asparagus to another vessel, lay flat and cover with just enough of the cooking liquid to cover. Allow to cool.

For the hazelnut vinaigrette, toss the shallot with the sherry vinegar in a small bowl and set aside to macerate for 10 minutes. Add the crushed hazelnuts, hazelnut oil, chives and truffle to the bowl and stir gently to combine.

Just before serving, toss together the celery leaves and chervil with a few drops of lemon juice and olive oil. Season with sea salt.

Lay the poached asparagus on a serving plate, drape with a sardine fillet and spoon over the hazelnut vinaigrette. Scatter with the celery leaf salad and garnish with edible flowers.