White Asparagus with Comte-Infused Milk Curd, Roasted Nuts and Herb Flowers

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

Quay

By Peter Gilmore

Published 2010

  • About

The idea of being able to eat fresh milk curd from the cheese-making process is attractive. Here I have infused grated aged comte in Jersey milk, which has a higher fat content than regular milk, and lightly set it with rennet. It’s served immediately while still warm; the curd is delicate yet its flavour echoes the more matured comte. I always look forward to white asparagus in spring.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) Homogenised Jersey Milk
  • 100 g ( oz) Finely Grated Aged Comte Cheese
  • 100 g ( oz) Pine Nuts
  • 100 g ( oz) Sunflower Seeds
  • 10 g (¼ oz) Puffed Quinoa
  • 200 g (7 oz) Shelled and Halved Hazelnuts
  • 40 White Asparagus Spears
  • Fine Sea Salt
  • 10 ml (¼ fl oz) Still Mineral Water
  • 3 ml (1/10 fl oz) Vegetarian Rennet
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) Clarified Brown Butter
  • 100 g ( oz) Unsalted Butter
  • 24 Nasturtium Leaves
  • 16 Rocket (Arugula) Flowers
  • 16 Cucumber Flowers
  • 16 White Borage Flowers
  • 16 Elderflower Sprigs
  • 8 Sprigs Bronze Fennel
  • 16 Onion Chive Flower Buds
  • 8 Sprigs Parsley Flowers

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Place the Jersey milk into a saucepan and heat to 90°C (195°F). Add the comte cheese and mix in well. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the cheese and milk to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the milk through a sieve lined with muslin cloth, and discard any solids. Refrigerate the milk until required.

Roast the pine nuts, sunflower seeds, puffed quinoa and hazelnuts separately in the oven until they are golden brown.

Peel the white asparagus and discard the bottom 5 cm (2 inches) of the spear. Check and trim the lengths so they are uniform. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the asparagus for 4–5 minutes.

Meanwhile, reheat the comte-infused milk until it reaches 40°C (105°F). Check the seasoning and add a little sea salt if necessary. Have eight small Chinese rice bowls ready. Mix the mineral water and rennet together. Stir the milk with a spoon to create a whirlpool effect and add the rennet and water mixture while the milk is swirling. This will ensure an even distribution of rennet. Immediately ladle an equal amount of milk into each rice bowl and allow the curds to set in a warm place. This should only take a couple of minutes.

In a small saucepan, add the brown butter and pine nuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa and hazelnuts. Heat gently to warm the nuts and seeds.

Melt the butter and drain the asparagus. Brush the melted butter over the asparagus and season with sea salt.

To Finish and Plate

Place five asparagus spears in the centre of each warmed serving plate. Using a small palette knife, release the curds from the edge of the rice bowls, making sure they are completely free. Tip the curd onto the asparagus, then spoon over an equal quantity of the warmed nut, seed and brown butter mixture on to the curds. Attractively arrange all the herbs and flowers on top, and serve immediately.