Asparagus, beer add to flavour

SIMON HOLST
Last updated 08:06 20/11/2012

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This recipe combines a couple of our favourite foods, savoury muffins and asparagus.

Alison Holst most enjoys eating thicker asparagus stalks, so will often buy a couple of bunches and select the thicker stems for the plate, while the thinner ones can be used in recipes like this (or soup). Of course, the flavour of both thick and thin asparagus is the same, so you can use whichever you like.

FRESH ASPARAGUS MUFFINS

For 12 regular or 24 mini muffins:

11/2 cups self-raising flour

1-11/2 cups grated tasty cheese

1/2-1 tsp salt

1 large egg

1 cup milk/asparagus cooking liquid

1 cup (200-250g, 1 bunch) finely chopped cooked asparagus

Cook 200-250g asparagus in a quarter cup water (without salt) until tender crisp. (This takes 3-4 minutes in a loosely closed oven bag in a microwave on high power, and about the same time on the stove, in a covered pot, with a little extra water.)

Cool the tender crisp asparagus quickly so that it does not overcook and lose its bright green colour. Pour the cooking liquid into a cup (and save it), then slice the asparagus thinly into 4mm lengths, with a sharp knife. This should produce about a cup of "pressed down" asparagus.

Measure the self-raising flour, grated cheese and salt into a large bowl and toss with a fork. (Use the smaller amount of salt if you use the larger amount of cheese.) In a smaller bowl beat the egg with the asparagus liquid which has been made up to one cup with milk.

Combine the dry ingredients, liquid mixture, and cooled chopped asparagus, folding everything together, only enough to dampen the flour. Do not stir until smooth or the texture of the cooked muffins will not be so good.

Again taking care not to mix between each spoonful, spoon the mixture into well-sprayed, non-stick muffin pans. For a particularly attractive appearance, sprinkle tops with a little grated cheese and some paprika if desired, or top each with a few green pumpkin seeds.

Bake at about 210 degrees Celsius for 10-14 minutes, according to size, until the tops and sides are browned and centres spring back when pressed. Adjust oven temperature up or down if the muffins are not nicely browned and cooked in this time.

Leave to stand until muffins are firm enough to twist then lift from the pans without breaking. Serve while warm, or reheated.

BEER-BRAISED CHICKEN

This is essentially an oven- friendly version of an American concept. In the original version, the chicken is rubbed with the herb and/or spice mixture, then balanced on its end with an opened can of beer in the cavity, and cooked in a large kettle-style barbecue.

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While you could do this in an oven, it is easier to lie the chicken down and pour the beer around it in a smallish roasting pan. This way you could cook it on a smaller covered barbecue too.

In terms of flavour you would never guess that this chicken is cooked sitting in beer, but it does keep the flesh moist and tender.

For 6 servings:

Marinade

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh herbs (thyme, basil, rosemary, marjoram and the like)

2 tsp paprika

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

pinch chilli powder (optional)

1.8kg chicken

330ml can of lager (or any favourite lightish coloured beer)

Using a mortar and pestle, or small food processor or grinder, blend or crush the marinade ingredients together to make a thin paste.

Wash and dry the chicken, inside and out, then rub the cavity and skin with the marinade paste. Place the bird in an oven dish, roasting pan or foil tray (about 20 x 30cm) and leave to stand while the oven or barbecue heats. (If you're working in advance or if you've planned ahead and time allows the chicken can be marinated in the fridge for up to 24 hours.)

Heat the oven or barbecue to 180C. Pour the beer into the roasting dish around the chicken, then cook uncovered for 50-60 minutes until well browned and the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced at the thickest part.

Serve with a green, tomato and/ or rice salad if the weather is warm, or even roast vegetables (if you've had the oven on why not?) if the weather is cooler.

- Taranaki Daily News

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