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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Asparagus Bread ‘Torta’






This unusual dish was inspired by the London chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. His was a bread ‘pudding’ but when I called my version that at a brunch we hosted, everyone was very skeptical. Luckily I was convincing enough to get everyone to try it. My little asparagus dish stole the show. And it was competing with bacon so that’s saying something.


I’m really sorry if it’s not asparagus season where you live. See the variations for alternative veg ideas

enough for 4-6

500g (1lb) asparagus (about 2 bunches)
2 cups milk [500 ml]
3 eggs
3 croissants, sliced about 1cm (1/2in) thick
2 large handfuls grated parmesan cheese
green salad, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Break the woody bottoms off the asparagus and pop in a loaf pan 24cm x 12cm (approx 9.5in x 5in) with a little oil.

2. Roast for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is almost tender.

3. Combine milk, eggs and parmesan in a large bowl. Season. Toss in the croissants to moisten.

4. When the asparagus is cooked, place on a chopping board and slice half into chunks, leaving the remaining stems whole.

5. Line the loaf pan with baking (parchment) paper. Layer half the croissants in the pan. Sprinkle over the chopped asparagus. Layer in the remaining croissants and pour over the rest of the egg mixture. Top with whole asparagus spears.

6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until well browned and puffy. If you touch the top with your finger it should spring back.

7. Cool a little before slicing and serving with salad.

Variations

dairy-free – replace milk with your favourite dairy-free milk spiked with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, I’d personally go with almond milk. And you might want to use bread instead of buttery croissants. Use about 8 slices of a rustic loaf like a sourdough chopped into cubes. And just skip the parmsean.

gluten-free – replace croissants with about 8 slices GF bread that have been cut into chunks. You might like to substitute cream for the milk to make up for the lack of croissant butteriness (I would!).

different veg – when it’s not asparagus season I’d try broccolini, zucchini, eggplant (aubergine) or red peppers or a combo. Adjust the roasting time of the veg as needed.

carnivore – toss in some cooked sausage or crispy chopped bacon in with the chopped asparagus in step 5.

pescetarian – add some chopped smoked trout, smoked salmon, tuna or canned salmon in with the chopped asparagus in step 5.

more decadent – the first time I made this I used cream instead of the milk. It was really good!


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