Asparagusic acid – when our bodies digest asparagus it breaks down this chemical to form a sulfur containing compound with long and complicated names like dimethyl sulfoxide, and like many sulfurs (think natural gas) it is a powerful and often unpleasant smell. Here’s a mystery, apparently 20 -40 % of the population can’t smell it after they have consumed and consequently gone to the toilet , they somehow lack the ability to smell it. There is some evidence or is it a theory that genetics might be involved. You can read more from Joseph Stromberg here.
To the monthly soup! The southern hemisphere heralds the season for asparagus so what better way to celebrate than making this elegant but simple soup.
Asparagus as a vegetable is a standout. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, C ,K fibre, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, potassium, manganese, copper and antioxidants. The ancient Romans actually valued asparagus for its medicinal purposes. We should too.
The advantages for those using or transitioning from a PEG is that asparagus is high in compounds known as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) a type of soluble fibre. FOS also are known to help lower blood lipids such as cholesterol and tryglycerides, and on top of this they are known to act as a prebiotic, a substance that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestine.
Put a couple of bunches in your shopping bag. Let’s get to it.
Asparagus Parmesan and Lemon Soup
2 bunches asparagus – bottom ends trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
2 medium brown onions, chopped
3 -4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 litre of chicken stock ( homemade or packet)
White pepper to taste ( cracked black pepper if you can swallow it)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, Zest from one lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or you could substitute Pecorino
Handful fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill or basil (optional, for garnish) as a HNC I don’t use garnish.
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not brown; reduce the heat if necessary.
- In the meantime, cut the tips off one bunch of asparagus and set aside (you’ll use those for a garnish). I often just take the root ends off the asparagus and chop up the rest tips and all and put it in the pot (see step 4) and that way you don’t have to bother with step 5)
- Cut the remaining spears and the other bunch of asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Add the chopped asparagus to the pot (minus the reserved tips), along with the chicken broth, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender.
- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the reserved asparagus tips for a few minutes, or until tender-crisp. Drain the tips and then place them in a bowl of ice water to “shock” them — this stops the cooking process and preserves their bright green colour. Once the tips are cool, drain them and set aside.
- Purée the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth. (Alternatively, use a standard blender to purée the soup in batches, then return the soup to the pot.) See note at bottom. Bring the soup back to a simmer and stir in the lemon juice (the zest) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan). Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. To thicken the soup, allow it to simmer, uncovered, until the desired consistency is reached. You need to taste this soup at this stage to ensure it has enough lemon and parmesan for your liking. I tend to put a lot more lemon juice and zest than the recipe recommends because that’s how I like it.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, then top each bowl with asparagus tips, Parmigiano-Reggiano, herbs (if using), and freshly ground black pepper, use white pepper for dysphagia.
Note: Try to get fresh and young asparagus. Some recipes suggest strain it as asparagus can be very woody and will leave “strings” after blending. If your asparagus is young and fresh you should not need to do this step. You can also serve and drink this soup cold. You may also add cream – up to you how much, but for this amount of liquid I’d suggest a cup.