I was very excited when the postie knocked on my door to deliver a parcel of goodies from the Australian Asparagus Council. New Australian asparagus can only mean one thing, the beginning of spring!!! I do so love asparagus, and wanted a new way to show off its glory to you this year. It got me thinking about Japanese vegetable tempura; what a great way to show off seasonal vegetables! In had a think about what else is exciting and interesting in spring. I did a little exploring of fiddlehead ferns, but landed myself on the leaves of green garlic at the market this time of year. The young spring garlic can be used just like spring onion, but rather than tasting like onions, it tastes, well, like garlic. I love to use the green leaves in all sorts of ways, and thought they’d be great in tempura.
I am totally convinced that the perfect accompaniment to these spring green vegetable tempura is green tea salt. You want the highest possible quality of green tea for this. I was blessed to have some incredible cold sencha tea in my pantry, a friend bought it back for me from Japan. I’d been saving it for an ice-cream making date that we keep not making. The tea is incredibly fragrant and flavourful. It provides an almost indescribable flavour to accompany the tempura, it has a natural sweetness, and umami character. The tannins and bitterness of tea is extracted with hot water, so these characteristics don’t come out when the tea is used this way.
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a starter
Sencha sea salt
|1||teaspoon||very good quality sencha tea|
|1||bunch||green garlic leaves|
|flour, for dusting|
|1||pinch||bi carbonate soda|
|1||free range egg|
|1||cup||ice-cold soda water|
|oil, for frying|
To prepare the sencha salt, place the tea in a mortar and pestle and grind it to a course powder. Add the salt, and grind a little longer. Transfer to a serving dish and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables for the tempura. Bend the asparagus spears till they naturally break. Discard the woody base, and keep the top. Cut the garlic leaves into pieces about the same length as the asparagus. Dust the vegetables in flour.
Sift the plain flour, corn flour and bi-carb in a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Crack in the egg, add the ice cold soda water and mix with chopsticks till barely combined. You still want the batter to be lumpy.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep frying pan. You want it to sizzle as soon as you let a drop of water fall in.
Working in batches, dip the vegetables in batter and fry till golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain.
Serve immediately with sencha sea salt.