This is my idea of a spring soup. I've made use of the local pick-your-own asparagus field in the last few weeks and enjoyed simple dishes of the freshest asparagus. But however fresh it might be, I always have to break off some of the tougher ends of the asparagus spears and throw them in the compost bin.
Being in a thrifty (well OK, hard up) frame of mind, I've been saving the asparagus ends this year. I've cut off the really grungy, woody bits and put the rest of the tough but tasty ends into the freezer. After a few asparagus lunches, I had enough for this soup. Asparagus doesn't freeze well, of course, and the texture is ruined, but in a soup that doesn’t really matter.
It’s really tempting to add loads of cream to asparagus soup but being in a healthy (well OK, fat) frame of mind I've tried to make this soup a little creamy without the cream.
The other twist in the recipe is that I used a little Korean apple vinegar which I bought on a recent trip to New Malden. This is a suburban area on the edge of south (that should really be pronounced 'sarf') London with a large South Korean population. I was supposed to be doing something useful there but as usual I got distracted by the Korean food shops, restaurants and bakery. As you might imagine, apple vinegar is a vinegar but with an apple taste. Cider vinegar will do instead although it doesn't have the same intensity of fruit.
This should serve 2.
2 small or 1 large shallot, chopped
3 tsp apple or cider vinegar
400 g (or thereabouts) asparagus ends, thawed if frozen
225 g new potatoes – Jersey Royals if you have them – scraped (or peeled) and chopped into smallish pieces
700 ml light vegetable stock
1 tbsp rice
4 or 5 mint leaves, roughly chopped
Small handful sorrel leaves, roughly chopped
Soften the shallot in a little rapeseed oil. Add the vinegar and let it largely evaporate. Add the asparagus and potatoes. Pour over the stock and add the rice. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 25 minutes until the vegetables are really tender and the rice is thoroughly cooked.
Add the mint and sorrel leaves and a little salt and pepper and continue simmering for another couple of minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little. Liquidise and sieve carefully. Adjust the seasoning.
Add a swirl of yoghurt if you fancy or just decorate with some chive petals.