A Recipe: Asparagus Rice Paper Rolls

When I think of asparagus, I am often reminded of Edouard Manet's painting: A Bunch of Asparagus and, the charming story behind it. Sold to Charles Ephrussi, a notable art critic and collector for the sum of eight hundred francs, Ephrussi, in great admiration paid him one thousand. In return, Manet sent him a canvas with a single spear and a note saying: 'There was one missing from your bunch.'
British asparagus season is in full swing, traditionally ending by the time of the summer solstice. If you have had your fill of buttered spears; dipped in vinaigrette or soft boiled egg; griddled and wrapped in pancetta -perhaps you might consider this recipe of asparagus wrapped in rice paper rolls.


Makes 8 rolls.


16 spears asparagus
100g rice vermicelli
1 medium sized carrot
Handful of mint
Handful of coriander
5-6 chive flowers (optional)
Handful mustard flowers (optional)
50g toasted cashew nuts
2tbsp dark soy (or fish sauce for non-vegetarians)
2 limes -juiced
1tbsp sesame oil
8 rice paper wrappers


On a high heat, griddle (or steam if preferred) the asparagus until the outside is a little charred and blistered. Set aside to cool.

Place the rice vermicelli in a bowl and pour over some hot water. Allow noodles to soften, approximately 2-3 minutes, drain and then rinse with cold water. Cut the carrot into thin batons and add to the noodles. Putting aside a few whole leaves, roughly tear the mint and coriander and add to the bowl. If using, add the flowers and the toasted cashew nuts after smashing them roughly in a pestle and mortar. Add the soy, lime juice and sesame oil, then mix thoroughly.


To assemble, place hot water into a shallow bowl. Dip in the rice paper wrapper and allow to soften -approximately 5 sec. Carefully remove to a plate and away from the centre of the wrapper, place some of the vermicelli mix in a line. Fold over a little of the wrapper, then add two halved asparagus spears and a whole mint leaf and 2-3 coriander leaves. Tuck in the sides of the wrappers and finish rolling. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice; I quite like a combination of soy and sweet rice vinegar.

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