Asparagus Soup (warm or chilled) with Crab Biscotti

It's that wonderful time of the year: scarves, gloves and woolly hats have been packed away (and I better not have to unpack them again until October!), the birds are chirping, the sun is (mostly) shining and my mode of transportation is once again a 'Boris' bike.  Oh, and did I mention that it's almost Asparagus season?  Delicious raw and shaved into a salad with a lemon dressing, boiled until just tender with parma ham and poached eggs, or simply griddled with a drizzle of oil and sea salt, these delicate stalks are so versatile.  Here is a simple recipe for a delicious, wholesome asparagus soup that goes so well with this sweet and subtle crab biscotti.  Perfect served chilled when the sun is scorching, or warm when it has decided to retreat (as it sometimes does in this country).  

Asparagus soup, hot or chilled, with crab biscotti (serves 4)

For the crab biscotti:

  • 135g self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp mixed, dried herbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1.5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 56g room temperature, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 30g white crab meat
  • sea salt and pepper

For the asparagus soup:

  • 500g asparagus, chopped, (discarding white tough ends, reserving the tips)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1l vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tsp chopped chives
  • 100ml double cream
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

For the crab biscotti:

Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

Mix together the flour, herbs and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together.

To the sugar and butter mixture, beat in the egg until well mixed.

Pour in the flour mixture, a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon, until a dough forms.

Using your hands, bring the dough together, kneading, into a ball, (using flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, if necessary).

Flatten the dough into a rectangle, with a length of about 16cm, and a thickness of about 1.5cm.

Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool, then with a serrated knife, carefully slice into inch-thick slices.

Place the slices, cut side down, back onto the lined baking tray, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden.

Allow to cool completely on a rack. Then serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for later.

For the asparagus soup:

Heat a glug of oil in a large saucepan.

Add the chopped onion and celery and soften for about 10 minutes, do not brown.

Add the chopped asparagus, cover the pan and allow to sweat on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the flour, then pour in the stock and the chopped chives, bring to the boil and then lower the heat, cover the pan and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blitz with a hand-held blender, or transfer to a free-standing blender, until smooth.

Place the soup back onto a low heat, stir in the reserved asparagus tips, the cream, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and season to taste.

Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge, and serve as a chilled soup.