Recipe: Hearty soup hot from China

THIS week's winning asparagus recipe comes from Jenny Lo of north London. She is no stranger to the business of bringing exotic food to the British: she is a radio producer whose food programmes for Radio 4 include From Manna to Microwave and episodes of Table Talk.

Her asparagus recipe is a hearty Chinese soup close in spirit to the Western classic of peas and ham. It is a peasant dish, says Ms Lo, which in China you might find served at the roadside. It commends itself to the British cook on two counts: first, it is hearty and blissfully good to eat; secondly, it is a good way to use up tough green sprue or large woody stalks not quite suited to light steaming or a delicate tart.

The Chinese, says Ms Lo, might make it with a rough country ham. As a Chinese Malaysian, she makes it with smoked bacon. She adds that if you wish to impart a silken quality from the fat, the bacon can be snipped in raw; if not, it can be fried.

Ms Lo uses it raw, then serves the finished dish with freshly boiled rice and a fiery sauce of freshly minced red chillies in oil, which can be dabbed in with the tip of a chopstick. She will receive a bottle of Tokay Pinot Gris Reserve Rolly Gassman 1988 from Bibendum Wines, north London.

The fermented fish sauce (nam pla) can be found in any Oriental food shop.

Asparagus and Bacon Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients: 2lb (900g)

asparagus

1 1/2 -2 pints chicken stock

4oz (115g) smoked bacon

3-4 dashes fermented fish

sauce (nam pla)

generous seasoning with

freshly ground black pepper

lPreparation: Bring stock to boil, add asparagus. Cook until tender and puree asparagus with stock. Return to pot, reheat, snip in bacon, add fish sauce and cook gently for 10 minutes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with rice.

Next week, the last of the asparagus recipes. New entries are welcome for our following category: afternoon teas, savoury or sweet. Those whose recipes we print will receive a 1lb tin of Darjeeling Best from the Algerian Coffee Stores in London. Send your entries, stating the source if not original, to Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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