Asparagus with romesco and crème fraîche

Serves 4

For the romesco sauce

12 blanched almonds
12 hazelnuts
2 tomatoes, peeled and ripe
100ml/3 fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole red chilli (the ancho variety if you can get hold of one)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp good-quality sherry vinegar
1 tsp sweet-smoked paprika (I prefer Spanish to Hungarian)
1 thick slice of chewy, peasant-style bread (such as ciabatta)
Sea salt

For the asparagus

20 asparagus spears
A good pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A few drops of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp crème fraîche

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Place the nuts on a baking tray and roast on the middle shelf for 3 minutes to colour them slightly, then roughly pound to a paste.

Next, place the tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with a dash of olive oil. Place in the oven along with the whole chilli, and roast for 10 minutes. Remove and mix with the nuts. Add the garlic, sherry vinegar and paprika, and mix. Blitz the bread in a blender until you have crumbs, lay them on a baking tray and bake until golden. Add to the nut mixture, pour in the remaining olive oil and season. Stir well to combine.

Place a large pot of water on to boil and season liberally with salt. While the water is coming to the boil, prepare the asparagus by snapping off their woody ends. Plunge the vegetables into the water and cook until just tender when pierced with a knife. Cooking time will largely depend on the size and thickness of the spears, but as a general rule of thumb, it should take

about 1 minutes. Drain and dress with the olive oil and lemon and a little sea salt and pepper. Divide among 4 plates, or one large plate if you prefer.

Divide the crème fraîche between the plates and sprinkle the romesco sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

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