There is no doubt that asparagus can be enjoyed with no more than a squeeze of lemon and good olive oil, but it is more versatile that you might think, and makes the perfect starter for a spring dinner. Deep frying might seem daunting, but it is actually a quick cooking method, which allows the asparagus to steam cook within the delicate tempura casing, meaning that none of the flavour is lost. Choose a roomy, deep saucepan for the frying, so the spears are not crowded, and fry in batches. It is also a good idea to set up a tray covered with kitchen paper to the side of the stove (to absorb excess oil), and have tongs or a slotted spoon to hand.  The secret to a good tempura batter is not to mix the batter thoroughly, but to leave the batter with flour lumps in it. This seems all wrong, but trust us, it works.

See our previous masterclass for how to make a perfect mayonnaise for sweet miso sauce – there really is nothing quite like it. Great as a sharing starter or side dish.

Tempura asparagus with sweet miso sauce

Serves 4

2 bunches of asparagus

For the sweet miso sauce

150ml mayonnaise, see previous recipe or use good quality shop bought
1 tbsp white miso paste
2 tsp wasabi paste (optional)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp water
1 tsp soft light brown sugar

For the batter

1 egg, lightly beaten
​170ml sparkling water
​110g cornflour
Sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Wash, dry and prepare the asparagus by bending the lower end of each stalk until it snaps. Discard the lower, woody end. Trim each spear with a sharp knife so that they are all roughly the same length. If the spears are very thick, peel away the skin from the lower half with a swivel peeler.

2. Make the sweet miso sauce. Stir together the white miso paste, wasabi paste, lime juice, water and sugar. Add 2-3 tablespoons of this mixture to the mayonnaise, then taste and add more if you prefer a stronger tasting sauce.

3. Heat the oil to 180°C. To test, drop a 2-3cm cube of white bread into the oil; it should be golden and crisp in 1 minute.

4. While the oil is gently heating make the batter. Add the water to the beaten egg first, then add the flour to the liquid all at once and stir. Do not worry if it becomes lumpy.

5. When the oil has come up to temperature, dust the asparagus with a little cornflour, dip each spear into the batter so that it’s fully coated, and place in the oil. Only do this in small batches.

6. Cook the spears until golden brown, usually 3-4 minutes unless they are very skinny, in which case check them after 2 minutes. Lift the asparagus out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place them onto a piece of kitchen roll, to absorb any excess oil before serving.

7. Serve on a sharing plate with the sweet miso sauce for dipping. 

Camilla Schneideman is the managing director of Leiths School of Food and Wine. To book the week-long Key Cooking Skills course, visit leiths.com/courses/key-cooking-skills-part-1

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