Monday, 19 September 2016

Asparagus Forced In French Rolls

I had such fun doing my History of Royal Food course.  And heaps of fun making and eating the weird dishes which were part of it.  I didn't make this one at the time as the only asparagus you could then get was from Mexico.  Mexico!?  So I waited till Spring and now I have been able to use good old Aussie asparagus.  I know it sounds weird and looks kinda weird, but amazingly it was pretty delicious.  

looks cute huh?

I don't think I had ever eaten asparagus till I was an adult, and probably even then only from a jar.  My parents were Ye typical British stock kind of eaters - meat and 2 veg, boiled to death.  And yet I remember eating tinned lambs' tongues; our Nanna used to give mum weird care packages which included whole coconuts and pink musk sticks. Oh yeah, not strange at all. :=)  

This is a late Georgian side dish, taken from the Housekeeper's Instructor c. 1800. The intent of this amusing little item was to "subvert Nature and engage the intellect". Phew, and there was I thinking it would just make a great Sunday lunch.


2 bunches of asparagus - about 16 spears

5 x 15cm. French bread sticks - or cut a long baguette into 15cm. lengths

30 - 40g. butter 

2 tsp of olive oil

454 mls of cream

3 large egg yolks, beaten with a fork

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

a few grinds of black pepper 

2 level tsp of cornflour

1 tbs (20mls.) water

1/2 cup parmesan, grated 


Steam or boil the asparagus till tender

Chop each spear into 4 equal lengths and put aside

Cut out the tops of the bread sticks making sure you leave plenty of the sides - like a little boat

Dig out most of the crumb from the sticks and put aside

Carve out a couple of holes in the tops if you wish to create the "small grass" effect; I only did one as an example

Melt about 10g. of the butter in a frying pan till it sizzles

Place the sticks in the pan and let them go golden

Turn them once or twice so they don't burn

Add the oil and more butter as you go

Once the sticks are golden, put them aside till the custard is ready

Grab a medium saucepan and pour in the cream

Add the beaten egg-yolks and whisk them in

Put onto a low heat and keep whisking till it starts to thicken; don't stop otherwise you risk scrambled eggs

When it is looking thick enough - i.e. it leaves a thick ribbon on the surface, add the salt, nutmeg and pepper

Here is where I added the cornflour slurry as my custard refused to go thick - so stir the cornflour and water together and add to the hot custard.  Mr P. was stirring for me, and he said it went instantly thick.  If your custard looks thick enough to you, leave out the slurry

Now take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese

Gently add the chopped asparagus into the custard mix

Let it cool slightly

Make (or get hubby to make like I did) some alfoil boats for your sticks

Place the bread into the boats, fill with custard, place the lid on top, squish the alfoil around the base so it is all secure

Bake at 180C for about 10-12 minutes


FYI - a regular baguette is around 65 cm.

454mls is an old UK pint of 16 fluid ounces which is used in this recipe (UK pint is now 20 fl. oz.)

Use your fave cheese if you don't have parmesan

Bake the crumbs and any leftover French stick in a 180C oven for a few minutes till dried out, then blitz in a processor.  Whack the crumbs in a freezer bag and bob's your uncle for next time you need bread crumbs


steam the asparagus  

cut out the tops of the French sticks and pull out the crumbs   

dig out the holes; a bit like a Zorro mask

fry them in butter and oil

throw in the salt, nutmeg and pepper once the custard has thickened  

stir in the asparagus 

ready to stuff the sticks with custard 

into the alfoil boats for baking  

cheesy, oozy and damn fine

my asparagus doodle 

Original recipe Henderson, Housekeeper’s Instructor, c.1800 Cut a piece out of the crust of the tops of three French rolls, and take out all the crumb; but be careful that the crusts fit again in the places from whence they were taken. Fry the rolls brown in fresh butter; then take a pint of cream, the yolks of six eggs beat fine, and a little salt and nutmeg. Stir them well together over a slow fire till it begins to be thick. Have ready a hundred of small grass boiled, and save tops enough to stick the rolls with. Cut the rest of the tops small, put them into the cream, and fill the loaves with them. Before you fry the rolls, make holes thick in the top crusts to stick the grass in. Then lay on the pieces of crust, and stick the grass in, which will make it look as if it were growing. This makes a very handsome side dish at a second course.


  1. It sounds delicious but I've never seen anything quite like it! It's quite mad! :D

    1. You're right Lorraine. Quite mad but it tasted good. Those Georgians were crazy. :)

  2. Yay for Aussie produce only! I've also been enjoying your History of Royal Food course Sherry.

    1. Thanks Jem. It was so much fun. And the recipes - oh my so odd.

  3. I'm glad asparagus is in season as well. We didn't eat it as children either so it goes to show that you can adapt or change tastes as you grow older. I'm glad you told me it was asparagus and not grass growing otherwise I would have been fooled ; )

    1. hah hah:) yes i certainly eat way more interesting things now than I did as a child. thank the lord.


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