Asparagus are here! Such a special, seasonal vegetable that are really a treat to look forward to and mark the time of year so perfectly. Young asparagus I like especially as you can eat them very lightly cooked and raw, they’re so tender, and uplifting to prepare and to eat. Combined with this creamy garlic dip it’s food packed with goodness and flavour. Fresh, seasonal, prebiotic and probiotic, it is a nurturing snack or starter that will leave you feeling nourished and happy. This dish uses young tender asparagus, lightly blanched and tender at the ends and raw at the tips, which keeps colour and crunch as well as nutrients, making for really gorgeous, light and healthy food.
The raw garlic, raw cider vinegar and the raw asparagus are prebiotic foods, which basically means that they contain fibre that supports the growth of the good bacteria in our microbiome that we need to flourish in order to be healthy and well.
When you research online there are many lists of the 10 or 15 most prebiotic foods, which will be no surprise to you I’m sure as such lists overtake any online research like algae on a pond. They are useful to some extent, but they inhibit a deeper understanding and are all too often produced by corporate feeling sites whose sole purpose is to attract visitors via keywords and areas of interest and to make money via advertising, which isn’t wrong but it isn’t that helpful either except to point out which are generally known to be the most prebiotic foods. In fact there is no exhaustive list and no definite answer about what a prebiotic definitely is, as there are many types. And here is the key. I think, and my intuition tells me, that most fruit and vegetables are likely prebiotic, to varying degrees, and that what we should focus on is a balanced wholefood diet high in fruit and veg with a good proportion of raw foods and also soaked, sprouted and fermented foods.
Foods like cooked onion and raw garlic, which form a basis of so many dishes are said to be high in prebiotic fibres, and so that is an easy way for most people to know they are getting prebiotics in their diet. Foods like Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes and raw asparagus are also found to be high in prebiotics. This is great to know. We can enjoy the foods we like with the added knowledge that they are nourishing in yet another way, and if we know, as I do, that our microbiome and immune system (which are inter-connected) need a boost, as well as turning to prebiotic fermented foods we can up the amount of known probiotic foods we eat too.
Having done a research based degree and also had many years in my own time both researching health conditions that are affected strongly by diet and the relationship between food and health, my advice would definitely be to take the middle road, listen to your intuition and a generalised view look at how people have eaten in the past, how people eat in other cultures, particularly indigenous cultures with low disease rates. In our western cultures we have high rates of stress and particularly anxiety. Life is complex, demanding, and often an emotional and psychological roller-coaster. Stress is very detrimental to health, it suppresses the immune system and increases acidity and puts pressure on our body’s ability to cope, whose resources are diverted from other nourishing, detoxing, growth and repairing activities. Reducing and managing stress should be everyone’s main priority. For many stress is also wrapped up and expressed through food, in over-eating, in anxiety around food, in fear of contaminants and unhealthy processed foods and what they can do to our health. Try to choose the foods that make you feel truly good and that give you the fuel you need.
We live in a world which bombards us with marketing both obvious and subtle, and pushes different foods at us, often expensive and presented as a superior choice involved in radically changing our culinary landscapes. Then a new favourite comes along. In the end it leaves many people feeling confused and also unhappy with their food choices. So many super foods, so many trends. It can be fun, enlightening, and it can be stressful. What we need is to pare back and focus on the really important issues, that we can only do with a simple diet. Which foods agree with you best? Which don’t and which are okay but not in excess? When we eat a very complicated diet full of rich and also processed foods it is difficult if not impossible to have a good tuned-in relationship with what we eat. It all comes back to the importance of a balanced diet of mostly wholefoods, of being responsive to your own bodies needs and aware that after taking antibiotics etc. you need to repopulate your micro-flora, and that fermented foods are an important and super healthy part of your diet, not least because they are easy to digest and assimilate.
Coconut yoghurt is such a delicious fermented food, I just love it. It’s pure and fresh, and goes beautifully in this garlicky dip. It is expensive, but a little goes a long way and it keeps well, so as a treat, or as part of a vegan, soya-free diet is a really wonderful nurturing food. I’m going to make my own soon and will be sure to share the results!
For the creamy dip I have used rose garlic, a favourite variety of mine, it’s so pretty, with lovely big cloves, it keeps very well and is strong without being too strong. It’s beautifully mild and creamy roasted, but here I have added it raw for maximum prebiotic and anti-inflammatory goodness. You can adjust how much you add to your taste.
The dip is packed with flavoursome and nutritious, nurturing foods. Raw cider vinegar contains the mother and is full of enzymes and prebiotic fibres, a wonderfully cleansing food. Coconut milk and yoghurt, Himalayan salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and mustard, which is packed with goodness. Asparagus are in season, and young and tender are delicious raw – which is when they are the most prebiotic apparently. I have both cooked and left them raw at the tip, giving tender stems and crunch. They are lovely as a snack, as part of a light meal or as a starter.
- 2 bunches of young asparagus, about 800g
- 4 tbsp solid coconut milk
- 3 tbsp coconut yoghurt
- 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt, or sea salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp raw cider vinegar, less if non-raw
- 1/2 large rose garlic clove, or another variety
Combine the ingredients and blend until smooth. Delicious eaten straight away, and even better if left to settle for an hour or more. Keeps well in the fridge.
Snap at the end, bend and it will snap naturally. I also then try a piece of the end and if it is not woody then try to snap as close to the end as possible. Boil a pan of slightly salted water and add the asparagus, submerging the ends and leaving the tips and a third of the stem or so out of the water. Simmer for 3-4 minutes submerged the larger stems to the tip leaving the thinnest as they are, cook for a further 1 minute or less and then drain and run under cold water if not serving immediately.
If you're not using raw cider vinegar then add a little less as raw is milder.
Asparagus is delicious and nutritious grilled, but as I wanted it as raw as possible to try to keep it probiotic I have blanched leaving the tender ends out. Here I have then put them in the water for a minute or less but you can leave them completely raw too.
If you don't have coconut yoghurt, you can use another yoghurt variety or only a more solid canned coconut milk with a little extra lemon juice.
If you don't have rose garlic that's fine use another variety, 'normal' would be great, and young wet garlic even better! It's all packed with goodness and health-giving benefits!
If you have thicker stemmed asparagus make sure you snap off the end where it gives and I would cook them the same way, giving perhaps another minute or so.
I’ve been listening to… Vangelis ‘Blade Runner OST’
I’ve been watching… ‘Highlander’
I’ve been reading… Raymond Chandler ‘Farewell, My Lovely‘