- for the dressing
- 2tsp Dijon mustard
- 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
- a pinch of caster sugar
- 2 to 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- small shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- for the asparagus
- 200 to 250g (7 to 9oz) English asparagus
- 6tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 75g (3oz) fresh Parmesan shavings
- crusty bread, for serving (optional)
To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and vinegar in a bowl. Add the sugar and season with sea salt and a few twists of the pepper mill, then gradually whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream so the whole dressing emulsifies and thickens.
Add 2tbsp cold water and the shallots and stir until it forms a sauce-like consistency. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Leave overnight for the flavours to develop.
Before cooking the asparagus, divide your it into two piles, according to size, and strip away the bottom 2 inches of the thicker spears with a peeler as this part is often tough as old boots. Warm the griddle pan (don’t let it get too hot). Brush the asparagus spears with the olive oil, then add to the warmed pan, season well and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, turning occasionally – the outside skin will char and blister slightly.
Arrange the asparagus on a large plate and drizzle over the dressing. Sprinkle with the Parmesan shavings, and serve warm.
Chef's secrets: 1) If the asparagus is a little limp, place the whole bunch in iced water overnight and it will firm up perfectly. 2) Curls of Parmesan look much better than dusty gratings, and they're more satisfying to eat. You'll need a good swift, sharp peeler for successful curls. 3) The dressing is best left overnight so the flavours can soften and develop