Asparagus with crispy bread and Buttermilk (4)

A riff on Panzanella for the spring from Anna Jones.

Asparagus with crispy bread and Buttermilk (4)
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Asparagus with crispy bread and Buttermilk (4)
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  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, combine all the dressing ingredients in a clean jam jar, shake really well and season to taste. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to dress the salad.
  2. Put the bread chunks in an ovenproof dish and spread out into a single layer. Sprinkle with thyme, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Using a small serrated knife, slice the lemon as thinly as you can and arrange the pieces on a separate oven tray. Bake the bread and lemon until the bread is crisp and golden and the lemon is charred and sticky – this will take about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them (you can use them for stock, if you like). Chop the asparagus stems into 1cm rounds, stopping when you get near the top and keeping the tips intact.
  5. Next, blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then add the peas and broad beans for a further couple of minutes. Then drain immediately and leave in a colander to steam dry: don’t be tempted to run them under cold water – this will take away all of their flavour.
  6. If you like, you can double pod the broad beans, removing their tough, sometimes bitter outer skins.
  7. Tip all the blanched vegetables into a serving dish with the toasted bread, spinach and basil leaves. Pour over most of the dressing and mix well with your hands, so that everything is well dressed and the bread begins to soften.
  8. Top with the charred lemon slices and use a vegetable peeler to shred the parmesan over the top of the salad in thin petals.
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