When Fanny Cradock starts a recipe 'First, dear Members, do not use Asparagus for this Asparagus soup' I no longer bat an eyelid. With Fanny, you really do learn to expect the never-in-your-life unexpected. Normally she delivers, and then some. Things that look like something else entirely, things that taste like nothing you'd ever thought of and things might've been better if less thought had been put into them. However, no asparagus in your asparagus soup? Fanny, what are you thinking?
Well, it seems that she's not quite as barmy as I first assume. Fanny feels that asparagus is to expensive to be used in soup, too good to be blended up and too wasteful to consign to a bowl. Instead, she wants to use 'sprew'. I haven't a clue what are sprew, do you? Fanny comes to the rescue - they are, according to her, young, thin shoots of asparagus. Google corrects my attempts to search further - did I mean sprue? No I meant sprew. It seems that Fanny's spelling is at odds with Google, but I am sure she would still argue that she was correct and a mere search engine was mistaken.
So, the sprew are the thin, green, first growths of the crop, normally taken out to encourage the proper stuff to grow stronger and should be available early, should be far, far cheaper and should be bulging with flavour. Well, after all the kerfuffle I couldn't find any. Thanks to the 'wonders' of globalisation however the supermarkets are full of asparagus out of season specially flown in from Mexico. Oh dear. Would Fanny say 'First, dear Members, do not use Mexican imported Asparagus for this Asparagus soup?'
Fanny's soups are always made in long-forgotten ways, and I love rediscovering them. Fanny firstly simmers the asparagus in water which just covers them meanly, with only a pinch of salt for company. I try and be as mean as I can possibly muster. When they are tender she removes them from the 'sprew liquor' (try Googling that), scrapes the flesh off on a wooden board and simmers down the liquor to a reduction. I just whizz them up in the processor to a paste. The soup starts with melted butter and flour, making a roux for the sprew - adding the liquor back in gradually, followed by some white wine, then some milk and finally some cream, all the while stirring over a gentle heat. It's like a béchamel sauce at this stage.
It doesn't sound attractive when Fanny describes it, but she adds in the 'sprew pulp' next and gives it a good beating. The 'soup' turns a lovely shade of pale green. Fanny adjusts the consistency with more milk if needed, a little much needed seasoning and a teeny-tiny grating of hard cheese. It's a rich tasting soup, the wine is fairly prominent but goes well with the asparagus. Fanny prefers this soup to served iced, en Glacée, so chill out for a while as the soup chills in the fridge. Fanny also prefers the rather pallid colour to be amplified somewhat with a little tint of harmless vegetable colouring. Asparagus soup without Asparagus I can almost go with, but maybe I'd say 'First, dear members, do not use food colouring in your soup'...