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Hugh Allen's asparagus and green ants recipe

Hugh Allens asparagus and green ants

Preparation time
30 minutes plus 6–8 days for koji water
Cooking time
30 minutes
6–8 (or one large side salad)

With its fabulous purity and finesse, a Fiano is the ideal match for Hugh Allen's asparagus and green dish.


Ice clarified asparagus juice

Asparagus, as needed, woody ends removed

Lacto koji water

1kg dried koji

2L water, filtered

30g salt

Asparagus dressing

100g ice clarified asparagus juice

22g lacto koji water

8g asparagus reduction

2g lemon juice

Geraldton wax salt

20g Geraldton wax

4g parsley

4g celery seeds

20g salt

Geraldton wax oil

150g parsley

50g Geraldton wax

400g grapeseed oil

Asparagus herb emulsion

22g each tarragon, chervil, chives

30g parsley

20g watercress

22g asparagus reduction

12g capers, rinsed

8g anchovy

38g apple balsamic

20g egg yolk

110g grapeseed oil

50g Geraldton wax oil

Salt, to taste

Green ants, pickled, to serve (can be substituted with lime zest)


1. For the asparagus juice: juice the asparagus. Transfer juice to containers and freeze. Once frozen, remove from container and rest in a colander or strainer through a clean, moist kitchen towel, over a deeper strainer in refrigerator until completely thawed. Once thawed, keep vacuum sealed and frozen until needed.

2. For the lacto koji water: take dried koji and blend in 500g batches in a blender (2 parts filtered water to 1 part koji by weight) on high for 1 minute.

3. Mix all batches of blended koji water together and weigh. Add 2% salt by weight (30g) to this mixture and whisk briefly to incorporate. Transfer finished mix to large vacuum bags and seal. Keep sealed bags of salted koji water at 28ºC for 4–5 days and measure pH until it reads 3.7 or lower. Finished mixture should be sweet, sour and fruity – if vinegary or alcoholic, it has over-fermented.

4. Remove lactic fermented koji water from bags, and mix all together. Freeze mixture in containers, leaving room for expansion. Once frozen, remove the resulting solid bricks and place in cheesecloth in shallow perforated tray over a second, deeper tray (to catch drippings) in refrigerator for 2–3 days until completely thawed – do not wring out the thawed mass. The clear, yellowish-orange liquid in bottom tray is the finished clarified lactic koji water – store vacuum-sealed in freezer until needed.

5. For the asparagus reduction: juice asparagus, strain through a chinois and bring to boil in a large pot. Once to temperature, strain off chlorophyll and return liquid to stove, reducing slowly. Once a deep green/brown in colour, reduce in oven at 60ºC in oven-safe dish, stirring regularly. Reserve in freezer till needed.

6. For the asparagus dressing: combine all ingredients together and reserve in refrigerator in airtight container until ready to serve.

7. For Geraldton wax salt: wash and dry herbs, ensuring the Geraldton wax has no stem. Roughly chop, mix and crush in mortar and pestle, add salt and continue to grind until well-mixed (not too finely ground). Reserve in freezer.

8. For Geraldton wax oil: blend herbs and oil for 7 minutes in blender, cool as fast as possible, vacuum pack and infuse overnight in refrigerator. Strain through fishnet or wet cheesecloth after it has separated, and reserve in airtight container in fridge or freezer.

9. For asparagus herb emulsion: pick and wash all herbs. Roughly chop and set aside. In blender combine all ingredients except oil, blending slowly to mix and purée then at high speed, slowly adding oil to create an emulsion. Once mixed and emulsified, pass through fine chinois over a bowl on an ice bath. Mix until cold, and season with salt.

10. To serve: slice asparagus tops lengthways into thin, even slices. On a tray, dress with dressing, Geraldton salt, and oil. In middle of a plate, layer asparagus to form an even curved shape, piping thin lines of emulsion as you build. Finish with a few pinches of Geraldton wax salt, cover with pickle green ants or lime zest, and serve immediately.


Hugh’s note: Green ants are available from select specialty stores like Spurrel Foraging (Victoria) or Something Wild (South Australia), but are also found wild all over Queensland and the NT. Lime zest is a simple substitution. Geraldton wax can be purchased online from speciality food stores.

Preparation time
30 minutes plus 6–8 days for koji water
Cooking time
30 minutes
6–8 (or one large side salad)