Aquafaba asparagus and pea savoury mousse

Sometimes I feel really sorry for my friends who come to dinner, as they end up being guinea pigs for new recipe ideas or dishes, although I try to be careful not to scare anyone too much! Having invited a couple over recently, I found my mind wandering off on a creative menu tangent as I know they are quite up for trying different things. So much so that when I apologised for experimenting on them, they replied they would be disappointed if I didn’t. Now that’s good friends!

One of the things that I had been thinking about was how to make a dairy free plant based savoury mousse for a starter that was light and fluffy but still satisfying and, of course, packed full of flavour. My process for devising dishes is to first check how it’s made traditionally. This means getting out my trusted copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. An 18th birthday present from my parents, it’s well used and loved, as this is how I learnt to cook. I pretty much failed cookery at school as I tended not to follow rules or recipes and made a mess – not much changed on that side of things! This trusted tome contains a few savoury mousse recipes. All contain gelatine, milk, cream and egg whites. Not much whole food and plant based there.

Next research tool is of course the internet. There are so many amazing ideas and recipes out there, but despite some time spent on google, I couldn’t find one that hit the spot. I have used aquafaba before (the brine from a tin of chickpeas in case you haven’t heard of this amazing fluid) and knew this should work as an egg white substitute, but all the mousse recipes were chocolate or fruit. So it was back to the traditional recipe, with plant based dairy free substitutes.

I figured the three main items that needed substituting were cream, egg whites and gelatine. We had the aquafaba for the egg white. For the cream I made cashew cream, although I guess any dairy free cream would work (there’s a few different ones you can buy like Alpro soya cream or Oatly oat cream). And for the gelatine there’s agar agar which works really well but always makes me stressed as I never think it will.

As you can see from the ingredients list, there’s not much more apart from that – it’s all in the method. I was relieved when the mousse set perfectly and plopped onto the plate holding it’s shape. And even if I say so myself, it tastes delicious as the asparagus and peas are the key flavours, not anything else.

So did my friends mind being experimented on? Well, the echoes of ‘mmm’s’ and empty plates said it all. So if you’re up for it, give this a go. It takes a little time as there’s a few different elements to pull together, especially if you’re making your own cashew cream, but it’s really worth it.

Aquafaba pea and asparagus mousse
Asparagus and pea savoury mousse (serves 6)
60ml aquafaba
250g asparagus
100g frozen peas
handful fresh mint, chopped
salt and white pepper
300ml cashew or other non-dairy cream
1 heaped teaspoon agar agar powder
First wash the asparagus and trim any woody ends off. Separate the tips from the stems and roughly chop both. Heat a little olive oil or water in the bottom of a pan and sauté the asparagus stems for a few minutes. Add in the frozen peas and a little water and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the asparagus tips and cook until soft. Leave to cool then pop in a blender with the dairy free cream, chopped mint and some salt and pepper, then blend until smooth. Check the flavour and add more seasoning or mint if you want.
Pour this luscious green mix into a clean saucepan, sprinkle the agar agar over the top and heat gently. Do not stir until the mix starts to slowly bubble, even though you really want to! Once simmering, whisk the mix gently for 5 minutes or so on a low heat until it starts to thicken and stick to the side of the pan. The heat needs to be low otherwise the cashew cream may catch on the bottom of the saucepan and burn. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and pour into a large bowl to cool, stirring from time to time.
If you haven’t already, drain the brine from a tin of chickpeas into a bowl Measure out 60ml and place into a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk with an electric hand blender until strong white peaks are formed (the first time you do this, it blows your mind!) – this can take between 5 and 10 minutes. Grab your bowl of asparagus mix. Hopefully it should be cooler – it doesn’t need to be cold, just not steaming. Spoon in a couple of heaped tablespoons of fluffy aquafaba and stir in very carefully and lightly as you want to keep the air in it. Your mix will get a little more fluid. Add more aquafaba as you think is needed – I left a tablespoon out as my mix felt quite loose.
Place six moulds onto a baking tray. Spoon the mousse mix into the moulds, give them a tap then place in the fridge for at least 5 hours to set.
To serve, gently run a knife around the edge of the mousse in the mould and tip onto your serving plate of choice.

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