Delicate, tender, and bursting with spring sweetness – the flavour of asparagus just can’t be beaten. It’s the ultimate challenge for an organic grower, but this veg delicacy is worth the trouble. Steam gently, then dress with melted butter and a scrunch of salt and pepper. Irresistible.
Storage & prep
Will keep for several days
Storage: Best eaten as soon as possible. Keep in the fridge. If you haven’t devoured it in the first few days then standing it upright in a cup of water can prolong its vim for a while longer.
Prep: You’ll need to trim away any tough stalk ends before cooking. The prescribed trick for this is to hold the spear at each end and gently, evenly bend until it snaps. The clean breaking point is where tough meets tender.
The spears will take 2-3 mins to boil or steam. They’ll roast in a hot oven if well-oiled in about 7-8 mins or yield to a griddle or BBQ in half that time. Try shaving them into thin ribbons with a swivel-top peeler and adding them raw to a salad.
Roasted: You needn’t always steam or boil your spears. Oiled and seasoned, they will roast in a hot oven in about 8-10 mins; they’ll yield to a griddle or BBQ in half that time. Try throwing generous slices into a tray of roasting new potatoes for the final 10 mins, garnish with some thyme and crumbled sheep’s cheese.
Well dressed: At its simplest all you need is a little olive oil, lemon juice and a turn of pepper. Melted butter always ticks the box, but can be taken to another level if allowed brown a little to release some complex, nutty aromas. Try a simple vinaigrette, maybe laced with orange zest and coarsely chopped hazelnuts.
Eggs: Asparagus seems to strike a culinary chord with the humble cackleberry in all its forms. Use it instead of toasted soldiers with a runny boiled egg. Attempt a daunting but delectable hollandaise sauce as a dip or dressing; a homemade mayo works well too, lifted with a little chopped garlic and anchovy. Pile some roasted spears onto buttered toast, grate over a hardboiled egg and finish with a garnish of chopped parsley, capers and celery salt. For a simple dinner throw some cooked and chopped asparagus together with hot pasta, crispy bacon bits and a couple of egg yolks; the heat of the pasta should turn the yolks into a silken sauce, finish with parmesan.
Raw asparagus and fennel salad
Both asparagus and fennel are wonderful raw and thinly sliced. Don't snap off any wooden ends from the asparagus before peeling. Instead, use these to hold the stalks as you peel; they give you purchase and can be discarded when you have sliced all the tender tops. If you don't manage to get any fronds from the fennel to use as garnish, a little fresh tarragon or chervil would work well instead.
Serves 2 - 10 min
Asparagus works well with:
hazelnuts, pine nuts
prosciutto and bacon
mushrooms, new potatoes, peas