These asparagus recipes will have you singing the praises of this seasonal treat.
One of the seasonal culinary treats, British-grown asparagus is well worth the anticipation and we found lots of it in M&S in Inverness a week ago. We are still feasting off that shopping!
I was heartened to read Max Hastings’ writing in the Times on Saturday, telling us unashamedly that he and his wife so love asparagus that they eat 25 or more spears each, which makes Godfrey and me feel quite frugal!
But the difference between the imported asparagus from countries such as Mexico and our British-grown asparagus is so great that all I can say to describe it is to tell you that we never buy imported asparagus, ever. The flavour, everything about it, just isn’t in any way, apart from visually, remotely like exquisite British asparagus.
Asparagus is such a treat that it used to be that we were given five to six spears as a very special starter before lunch or dinner.
Then, decades ago, we were given asparagus as a vegetable. These days we eat asparagus in its natural season, which can last up to 10 weeks, on a daily basis.
Asparagus goes so deliciously with pretty much everything I can think of, but especially with chicken, eggs, bacon or ham, with fish and shellfish, or just, simply, on its own.
Asparagus can be the main part of a main course, as in the first recipe today. I made this dish for supper the other night and we loved it. It couldn’t be simpler – the best things are the simplest.
When cooking asparagus I tend to snap off the tough, lower end of each stalk. I line a baking tray with parchment and put my trimmed asparagus in a snug row on this. A grinding of salt and black pepper, a drizzle of olive or rapeseed oil, and I roast the asparagus in a hot oven, 180C Fan/200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for about 15 minutes.
If the stalks are very thick, you will need longer; just stick a knife into the fattest stalk and it should feel tender.
You can steam the asparagus spears, again, till just tender when stuck with the point of a knife, but I prefer the flavour of the roasted asparagus. And the drizzle of oil remains on the parchment when you lift the roasted spears from it.
Pasta with asparagus, lemon and parmesan
- 500g (approx) pasta of your choice – I tend to use tagliatelle
- 500g asparagus spears, tough end broken off, the asparagus cut into lengths about 2cm long
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt, black pepper
- Finely grated rind of 1 lemon – wash it well and dry it on kitchen paper before grating the rind
- 150ml single cream
- 80g parmesan cheese, grated
- Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment. Put the pieces of asparagus evenly across the parchment.
- Grate salt and grind black pepper over the asparagus, then drizzle the olive oil over. Roast in a hot oven, 180C Fan/200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for 15-20 minutes.
- Mix the single cream and parmesan together, adding the finely-grated lemon rind, and as much black pepper as you please -– for us, that means lots.
- Meanwhile, put a fairly large saucepan containing water on to boil. Add plenty of salt to the water. When it reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta, pushing it down into the water.
- Give the pasta five minutes of simmering, then drain it through a large sieve, leaving about a couple of tablespoons of pasta water in the pan.
Immediately mix the cream and parmesan and lemon mixture thoroughly through the drained pasta, and mix in the roasted asparagus pieces.
- Serve almost immediately, with a mixed leaf salad as an accompaniment.
Asparagus, pea and hot smoked salmon salad
- 500g asparagus, the tough ends broken off, the asparagus cut into lengths about 2cm
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- A good grinding of black pepper and a grating of salt
- 250g frozen petit pois
- 500g hot smoked salmon – my choice is either for Salar, or for the delicious salmon hot-smoked by the Macraes, of the Fish Kitchen renown in Kyle of Lochalsh. Whichever you use, flake the succulent salmon from each piece, discarding the skin
For the dressing:
- The oil saved from roasting the asparagus mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 rounded tsp horseradish relish
- Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment. Put the pieces of asparagus evenly over the parchment.
- Scatter with salt and grind black pepper evenly over the asparagus, then measure the olive oil over. Roast in a hot oven, 180C Fan/200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15-20 minutes.
- Cool the asparagus, tip the oil from its roasting tray into a small bowl to make into the dressing.
- Put the petit pois into a saucepan and add a sprinkling of salt. Pour boiling water over the peas, put the pan on to heat for 30 seconds, then drain through a sieve. Leave to cool.
- Put the flakes of hot smoked salmon into a serving bowl, add the cooled peas and the cooled asparagus.
- Mix the lemon juice and horseradish into the saved olive oil in the small bowl, and dress the contents of the serving bowl – the peas, asparagus and salmon – mixing in the dressing thoroughly. Surround the salad with leaves.
- Serve with warmed crusty bread.