British asparagus three-ways

British asparagus, seriously delicious (Image: John Coupe)
British asparagus, seriously delicious (Image: John Coupe)

Britain’s asparagus season is in full swing and and at this time of year there really is no excuse to buy force-grown imports air-freighted from thouseands of miles away into the country. Hailed by top chefs as the best in the world, British asparagus enjoys a relatively short season of just seven to eight weeks! A truly versatile veg, asparagus is a delicious ingredient in all sorts of different dishes – for lunch, dinner and even breakfast! Traditionally, the season ends on June 21, but keep buying, cooking and eating it until the greengrocer shelves are empty.

For those who’ve only ever considered asparagus as a luxurious accompaniment to a main course, it’s time to think again!

How about a lazy Sunday brunch of scrambled eggs topped with melt-in-the-mouth asparagus spears tossed in butter? Or a light lunch of asparagus, bacon and poached egg salad with a mustard dressing? The options are endless for dinner; why not whip up an asparagus, tomato and mozzarella pizza for the family or impress dinner guests with pan fried fillet of beef with roasted asparagus and red pepper and horseradish hollandaise?

Asparagus is so versatile and it can be enjoyed by everyone – the young, the old, families, the health-conscious and pregnant women alike. Try the kids on lightly buttered asparagus spears dipped in runny boiled eggs. Asparagus is traditionally served simply steamed or lightly boiled and is delicious either way. However, it can also be roasted, chargrilled, barbecued or stir-fried.

Or how about the easiest way of them all, simply eating asparagus raw, just as nature intended, in a fresh and light summer salad?

And while fresh British asparagus will always be a ‘special’ veg, it’s now firmly established as an ingredient which everyone can enjoy.

Here are three recipes kindly donated by www.british-asparagus.co.uk

Starter: British asparagus ice cream & smoked salmon toasts

Serves 4
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cook: 15- 20 minutes, plus chilling

For the ice cream

1 bunch British asparagus spears
500 ml whole milk
Zest of 1 lemon
4 egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the toasts

2 slices white bread, toasted
150g smoked salmon
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp chive, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sesame seeds
sunflower or groundnut oil for deep frying

Prepare the asparagus by chopping it into 1cm pieces, leaving the tips a little longer.

Bring the milk to a gentle simmer in a saucepan and add the lemon zest and the chopped asparagus, reserving a few of the tips to use as a garnish. Poach the asparagus in the milk for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Whilst the asparagus is infusing in the milk begin to make the smoked salmon toasts by finely chopping the salmon and mixing in a bowl with the egg, flour, chives and salt and pepper.

Cut the crusts from the toasted bread and cut each slice into 2 triangles. Spread the salmon mixture over one side and dip in sesame seeds. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat the ice cream.

Returning to the ice cream, pour the milk and asparagus into a liquidiser, add the egg yolks and process until smooth. Return to the pan and heat very gently, stirring all the time, until the sauce has thickened. Season generously and pour into a bowl and chill.

Once the asparagus sauce has chilled churn it in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until required.

When the ice is made finish the salmon toasts by heating the oil in a large saucepan until hot. You can test if its hot enough by frying a cube of bread in the oil – it should turn golden brown in a minute. Once t he oil is hot as the salmon toasts, sesame side down and fry for 2-3 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove carefully and drain on kitchen paper.

Cook the reserved asparagus tips in boiling water until tender and drain well.

Arrange a couple of scoops of ice cream in a pretty dish and top with a smoked salmon toast and a tip of hot asparagus.

Salad: Minted Pesto British Asparagus and Potato Salad

Minted pesto British asparagus potato salad
Minted pesto British asparagus potato salad

Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4
250g cherry tomatoes halved
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bundles British asparagus
500 g new potatoes
salt and pepper for seasoning

Pesto:

small handful fresh mint leaves
1 handful rocket leaves
30 g walnuts
1/2 clove garlic
50 ml olive oil, or enough to loosen the pesto
30 g parmesan grated
lemon juice to tasteo:

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place on a baking tray. Add garlic, sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook at 160°c / 140°c fan for 1 hour. Remove from oven.

If pushed for time, use ready-to-eat sundried tomatoes instead of roasting your own.

Turn oven up to 200°c/180°c fan. Trim the ends of the asparagus and place on a roasting tray, drizzle with some oil, season and roast in oven for 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile boil the halved new potatoes until cooked through, drain and set aside.

Add the mint to a blender along with the rocket, walnuts and garlic, drizzle in the oil whilst blending until you have a loose consistency. Add the grated parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Dress the asparagus spears and potatoes with the pesto and scatter over some of the roasted cherry tomatoes.

 

Main course: British asparagus tortilla

Tortilla with British asparagus
Tortilla with British asparagus

A twist on a classic Spanish dish and a speedy dish ideal for a quick family dinner.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
1 bundle British asparagus
1 courgette thinly sliced
15 g unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic crushed
200 g Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red onion sliced
6 medium eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°c, and bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Fill another dish with iced water, large enough to fir the asparagus.

Drop the asparagus into the boiling water, bring back to the boil then cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, then plunge into the iced water to preserve the bright colour of the asparagus.

Meanwhile, in a non-stick pan fry the sliced courgettes in the butter then add the garlic and cook over a medium heat for around 6-7 minutes until almost sticky.

Using the same boiling water used to cook the asparagus, parboil the potatoes and cut into cubes, then add the potatoes and the onion to the pan and cook until softened.

Place the asparagus into the pan, season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper and then add to the pan. When the eggs have just set around the edges, transfer to the preheated oven for around 6-8 minutes or until the tortilla is set.

When cooked turn out onto a plate.

Cut the tortilla into slices then serve with some dressed salad leaves.

ENJOY!

 

Bruce McMichael

I am freelance journalist and published author focusing on food and drink; business startups and enterprise; culture and travel. I have also written about the global upstream oil and gas industry, shipping and current affairs. Based in London, I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur.

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