I don’t think I ever tried asparagus until I was nestled far south in New Zealand at the age of 18. Since then I have made up for lost time and whenever the English asparagus season starts I buy vast quantities and concoct endless dishes. Three years ago we planted an asparagus bed and each year I sit on the sidelines watching the fronds grow knowing I can’t pick them until at the earliest next year. It really is a test of patience and love. This year in those bright, gloriously sunny and warm days at the end of March (bit of a distant memory) everything started getting rather excited and asparagus tips started showing through, but since the deluge of rain and actually rather cold weather, those brave spears have withered and I am concerned now that the asparagus has got shy. Luckily for us we have a wonderful farm shop close by and this weekend I succumbed to buying our first bunch of English asparagus – at practically .70p a spear I thought them pretty steep – but I guess that is the price of greed! It is after all still quite early for English asparagus, I just can’t wait any longer!
A few little tricks……….
One cunning way of making asparagus stretch a little is cutting the tender fronds in half after cooking. This sounds a little tight but actually I rather love the color contrast between the tender white stems and shocking green. I also shave the stems with a vegetable peeler taking off the courser edges.
In terms of cooking I steam it, chargrill it, roast it and even blanche it. I don’t think there is any right or wrong the key thing is just not to overcook it. Retaining some bite is vital.
As to what to eat it with or how to serve it – well the list is endless, melted butter, hollandaise, olive oil, I could rattle on for pages. We had a flounced up salad with extra padding of pancetta, a poached duck egg, broad beans, fine beans and some parmesan shavings. Perfect sunday dinner, but actually perfect week day dinner – really easy to prepare, really good for you, and practically the only vegetable that contains folic acid – very useful if you are pregnant!