Asparagus: The king of spring
Date: 15-04-2019 published by Nick Baines
Perhaps the most iconic and exciting crops of the season, asparagus marks the beginning of warmer weather and delivers wonderful freshness, texture and a flavour that’s truly unique.
The British asparagus season usually runs for eight weeks starting around April 23rd. However, in recent years home-grown asparagus has started to appear up to three weeks early. Nevertheless, the window of opportunity for using these delicious spears is relatively short, so you need to act fast.
The clean, vegetal flavour of asparagus is strong, which has made it a powerful ingredient that can cut against rich heavy flavours. Using them as soldiers for a soft-boiled egg is a natural friendship, while the pairing of eggs and asparagus can be exploited to great effect in quiches, flans and frittatas.
Sometimes though, it’s nice to honour and celebrate this vegetable and let it be the main feature. Throwing spears of asparagus into a searing hot pan with olive oil is a great way to start. When the skin is blistered and charred it’s time to hit them with a liberal dose of sea salt and a little black pepper, maybe a bit of fresh lemon juice and you have a simple, honest and truly exceptional starter on your hands, or a bar menu item that screams for a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
But asparagus has some less fancy tricks up its sleeve too. Take the base of the stalk, often woody and undesirable to many high-end chefs. Slice this thin, boil with broad beans and smash for an avocado on toast alternative that sings of the seasons.
Take a peeler to the spears on a diagonal axis and you quickly get raw shavings that breathe springtime freshness into any salad. Partner it with fresh mint and garden peas and you’ve got a seasonal special in a few swift moves.
However, back to those heavier flavour combinations that asparagus works for and we can talk rich, buttery risottos with pea and sweet, indulgent, slow-cooked ham hocks. The deep flavours of a ripe Gorgonzola also weave magically with the vegetal brightness of asparagus, the saltiness playing into the combo perfectly. In a similar fashion, luxuriously thin layers of Parma or Iberico ham draped over griddled asparagus can also deliver that pristine balance of salt, depth and freshness.
But perhaps one of the strongest ways to utilise this proud spear, is with other spring ingredients. A fresh, grassy flavoured young goats cheese baked in a tart with asparagus and some chives can be a masterful way to acknowledge the change in seasons and the opening of a summer filled with abundant fresh, British grown produce.
Asparagus is indisputably the king of spring, and as we begin to see the first crops coming into Fresh Direct, we’re already hearing from savvy chefs who are waiting to pounce on it. Get in touch soon to make the most of this short season, because the potential for this glorious British ingredient, is huge!
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