St George’s Day traditionally marks the beginning of the British asparagus season, and with fantastic weather conditions last year prompting farmers to expand their crops, this year’s supply is expected to exceed previous years’ in terms of both volume and quality. The season typically reaches from 24th April through to June and growth can be sporadic. A member of the lily family, asparagus has been prized for thousands of years, notably by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and has historically been considered an aphrodisiac.
As expected there are numerous claims as to the where best asparagus is grown, and with increased global production has come a wider range of varieties to meet consumer demand. Arguably the best British asparagus comes from the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire where each year the best of the first crop of the season is chauffeured to Buckingham Palace.
Asparagus is an extremely versatile vegetable, and a superfood, with high levels or antioxidants and Rutin, a chemical proven to strengthen blood vessels. Try out one of these great recipes showcasing the best of this seasonal treat.
A griddle pan
Get the griddle pan very hot and snap the wooden ends of the asparagus spears. Rub the oil over the spears, then place them on the hot griddle. Cook until bright green and a little charred in places. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve with garlic mayonnaise or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings.
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
8 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp yogurt
Up to 3 tbsp ice water
In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter by pulsing several times. Mix the yogurt and water, and then drizzle in to the dough and pulse several more times.
Turn the dough on to a work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a 4″ disc and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Liberally butter a 9″ tart or quiche pan and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11″ circle. Fold the dough into quarters and unfold inside the tart pan. Fold any overhanging dough into the sides to reinforce. Poke all over with a fork, place a sheet of foil inside, place on to a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for eight minutes. Remove the foil and bake for two more minutes. Remove from oven while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
10 asparagus spears, rinsed with woody ends broken off
6 ramps, rinsed and chopped (use large spring onions as an alternative)
3 tbsp butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Blanch the asparagus for two minutes, and then immerse in ice water to stop cooking. Chop the spears into thirds and set aside.
In a medium frying pan heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the ramps and sauté for eight minutes, until they are tender and quite fragrant. Add the asparagus, salt, and pepper, and sauté for two more minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add the sautéed vegetables, and stir. Add 3 tablespoons of Pecorino and stir. Place the quiche shell on to a rimmed baking sheet, gently pour the egg mixture into the shell, and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or just until the quiche has set.
1 large bunch asparagus
2 x 200g cans yellowfin tuna steaks in water, drained
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans in water, drained
1 red onion, very finely chopped
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
Cook the asparagus in a large pan of boiling water for four to five minutes until tender. Drain well, cool under running water, then cut into finger-length pieces. Toss together the tuna, beans, onion, capers and asparagus in a large serving bowl.
Mix the oil, vinegar and tarragon together, then pour over the salad. Chill until ready to serve.
1kg asparagus, woody stems snapped off
200g Serrano ham, torn
300g broad beans, blanched and podded
2 tbsp olive oil
For the wild garlic mayo:
190g tub fresh mayonnaise
30g roughly chopped wild garlic leaves, plus extra leaves to garnish
1 fresh lemon, cut into wedges
Place the mayonnaise, garlic and a squeeze of lemon in a blender, then season with black pepper and whizz briefly. Spoon into a dish and chill.
Cook the asparagus in a large pan of boiling water for two minutes until just tender. Drain well. Divide between four to six plates and scatter with the Serrano ham and broad beans.
Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with garlic leaves and lemon wedges and serve with a dollop of the wild garlic mayonnaise.