Asparagus is bang in season right now and you will really be missing a treat if you don’t buy it enjoy it while it’s at its very best. It’s so much more than just a simple vegetable and can be really delicious when cooked correctly. No-one likes soggy vegetables and one of the worst things you can do with this king of veg is to overcook it. Best served ‘al dente’ with a simple sauce, asparagus heralds the proper start of spring for most of us. Look out for early asparagus in farmer’s markets where you will be sure to get the freshest and most delicious of delicate specimens.
You may have heard rumours about asparagus being an aphrodisiac, but there are many benefits to eating this when it’s in season. It’s chock-full of antioxidants which have strong cancer fighting elements. It’s also a source of chromium which plays an important role in ensuring that insulin can transport available energy in the form of glucose from food, into the bloodstream and onto the cells where it’s needed. So not only does asparagus taste good, it’s also extremely good for you. So apart from eating it as a side dish or an accompaniment to the traditional Sunday roast, how else can you enjoy this seasonal veg? Here are a few ideas for you to try:
Soft Boiled Egg with Asparagus ‘Soldiers’
Make bundles by wrapping 2-3 blanched asparagus spears in streaky bacon. Griddle until the bacon starts to go crispy. Meanwhile, boil an egg to your liking. Use the crispy asparagus bundles to dip into the yolk and serve some crusty bread to mop us the juices.
Asparagus, Pea and Mint Risotto
This is a great dish for making the most of a little asparagus which works really well with the zing of pea and mint, fresh from the garden. Use Arborio rice if you can to make risotto to your desired consistency, which should be soup-like, rather than solid. Add steamed asparagus and peas just before serving to maintain their lovely green colour and stir some finely chopped mint through right at the end. A small knob of butter allowed to melt over the top of the risotto as you serve it will only enhance the decadent feeling of this simple dish.
Asparagus has a natural ‘breaking’ point where the stalk is at its woodiest, although this is hardly apparent with new, young asparagus. Most people choose to throw away the end part as it can be a bit chewy, but I like to save these pieces for a few weeks and add them to a bag in the freezer until I have enough to make soup.
Add asparagus ends to softened onion and leeks in a large pan. Add a chopped potato, (which will cook into the soup and cause it to thicken,) and chicken stock. Cook for around 20 minutes until veg is tender. Scoop out some of the asparagus if you want to and use a hand blender to blend the rest to the consistency you enjoy. Add reserved asparagus back to the pan to re-heat and serve with a swirl of single cream on the top.