The first tray of eagerly-awaited English asparagus came through the kitchen door this week – a sure sign of summer.
This beautiful vegetable is available for only about eight weeks and is far better than anything imported.
Simply steamed and coated in butter, it’s one of the best starters. Add a poached duck egg and a little ham and the taste is amazing. This has to be one of the best English products for any kitchen as it’s so versatile, colourful and tasty.
Asparagus takes a long time to grow and is harvested by hand which is why it’s so expensive.
I think it’s worth every penny, but be careful to choose firm spears with tight heads and do not buy more than you need as the sweet taste fades quickly. Use the stems for sauces or dressings and the heads for eating and you will get full value from this seasonal vegetable.
Small tender stems can be eaten raw and work well with chilli, lime and coriander as a salsa to accompany sashimi-style fish.
Larger stems are better steamed or boiled for a few minutes to accompany fish, chicken or even duck.
Gurnard with asparagus, peas and asparagus sauce
4 gurnard fillets
1 bunch asparagus
1 shallot finely diced
100ml white wine
250 ml double cream
240g Jersey royals
1. Snap the woody end off each asparagus spear and trim. Chop trimmings and set aside.
2. In a saucepan cook the shallot in the butter without colouring.
3. Add white wine and reduce by half.
4. Add cream. Cook for five minutes.
5. Add asparagus trimmings. Cook for two minutes.
6. Transfer to a liquidiser and whizz for two minutes. Pass through a fine sieve into another saucepan and keep warm. Season if required.
7. While making the sauce, cook your jersey royals in salted water.
8. Put on a large pan of boiling water and once the potatoes are nearly cooked get ready to pan-fry your fish.
9. Cook the fish skin side down in a little oil for four minutes. Turn it over and cook for a further three minutes.
10. When you turn the fish put the asparagus tips and peas into the boiling water.
11. Everything should be cooked at the same time and all you have to do is to put it on to plates.
12. Pour the sauce around the fish, asparagus, peas and potatoes and serve.