Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Importance of Asparagus

     Tis the season for English asparagus.  An 8-10 week delicacy that shouts of spring.  Nothing irks me more than when I see asparagus on a menu in January.  Who wants tasteless stalks flown to your plate from Thailand, Mexico or Peru?  Delight in a treat with a relatively short season.  Once picked, the sugars in asparagus react the same as peas, turning to starch very quick, losing all their natural sweetness.  The only asparagus that is really worth munching is picked the same day as consumption.
     Don't over cook, don't under cook.  3-4 minutes in boiling salted water is all that is needed.  Possibly a minute more if steaming.  The stalks should still be vibrantly green.  Toss in extra virgin olive oil or butter, maybe a little lemon juice if desired, liberal seasoning and Parmesan or pecorino if you are feeling posh.  Hollandaise is also excellent.  Another great recipe is to use the spears as 'soldiers' to dip into a soft boiled egg.  For a touch of finesse, drop a knob of butter or a little truffle oil into the egg first.  Here are two of my takes on one of the all time great ingredients...

Asparagus, Poached Egg & Toast
Lamb Sweetbreads, Wild Garlic Gnocchi, Asparagus & Morels

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