Food Club June 2017

Have you taken advantage of the very short season for British asparagus? If you haven’t, and you like it or love it like many people, you need to hurry up, as it is only around for another month before its 8-week season ends.

There are so many ways to enjoy asparagus – steamed, grilled, roasted, barbecued or just plain boiled – its unique taste will enhance any meal from breakfast to dinner, dip them in your boiled eggs, or finish off a canape with a little tip of this gorgeous green vegetable.

Asparagus is healthy too, it’s a powerhouse of nutrients, including Vitamin C to promote the immune system, and Vitamin K for blood clotting. It also helps the digestive system by promoting healthy bacteria in the large intestine, and preventing bloating.

Whilst asparagus is difficult to grow (it needs a good Spring, cool and crisp, not too much rainfall on the lead up to season), it is readily available in large spears or the smaller ones for ‘dippy eggs’ in most supermarkets, greengrocers and farm shops. Expensive you cry? That is because every spear is handpicked to provide top quality from English producers. Both British and American asparagus are green, but you can get purple varieties as imports from France, whilst European versions are white (mainly Dutch and Spanish). In Spain, the vegetable is cultivated underground, which is why it does not have that glorious vibrant green hue that we see here.

Young asparagus, known as ‘sprue’ only needs to be prepared with a simple wash under the tap, but the larger spears should have the woody ends removed. Simply bend the last few inches of the asparagus and where it snaps, the woody part is removed – easy! If it still feels a little hard or tough, just trim away some of the outside part so that it can be cooked more evenly.

Cooking asparagus could not be simpler – boiling should take about 4-5 minutes depending on the size of the spears, steaming around the same time. Our delicious recipe below uses roasted asparagus, which should take around 15 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus with Cherry Tomatoes and Verjuice Dressing

This is a delicious starter for a dinner party or as a lunch or supper dish (make sure you have plenty of crusty bread to mop up the sauce!). We shave a little parmesan on top of ours, but it is equally as tasty without.

Serves:                                  2

Preparation Time:            20-25 minutes

Cook Time:                          12-15 minutes for asparagus and dressing

Ingredients:

  • 10 asparagus spears, woody ends removed
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved (try to get red and yellow ones to contrast)
  • 2tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

For the dressing

  • 4tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4tbsp Verjuice
  • 1½ tsp Dijon mustard (use less if you prefer)
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves only (you could also use tarragon)
  • Ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer in a roasting tin and toss gently in the olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven for around 15 minutes, turning the asparagus half way through to ensure even cooking. The spears should be starting to go a light golden brown.
  4. Once the asparagus has been roasting for around half the time, toss in the halved cherry tomatoes and move around in the oil.
  5. While the second part of the cooking is in process, place the dressing ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan ready to gently heat through.
  6. When fully cooked, and the tomatoes are just going soft, remove from the oven and cover to keep the heat in.
  7. Heat the dressing so that it is only just warm, and pour over the asparagus. Shave some parmesan and sprinkle over the top. Add more seasoning if required.
  8. Add a bread basket and tuck in!

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